ISSA Advancing Clean. Driving Innovation.
ISSA Advancing Clean. Driving Innovation.

Cleaning Management Institute (CMI) Discount Program

 

Women Empowered


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ISSA Staff Share Secrets to Success

ISSA Senior Marketing Director: Priya Ponnuswamy

How many years have you worked in the cleaning industry and how has it changed as a career option for women since you entered it?
I have been in this industry for the past 4 years. I am not sure if it is just my perception, but I feel that more women are attracted to and thrive in this industry because:

    1. They feel like they are serving a bigger cause for the environment, sustainability, and hygiene in general
    2. They are empowering people who have until recently, suffered from the stigma of being in an under-valued profession as cleaners
    3. It is relatable. The industry may not be glamorous, but it is undeniable that it permeates every aspect of our lives and is key to our health and well-being
    4. There is a lot of focus in mainstream media now on the ill effects of poor hygiene practices, and new strains of germs that defy vaccines, and therefore a lot more awareness of the importance of cleanliness and hygiene

What key piece of advice can you give women who struggle with work/life balance issues on how to further their careers?
Situations vary, and this might not apply to all, but some things I would suggest are:

  1. Never stop learning and moving forward. If you have to take a step back to make more time for family, make sure you are at least working part time, freelancing from home, and/or going to school to build on your skillset, and always stay current. I have found that especially in certain professions, a big gap in your resume can really set you back in your skills and in career opportunities
  2. At work, build relationships and be genuinely invested in your colleagues. They could turn out to be your most valuable support in helping you get through your workload, and in thinking through your projects, just as you help and support them
  3. Think beyond your task list about the bigger picture and how your role fits in that. Work at making your role in the company truly supportive of the vision and mission of the organization

What has been the biggest challenge you faced during your career journey? What is a memorable success or win on the job?

    1. My biggest challenge was embarking on a serious career at the point where I was a single mom, going back to school while I was working, and making sure I was there for my child. It was a tough few years, but my daughter and I got through it with no regrets
    2. I would say the biggest and most memorable win for me is working with people who are fantastic and care about one another. At ISSA, I see so many passionate, hard-working people, and women in executive positions encouraging young people to reach higher. I have had two bosses in my time here, both incredible women, who I look up to and learn from each day. This is a rare find and can make all the difference in how you view and feel about your work

Where should women look for career mentors?
If your organization has a formal mentorship program that would be great as the mentor can show you the ropes and guide you through industry know-how from the organization’s standpoint, and help you navigate the organizational landscape. If not, you could reach out to a group such as ISSA’s Hygieia, or other young professional networks through the Chamber of Commerce or local career centers that offer mentorship programs. Whatever avenue you choose, a well-thought-out mentorship relationship is something that can really help to round you out as a professional.

What do you know now that you wish you knew when you first began your career in this industry?
I wish I had known what an enriching experience this industry offers – If I did, I would have actively looked for a career in this industry, and much earlier, rather than falling into it by chance, as I did. This has been a learning experience for me and has tapped into the right vein. It’s awesome, especially as a marketing professional, to have a brand and industry you are passionate about.

 

ISSA EMEA Member Specialist - Regina Heinrich

As a daughter of a medium sized company, I was born in 1966 in Bingen on the Rhine river. Authenticity, loyalty, respectful interaction, profundity and positive thinking are the core of my personality. From a professional perspective, I am very much interested in digitization and its social- ecological transformation with regard to service, product design and staff management. Privately I am inspired by designers like Luigi Colani, as well as Walter Gropius. 

How many years have you worked in the cleaning industry and how has it changed as a career option for women since you entered it?

I have been working in the cleaning industry since 1991. After my studies in economics I have started as marketing assistant for Diversey in Food in Beverage. In 1995 I was asked to become the Marketing Manager for Institutional. To become more familiar with customer needs I started to work as Key Account Manager, focusing on Quick Service Restaurant Chains in Germany. While working for Diversey, I experienced the changes from Diversey to Diversey Lever to Johnson Diversey. In 2005 I commenced to work for Ecolab as Corporate Account Manager for Food Retail, later for the Ecolab headquarter in Switzerland as European Marketing Manager. In 2011 I was offered to become the International Marketing Director for Tana, which is a sister company of Werner & Mertz in Mainz in Germany.

The career options for women might have slightly improved, though I have to admit that in the respective companies the management is still dominated by men. There are no real concepts which offer more flexible working approaches within management positions.     

What key piece of advice can you give women who struggle with work/life balance issues on how to further their careers?

Listen to your gut instinct, make a choice and set your priorities in life right as you only live once.  

What has been the biggest challenge you faced during your career journey? What is a memorable success or win on the job?

One big challenge is definitely to achieve flexible work arrangements in order to allow a work-life balance to manage your career and personal priorities. Also, it is still hard to catch uo to the earnings of men.

One of my memorable successes was the creation of a European portfolio in 29 languages which has replaced about 90% of the former local country portfolios. Also I´m very happy of having acccompanied and launched a series of professional cradle to cradle(R) certified, eco-effective cleaning products.  While working for various companies I have learned to realize what sustainability truly means and to differentiate and evaluate various sustainability statements.   

Where should women look for career mentors?

It can be quite helpful to have a sponsor and advocate that helps in providing opportunities. In order to look for a mentor, you need to clear what you are looking for. Do you need anyone who helps you in specific areas or on a broader perspective? Once you know what you are looking for, do not rely on the assumption that one day someone will find you. Be brave, ask for sponsorship and start a relaxed relationship with the respective mentor - but clearly express what you would like to learn. Mentors can be found in and outside the business in your local communities and associations. 

What do you know now that you wish you knew when you first began your career in this industry?

I wish I knew that you cannot do a good job if a job is all you do. Also I have learnt that there are various reasons why some people work 7/24 - and it is not always enjoyment.

 

Q&A

Questions about how to get involved, career advancement, or work advice?

Email hannah@issa.com, and we'll post the answers to your questions on this page.

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