BELINDA GERDT: Emotional Intelligence is the Key Quality in a Leader
Passionate and human centred. Interested and experienced. Goal-oriented and hardworking.
Belinda Gerdt has had an inspiring and unique journey to become a leading expert in the digital customer experience. Gerdt is the Global Head of Portfolio Marketing at Philips, and her latest book (co-written by Sanna Eskelinen) was recently released in the US by HarperCollins Leadership, one of the most esteemed publishers in the world.
– I’ve always been extremely interested in a variety of things, and I’ve always wanted to learn as much as possible. I’ve also been eager to see just how far I can get!
Belinda says she grew up in a typical Finnish family in the 1980s.
– When I was young, I was wondering if it’s possible to launch an international career with this background. I wasn’t all that international initially; I didn’t do a student exchange, for example, unlike many of my friends. I was also rather timid, and it took a while before my international career really started off.
Belinda says that many things have happened by chance. During her studies, she thought that entrepreneurship could be her path, and entrepreneurial spirit has definitely carried her in her current career. Over the years, she has shown great passion, determination and dedication in her work.
Goal-orientation and hard work were also key when Belinda was working on a Master’s in Economics and Business Administration. Belinda aimed to complete the degree as quickly as possible. That she truly did, at an astounding rate of 80 academic credits per term.
– I studied and worked, first in an EU-funded research project at the university and later at an IT start-up. At the time, I was aiming for an academic career and applied for a doctoral programme in Industrial Engineering and Management, but my path took a different turn, Belinda says, smiling.
She moved to Microsoft.
– At Microsoft’s marketing, I began to build my career in a more goal-oriented manner. I developed a deeper interest in the IT sector as well.
At Microsoft, she took charge of a unit that focused on business applications.
– We worked with the product and our clients a lot. That’s when I started writing a business blog. At that point, IT and business didn’t quite know how to talk to each other yet, so in my blog, I sought to popularise the benefits of technology.
The blog quickly found its audience. During a collaboration via her blog, Belinda started working on her first book (co-written by Kari Korkiakoski).
– I have always been fascinated by the origin of peak experiences, and writing the book was an inspiring dive into turning these experiences into stories.
On the top of the world
After her first book and seven years at Microsoft, Belinda accepted an international position and moved to Luxembourg.
– I worked at the EMEA organisation of Amazon Web Services. At the time, Amazon was not very big or known in Europe, but it grew rapidly in the years that followed.
At AWS, Belinda was in charge of partner marketing.
– That was the best learning experience on digital customer journeys, she says, laughing.
After her years at AWS, Belinda returned to Microsoft and moved from Luxembourg to the Netherlands.
– Each move has provided me with new perspectives, not only on my work, but also my values. When you challenge the conventional, you will find new ways and interesting paths that will take you forward.
After a long career in IT, Belinda moved to Philips headquarters in the Netherlands. At the same time, countries one after another started pandemic lockdowns.
– Philips was needed to provide IT expertise for healthcare solutions, and the pandemic forced us to accelerate digitalisation. At first, I was in charge of the global marketing and development of our software portfolio, and a few years later, I moved to manage a team that is responsible for the strategy of 12 healthcare portfolios globally.
The world is changing, human remains
In her keynote speech at Tampere Smart City Expo & Conference, Belinda will also talk about how digitalisation changes industries.
– What’s interesting in this change that it rarely starts at the initiative of the existing operators. Almost always, a person who is new to the sector has been needed to change the customer experience and business logic. As digitalisation spreads rapidly and the customer experience changes, seeking continuous innovations becomes increasingly important. Against this background, I feel that recruitment should involve more expertise across sectors.
Belinda Gerdt strongly believes in diversity. Leadership has always been a topic of interest for her, and she sees diversity as a great resource.
– A person should be able to be themselves, even as a leader. Shaking up leadership and the stereotypical model of a leader is both interesting and important, in my opinion. I feel that a leader who stands for diversity will also be the most successful in their position. Even today, we are still easily categorised into specific roles.
The modern and empathetic female Finnish leaders are gaining global recognition.
– This has been a great era as a female Finnish leader, since we have gained global awareness in the past few years. In the past, we talked about male Finnish athletes, now we are talking about female leaders. I’m particularly happy that we can be the way we are and still get recognition.
When it comes to leadership, Belinda believes in following your values.
– In the long run, I don’t believe you can succeed if you go against your values. Leadership is a full-time job. Everyone has the right to receive good management, and that may define a person’s whole career, especially early on in their career. It is essential that you help people flourish, and ideally, we should all be able to do things that inspire us.
There is Time
Belinda Gerdt has an enchanting presence. Her captivating speaking and stories – and, verifiably, her actions – paint a picture of a highly skilled person with strong values, belief and pride in what she does, insightful awareness of her responsibility in her position, and immense gratitude for the journey taken so far.
– There are so many stories and paths in life. It is important to remember that you have a time and you can always keep building. I feel that I have received much and that Finland has provided me with good conditions for an international career. I often work with Finnish companies, and I feel it is my turn to give back to Finnish society for the support I have received. I have been able to do this through my books, public speaking and being on company boards, as well.
This theme continues in her latest book, The Swipe-Right Customer Experience: How to Attract, Engage, and Keep Customers in the Digital-First World, which she co-wrote with Sanna Eskelinen.
– It feels like an immense win that one of the largest and distinguished media companies wanted to sign a contract and publish a book with female Finnish writers.
Belinda encourages her audience to believe in their goals.
– THINK BIG! You shouldn’t restrict your ideas – your mind holds all your opportunities, Belinda states, smiling.
Belinda Gerdt’s keynote speech on the main stage of Tampere Smart City Expo & Conference on 7 June.
Free admission for registered visitors.