I had the pleasure of interviewing Barbara Fisher who most recently served as the Vice President, of Talent Management at Intel Corporation. Barbara believes a good leader truly understands the importance of a team, values real inclusion, takes action and enables accountability while inspiring the people around her to be their best. A leader should be actively involved in their employee’s ideas, knowledge, perspectives, approaches, and styles to maximize the business success and unleash the full potential of an employee. Most importantly, successful leaders focus on execution, focusing on what to do and what not to do! Strategy gives you a platform, but it’s the executive and follow-through that leads to results.
Tell your story
I spent over 20 years with Intel and had many great mentors throughout my career, but my first mentor at the company had the biggest impact on me and my career. She strongly encouraged me to be curious, move around to different areas and learn as much as you can to help you be the best you can be for you, your team, your partners and the company. I probably did not fully appreciate the advice at that moment, but it stuck with me and fueled me and my career path and for that I will always be grateful to her.
As I grew in my career, I moved across three functions from a discipline standpoint, from finance to Business Development to HR, and worked in almost every area of the company at some point, from Manufacturing to Design Architecture to Sales & Marketing to Software & Services to M&A to Foundry to Talent and Operations.
By moving around, it enabled me to build my knowledge and skills while also learning how to better influence decisions and understand where the different leaders were coming from at the decision table. This helped drive faster and more informed execution which was really important in the fast-paced technology world. Her advice was very appreciated and prepared me so well for the future. It reminded me that we all need to continue learning as we grow and build our careers.
Barbara also shared, she felt strongly by taking these opportunities, putting in the time to continuously learn and focusing on people made her a better manager, leader and person.
What are the “5 things I wish someone told me” before becoming the VP of Talent at Intel?
- Find your joy and don’t let go of it. I think a lot of folks go into careers and follow the direction of what others tell them should be their next job or step in their career. But it’s important to stop and think ‘what brings joy to you? What brings you happiness? You spend a lot of time at work and you have to take care of yourself too — it will show in how you show up.
- Have fun along the way. Don’t take everything so serious or personal. Sometimes in business, things can come across as very harsh or direct. Try to remember many people are not aware of their actions, so take control but make sure you are still having fun in the process. I was a very disciplined student and employee and it took me awhile to remember to have fun.
- Remember that not everybody has to follow the same track. I started my education in nursing. I got started in health care because we had medical professionals in my family and I aspired to be like my aunt or uncle, but I quickly learned it was not for me and transferred to business school. I would recommend for you to try a lot of new things and see which one you really love. Be curious, don’t get set in a direction and shut the doors. Keep the doors open and try new things at every turn you never know where it may lead you.
- Have integrity. I carry it in my personal and professional life. My family, friends and a great CFO drilled this into me! I do believe this is at the heart of anything great! Keep that integrity piece really close to you, because without it you really have nothing and remember no-one can take that from you. I try to always hold myself to the highest level of integrity and say, “if you have any question about something being right or wrong, don’t do it, it is not worth it”.
- As a leader, make sure to remember that authenticity and humility are critical. They mean so much in leadership. You will make mistakes as a leader and the best thing you can do is own the mistake and learn from it. If you do this well, you will start to create a safe environment for your teams and they will be more open with you and innovation will flow more freely. It is also important to take care of you! If you don’t it will show in how you show up for others.
What advice would you give to someone aspiring to the C-level?
The first piece of advice I would give is to make sure you ask yourself why, why do you aspire to be in the C-Suite? It goes back to the concept of following your own path and finding your joy! Do you aspire to the C-level because it’s the right thing to do, or because you really want to do that kind of work? I am not going to say it is easy, it is hard, a lot of work and will cause you to miss some personal events you did not want to miss. It will be stressful and challenging along the way. My advise is to take care of you and set limits. If you don’t set limits, no-one will. Pick your thing… exercise at lunch, take kids to school, be home for dinner, etc. whatever it is — set your boundaries. And, always stay true to yourself and continuously learn.
I would also make sure that you build a really strong network along with building your brand, credibility and capabilities. Your network can be your greatest asset and remember to nurture it along the way.
Is there anything you would like to share?
Make sure you are doing something you love and stay true to your voice. Be proud, be confident and remember that it’s okay to make mistakes along the way. Make sure you take care of you! It is great to take risks, challenge and push yourself out of your comfort zone, but always take care of you because it will show in how you show up in life!