Erika M. Peterman
VP Global Marketing, Pigments & Performance Additives, BASF Corporation
MY GREATEST STRENGTH
At BASF, The Chemical Company founded on science and technology—individual analytical ability is a highly valued strength that most employees have. As a leader in a global organization that includes many team members from recently acquired businesses, my ability to develop meaningful relationships across cultures is also a valuable strength. Having worked in a global function in Europe for more than four years, I am just as effective in environments outside of the United States as I am at home. I employ a leadership style which, although different from the company norm, has proven itself effective across many cultural boundaries, thus enabling my team to excel, even in very challenging business environments.
HOW I MOTIVATE OTHERS
To motivate others, I create an environment of openness, trust, confidence, and cooperation. This allows the whole team to talk openly about any topic. Showing an interest in the individual contributions of team members and focusing on driving results via employee empowerment are also crucial to motivating people.
OUR GREATEST CHALLENGE
The Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) is an organization which provides reading, math, and science standardized tests to over 60 countries around the world, and annually publishes the results of these tests. It is no secret that American students have underperformed versus their international peers in science and math for several years. This, along with other factors, has led me to conclude that our youth, and especially those within the African-American community, are losing interest in pursuing science- and math-based careers. Organizations such as the National Society of Black Engineers and other interest groups are doing a great job of fostering interest in science and math disciplines early on, but we simply need to do more. It is not necessarily easy to pursue such demanding disciplines, but the rewards are great—for the individual and for the surrounding community.
Above all else, keep your values intact. If you do not come to work every day and do the absolute best you can to make a positive difference in your business and work environment, you will eventually not be able to sleep at night. Be courageous, state your opinion and be steadfast in what you believe during difficult situations. In business, most topics are really not personal and it is the diversity of perspectives that makes all business teams stronger.
I come from a Central American family (Panama and Costa Rica). Maintaining family ties beyond that of my nuclear family is extremely important to me. Having lived in Europe for several years, it was difficult to maintain frequent contact with family members in other parts of the world. Tools such as Skype and Facebook allowed my husband, my children, and me to keep in touch with family members abroad. In addition to traveling to see my extended family in both countries, I enjoy exercising on a regular basis, as well as quiet time with close friends.
Being a productive member of our workforce means you have earned your place in the business community. Be proud and remain creative. The perspective you bring to the table will be easily recognized through your contributions. As long as you enjoy what you do and continue to both work hard and play hard, people will notice.