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Lessons from a mentorship Journey –with Ishika Arneja

It’s part of our mission at Coca-Cola HBC to foster a gender-inclusive work environment, empowering women to thrive and grow – at work and in life.  We are a proud partner of The Vedica Scholars Programme for Women, a unique post-graduate programme in management practice and leadership in Delhi, India.

In 2022, we welcomed Vedica scholars for the third year running as part of their shadowing module. It’s specially designed to expose Vedica’s scholars to senior women leaders through mentoring, and give them an opportunity to learn by joining their mentors’ routines and contributing to the projects they manage.

This year, two Vedica scholars followed fourteen CCH women leaders across borders, gaining an extensive view of our organization and the priorities at first hand. 

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Nice to meet you! Tell us a bit about yourself.

I am Ishika Arneja from India. I have a background in economics. I am a trained dancer and a big-time foodie. I love to ask questions, because in my life and in my work, I’ve found that without learning, there is no growth. So, I try to ask and learn something from everyone I meet.

How did you put that into practice at CCH?

I found my mentors and the people I worked with so warm and friendly, it made it easy to build a connection. That makes it so much easier to ask those difficult questions and try things that feel beyond you.

I really feel I learned some of the crucial lessons of my life here. One of the most important was about passion. The leaders who mentored me, like People and Culture Director in Austria - Bettina Augeneder and Director Marketing & Commercial Strategy - Manuela Unger, are great role models. So full of energy and empathy!

I asked myself – What’s their success secret? Is it because they love what they do? And Manuela told me, very simply; “Ishika, whatever you do in life be passionate and committed towards it.”

That’s a big lesson for me. I kind of knew it in my heart but to see it in successful senior women leaders showed me the reality of it.

Manuela Unger

Ishika, whatever you do in life be passionate and committed towards it.

Manuela Unger Marketing Director, Austria

What did you learn from your assignments?

I worked on various projects including gender balance benchmarking and I was given the freedom to work in my own way. That really surprised me, but it gave me a chance to think through the process myself. It was so valuable.

At the end of my assignment, I presented my findings to the Talent Development Team – more than 30 people. I was really nervous but my mentors guided me throughout the journey and helped me get in touch with others in the business to get multiple perspectives on the projects, so I had some interesting things to say.

Later, I helped on a skill gap analysis in the FMCG industry. Before you can hire the talents you need, you have to know where the gaps are. Working on this, I learned about key Diversity Equity & Inclusion (DE&I) practices, as well as skills needed in FMCG in the long run – everything from artificial intelligence to ‘soft’ skills like empathy and storytelling.

What did you discover about women leaders from your mentorship journey?

I talked to many people about how we can attract women to the organization. It’s so important to me. My mother is my biggest role model and when I met all my mentors, I could see a lot of similarities between her leadership skills and theirs.

When I first met my mentor Bettina, we connected very quickly – she has this beautiful wide smile. We talked about many things, including the mother-daughter relationship. That gave me the idea to interview a number of mothers at CCH and share their stories online.

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That’s so inspiring! What feedback did you receive?

The posts did really well, and we got lots of comments from senior leaders at CCH as well as many people in my network too.

That taught me another great lesson. If you’re courageous to ask and act, you can make things happen – especially if you tap into a shared passion. And what could be more passionate than the mother-daughter relationship!!   

At times, I find it overwhelming with my mother, but that relationship has also been a place where I’ve learned to be compassionate. I’ve learned that compassion is an action word with no boundaries.

In my work in HR and in the Vedica Programme, I’ve learned that compassion is also the secret to a cohesive and successful organization. If we can try understand each other’s challenges and suffering, we can effectively help each other work through the uncomfortable issues we all have.

At CCH it’s one of the core values and I could see it in action with my mentors. I was able to share my future fears and my family background – very private and difficult discussions but they were so compassionate towards me that I felt extremely comfortable.

@Irini Kefalogianni, Group Head of Legal – Competition Law and Commercial, who mentored me told me “There is no such thing as a successful B2B or B2C organization if it is not compassionate and H2H (human to human)”. I love the emphasis there – meaningful AND successful. You can be successful, I guess, but without H2H, what does it mean??

Irini K.

There is no such thing as a successful B2B or B2C organization if it is not compassionate and H2H (human to human).

Irini Kefalogianni Group Head of Legal - Competition Law and Commercial

How do you develop that compassion?

It’s not easy. You’ve got to work hard. There’s no substitute for that!
At CCH I saw leaders step down to work in lower roles to better understand customers and different areas of the business. It took blood, sweat, and tears I think but it helped make them what they are today.

One of the most amazing people I met was Ruza Tomic Fontana. She stepped down the ladder to get into sales for a better domain understanding and challenge herself. Today she is the General Manager for three countries in the Adriatic region. Her growth speaks for itself but the passion with which she and others talk about their journey is unbeatable. There are no short-cuts for compassion or success – I learned again at CCH that they are the by-product of the hard work you put in.

Thank you so much, Ishika, for sharing your experiences with us.

Thank you, too, Coca-Cola HBC, for providing me with this opportunity. I am extremely grateful! It’s been a big journey and it will definitely help power my upcoming personal and professional growth!

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