How Owning Your Career Path Can Empower Others to Follow
adidas Brazil’s Carla Salvador talks about her career path to date and opens up on what inspired her to succeed as a woman and as a leader.
Impossible is Nothing is a mantra that has always inspired me in both my life and my career. I believed, I faced my fears, and I succeeded. It seems a little bit pretentious and maybe it is, but I know how many times I’ve dreamed, worked, strived, waited, and focused on what I wanted. And here I am.
I’ve been part of the adidas family for almost 20 years and I am extremely proud and grateful for that. Since my first day at the company, I’ve always thought: “Am I really here?” and to this day, I still feel the fluttering of butterflies in my stomach.
The evolution of my career path
My career path at adidas started with developing the apparel business in Brazil in a sustainable and profitable way. Three years later, apparel represented more than 50% of the business in Brazil and adidas became the market leader for more than eight years thereafter. I was charged. I was showing that women can make a difference.
“I was making the mark that I’d always wanted to make, proving that women have an equal right to get to the top if you put your heart and your soul into everything you do.”Carla Salvador, Sr. Director Sales at adidas
My success and determination were rewarded. The next step on my career path was to become the Head of eCommerce, a role in which I was tasked with turning things around in the Brazilian market. In two years, the eCommerce share increased by more than 60% and its contribution quadrupled. We worked hard on promoting the digital transformation in Latin America and proved once again that women can play a part in senior leadership – which in Brazil in particular is fiercely male-dominated. I felt I was making my point.
“I am the first Brazilian woman to hold this position and the first woman to lead a sales area among many sports brands.”Carla Salvador, Sr. Director Sales at adidas
But the biggest highlight of my career path so far has been my appointment as the senior leader of the wholesale area in Brazil. In fact, I am the first Brazilian woman to hold this position and the first woman to lead a sales area among many sports brands. It was a long journey, but I persevered, and my dream came true. A dream that started when I discovered my passion for the sporting goods company in a trainee program at Penalty, a Brazilian company that specialized in the football segment.
What drives me
“I am a passionate believer that when given the opportunity, it is our teams and our people who can change the world.”Carla Salvador, Sr. Director Sales at adidas
I’ve always aspired to become a great leader. As a child, I spent hours imagining that when I grew up I would take care of other people. I am a passionate believer that when given the opportunity, it is our teams and our people who can change the world and make a difference. Everyone plays a unique role in striving for success.
One story touched my heart and reflects my attitude towards teamwork and pulling together to make the impossible, possible. And you’ve possibly heard of it before: A TV crew visited NASA where they saw a man sweeping the floor. The reporter asked what the man’s job was and he replied: “to fly man to the moon.” Empowering people is the most powerful and satisfying role of a leader. It’s also an opportunity to role model your values and principles to make the world a better place. Having a clear purpose and being led by strong values is the way I role model. Authenticity, optimism, empathy, passion, and happiness reflect my way of behavior.
The role models in my life
While I hope to be a role model for others, I’m also inspired by some of my own.
So, who inspires me to be the best I can be? I look up and see Flávia Bittencourt, General Manager for adidas Latin America as an authentic and visionary leader. A great example of optimism and charisma. In fact, Flávia is one of the most enthusiastic and optimistic leaders I’ve ever worked with. During the pandemic, with all the uncertainty that came with it, she was able to bring confidence and empathy to keep the team united and strong. That’s the kind of person I want to be.
“She taught me that I can be anything I dreamed of.”Carla Salvador, Sr. Director Sales at adidas
Another huge inspiration in my life is my beloved mother, who despite all the financial difficulties we went through when I was growing up, always encouraged me to never give up on my dreams, to be strong, and not give into all kinds of bias and prejudices. She taught me that I can be anything I dreamed of.
My view on leadership
I believe that leadership is not about you. It is about how effective you are in unleashing the power of others. And while there are of course some incredible male leaders, we’ve been missing a trick when it comes to women in leadership positions. How so?
“I believe that women leaders have the ability to empower others as a result of their sensitivity, empathy, presence, and inclusivity.”Carla Salvador, Sr. Director Sales at adidas
They strive to create the right environment and conditions for their teams to be more effective, as well as helping others to fully realize their own capacity and power.
Hopefully, it is becoming less unusual to see women in leadership positions, but there are still certain industries, functional areas, and countries that need to catch up. That said, I am totally convinced that we are the change that we want to see in the world, and it is in our hands to make this happen. From supporting other women in their career development to influencing the next generation, we are accountable for a better gender balance in our society.
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