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Women in Business Q&A: Denise Dettingmeijer, CFO, Randstad North America

07/12/2015 16:56

As Chief Financial Officer of Randstad North America, Denise Dettingmeijer is responsible for the business control (FP&A), business services, accounting, treasury, risk, internal audit, benefits, tax and legal functions within the company. Denise provides business advisory, strategic planning, operations and financial management services to Randstad's integrated staffing solutions. In her role as CFO, Denise aligns and enhances business performance by delivering insight to further company growth in the market. She also looks to redefine the financial planning and analysis process to become even more strategic and commercially focused.

How has your life experience made you the leader you are today?
It's hard to narrow down exactly what made me the leader I am today as I feel all of my experiences have cumulatively shaped me. There are a few, however, that do stand out as being significantly influential. One of the most significant experiences was playing collegiate softball. Those years of hard work and teamwork taught me a lot about leadership and discipline. I also learned how to win and lose with dignity and how to come back from defeat. The opportunity to live and work abroad was also quite influential. I discovered how to adapt, how to question the status quo and how to embrace cultural diversity. Experiences can teach you lessons at any point in your life. The key is to never stop learning.

How has your previous employment experience aided your position at Randstad?
I previously worked in the manufacturing industry and came to Randstad in 2013. Serving in so many different finance functions, including previous CFO posts, helped make the transition to an HR services organization quite easy. Despite each company's nuances, the fundamentals are the same. I also have the benefit of international work experience. Since Randstad is a global company, this aided in my adaptation to the Randstad culture and gave me great perspective.

What have the highlights and challenges been during your tenure at Randstad?
Over the last few years, Randstad has done a significant amount of work toward integrating cultures, systems and processes across multiple operating companies and regional locations. That in itself was challenging, but we couldn't do it in a bubble. We needed to balance our focus on internal initiatives with the priority of serving our customers and candidates. It was something we had to consider in every decision we made. At the same time, the subsequent improvements that were made and the strengthening of the support processes and partnership for growth have been a highlight.

What advice can you offer women who are seeking a career in your industry?
Take advantage of all available opportunities. If opportunities don't exist, create them. Participate in projects outside your comfort zone. Go the extra mile. Always aim to keep learning. If you know the broad business and have clear goals, including your own career path objectives, you can go far. Take ownership of your goals and have fun. Be visible, be confident and be passionate about what you do.

How do you maintain a work/life balance?
More than 10 years ago, I learned to call this "work/life blend." When I first heard "blend" substituted for "balance," I thought it was a cop-out. After much contemplation, I now know work/life blend is personal. Some need balance--eight hours at work, eight hours at home, eight hours of sleep--but most need a form of blend. What works for you and your family may not be what works for others. I have a work/life blend that works for me and my family. I have an amazing, supportive husband and wonderful children who are the first to point out when our blend gets out of line. It takes a lot of work and compromise to find the right blend and it may change over time, but I believe having your own work/life blend is the foundation for any success, at home or at work.

What do you think is the biggest issue for women in the workplace?
Lack of role models is the biggest issue for women in the workplace. Despite the progress made, we continue to see low levels of women in leadership roles and we need to address the root causes in order to make dramatic, sustainable change. Last week, my 10 year-old daughter chose the glass ceiling as the topic of her school project focused on inequity in the world. When I asked her why, she said, "because I want to work one day." That reinforced my belief that more visible role models are needed in the workplace.

How has mentorship made a difference in your professional and personal life?
Although I never had an official mentor, mentorship has certainly made a difference for me. I have always made a point to learn from everyone I encounter, in both my personal and professional life. I find the best learning opportunities are from those who teach through their actions. This style tends to be the most influential for me, and provides examples that I can either emulate--or not!

Which other female leaders do you admire and why?
I tend to most admire female leaders who overcame some type of adversity, took a stand and made a difference. My own grandmother is someone whose story and experience I greatly respect. After her husband died, she went to work as an executive assistant and raised five children as a single parent. She learned to use a computer at the age of 60 and fought her company's mandatory retirement policy--and won! Strong women like this are all around us, from my mother, to my amazing female colleagues and friends and to those in the news who have stood up for equality. These are all great people we can learn from. A favorite quote of mine is from a passionate female leader, Eleanor Roosevelt. She said: "No one can make you feel inferior without your consent."

What do you want Randstad to accomplish in the next year?
I look forward to doing what I can to make sure Randstad outperforms the market on all fronts: attracting and retaining talent, growth and profitability. I also want to continue the great work we do in our communities. I'd like to increase the positive impact we make and continue to engage our employees.

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