C-suite career advice: Hanna-Leana Taoubi, Lingvist

We ask industry leading C-suite professionals for their expert career advice...

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Hanna-Leana Taoubi

Company: Lingvist

Job Title: Chief Linguistic Officer

Location: Estonia


What was the most valuable piece of career advice that you received?
I remember asking one of my previous clients and my subsequent mentor (a Human Resources Director in a company of 25,000 employees) about the most important personality trait that she was looking for in candidates during the hiring process: What makes the final difference if the skill set and qualifications are equal? Her answer was “sense of humour”. I truly believe that lows and hardships can be much more easily surmounted with people who know how not to take themselves too seriously, and who bring more fun and well-placed humour to the workplace. Numerous studies have proven that people with a good sense of humour do a better job. Thus, tasteful, subtle humour (this is very important, especially when working with people from different cultural backgrounds) can be a key to success. Eisenhower has said, “A sense of humor is part of the art of leadership, of getting along with people, of getting things done”. I think this applies not only to leaders, but to any employee working in a team. This is a rule that I have followed in making hiring decisions along the way, and they are decisions that I am proud of.

What was the worst piece of business advice that you received?
I tend to believe that there is no such thing as bad advice. It's the art of whom you take the advice from that matters. Just because someone has been extremely successful in one particular area of business, doesn't mean they know about all business models, hacks, and tricks. It's fairly easy for someone who doesn't understand your background and ideas to shoot them down simply because they have been successful in another area. In today's data-driven and customer-oriented society, it is easy to validate your ideas by talking directly to your potential customers.

What advice would you give to someone starting their career in the tech industry?
As someone with no previous background in tech before joining Lingvist, my first advice would be not to be intimidated by those who know more than you. Curiosity and courage are critical. Never be afraid to ask questions if you don't understand something. It’s only outside of your comfort zone that you will gain new knowledge and enhance your skills, and you will always have something to teach people with a different skill set and background from your own.

What tips would you give to someone aiming for a C-level position?
Above all, find out what you love most, as love nurtures curiosity, creativity, confidence, and resilience – all indispensable ingredients to help you dream bigger, aim higher, and not to give up. Be fiercely passionate about what you do. The road to the top will never be a smooth one, especially if you are a high achiever and have high standards for yourself. It is important not to forget to be kind to yourself along the way.

Are you particularly proud of any career advice that you’ve given or the career route/development of anyone you’ve mentored?
My background is in language instruction and the translation industry, and I mentored language experts and translators in my previous role as the general manager of a company that I founded 8 years ago. Before joining Lingvist, I particularly mentored my long-time employee, a language instructor, to take over company operations. I helped her with hiring processes, managing external communication with business partners, and also with smaller things such as managing day-to-day client relationships, writing successful tender responses, etc. It is highly rewarding to see someone push their limits, overcome obstacles, and take on new responsibilities. Empowering others is probably one of my greatest satisfactions as a leader. What adds to this satisfaction is the fact that mentoring is not a one-way street. Although you may have more experience and responsibilities as a leader, there’s always a lot to learn from your mentees; thus, it is a highly rewarding experience for both sides.