From Engineer to Executive: How curiosity and courage has guided the career of 3M Canada President, Mojdeh Poul

 

 

When Mojdeh Poul first moved from Iran to the U.S. to pursue an engineering degree, she planned on returning home after finishing her studies. The curiosity and courage that brought her there ended up keeping her there, then led her from engineering into marketing, and ultimately into her current role as president of 3M Canada.

 

By Hailey Eisen

 


 

In 1984, Mojdeh Poul, the fourth daughter in a family of five, left her home in Iran for the United States. A passionate math and sciences student, with a strong desire to receive an Engineering degree, Mojdeh enrolled at the University of Louisville, where her older sister was living at the time.

Mojdeh arrived armed with the values that her parents had instilled in her since she was a child.   “It was my father who encouraged me to have the confidence in my potential and capabilities, and my mother who taught me to have discipline and high standards for myself,” she recalls. She assumed she would return to Iran upon completing her Bachelor of Science and Master of Engineering degrees, but she decided to stay and explore opportunities within the US that wouldn’t have been possible in Iran.

As a young engineer at General Electric, Mojdeh interacted often with customers, and found she enjoyed the challenge of helping them solve their problems. She began to wonder about transitioning into a more customer-facing role. Once she left the industrial world of GE to join the world of medical devices and healthcare, she shared this ambition with her new boss and was given some advice on how to successfully continue pivoting her career. “I was advised that an MBA would help facilitate the move into the marketing world, and help broaden my horizons,” she recalls. “And, it proved to do exactly that.”  Shortly after she began her MBA studies in 1992, she was given an opportunity in a marketing role, despite her lack of prior marketing experience.

Mojdeh also recalls the sense of purpose she felt when she started working in an industry where she contributed to improving and saving lives. “Working on something you’re passionate about gives you that extra boost of energy and engagement that stretches you to do more every day,” she says.

In 2011, she began working at 3M in the US, where she held a number of functional and business leadership positions before being appointed president of 3M Canada in September of 2016. From management, into functional leadership roles, and executive positions, Mojdeh says her career has really been about harnessing her curiosity and courage to always look and stretch beyond. It’s an attitude that has made her a great fit for her current company. “The wonderful thing about 3M,” explains Mojdeh, “is that there are so many opportunities, so many possibilities, within the organization to be challenged, gain a diverse set of experiences, and contribute.”

As the 3M Canada president, she’s responsible for the entire 3M portfolio in Canada — some of which she didn’t have experience with, but was eager to learn all about. “Early in my career — when I was a young, impatient leader, constantly looking for my next role — one of the best pieces of advice I got was to always fully immerse myself in learning my business, customers, and market, and focus fully on delivering results. I was told if I did those things that my next role would always find me, and it always has.”

Mojdeh is certainly fully immersed — not only with learning about her customers within the many industries that 3M serves, but also with understanding Canada’s unique culture. “When I lived in the US, I just assumed Canada and the US were almost the same — but what I’ve found, very early on, is that Canadian culture is indeed different,” she says. The change has been inspiring for someone who’s driven by curiosity. Mojdeh, her husband, and her 13-year-old son and 11-year-old daughter have been taking this opportunity to explore Canada from coast to coast, having already visited Whistler, Banff, Niagara Falls, and Newfoundland, to name a few.

Looking back to her first big move, Mojdeh says none of her career success would have been possible if her father hadn’t been so supportive of her desire to leave Iran to study engineering. “He always told us there was nothing we couldn’t do if we set our minds to it — instilling the confidence in me that’s guided me throughout my career.”

 

Five significant (and possibly surprising) ways that technology can help your business

 

 

Technology is already the heart of your business — and of all businesses. Its infrastructure houses your data and provides access to email, the Internet, and applications. Are you taking advantage of all that it can do for your company?

 

By Marie Moore

 


 

In a BDC study of Canadian entrepreneurs’ investment intentions, technology — including computer hardware, software, and e‑commerce — was cited as the number one area for planned investment in 2017. So, if you are like the majority of business owners in this country, you already recognize technology’s importance. The question is, are you taking full advantage of the ways it can help your business succeed?

Consider the following five areas where technology can make an impact:

 

1. Attracting and retaining talent

If retaining high-performing employees is a priority for your business, it’s time to recognize how much technology can play into employee satisfaction. Consider the frustration caused by using slow, outdated devices, or the gratification and success that comes from having the right equipment to perform their job — in the way they want to perform it. Technology is key to employee morale.  

Especially as the labour force includes more millennials — who value flexibility even more than compensation — the way your employees prefer to work and communicate is shifting, as is their use of and attitudes toward technology. The expectation is that the tech they use for their job will be as intuitive and always-available as their personal devices, enabling simple and seamless access from anywhere. And if you have a multi-generational staff, your business needs to cater to these different work styles and cultures, or risk losing talent to competitors.

TIP: Security and secure access are the most important elements to consider when employees work off-site, and if you haven’t invested in products like Next-Generation Firewalls (NGFWs), an enterprise mobility management solution, or cybersecurity software, you could be putting your data — and your customer’s data — at risk.

 

2. Taking advantage of sales opportunities

There are inevitably times when your employees come into the office and printer X or server Y isn’t working. If it happens often, it means you’ve purchased an inferior product, or you’ve exceeded the capabilities of your current solution. How can your employees serve customers if they don’t know whether they will be able to use their phone that day or access email?

Even if your organization isn’t missing out on sales through lost productivity caused by aging or inferior technology, there may still be opportunities for upgrades or additions that can lead to actual, quantifiable sales. Consider the benefits of providing instant and intimate connectivity to customers, regardless of their location, using video conferencing, or the advantage of a timely response, enabled by giving your employees access to email and important documents wherever, whenever.

TIP: There’s no reason for your business to miss these opportunities when reliable, secure collaboration and networking products are available at a reasonable cost — and made more so with financing options.

 

3. Tapping into valuable customer data

Have you ever connected your phone to a store’s free Wi-Fi before? Every time you log in — or simply walk by another location — there is a connection made with their server that allows each location to understand internal traffic, street traffic, demographics, popular times, and more. This allows management to proactively staff for the busiest periods, push deals and samples when there is high foot traffic, and decipher what amount of goods they need at each location.  

As more and more devices connect, companies have the potential to collect tons of data that can transform their current business practices and create new opportunities. However, as the name suggests, “big data” can be daunting — and the struggle lies not only in how to best access it, but also in how to use it.

The best place to start is to consider how your business operates, and how you interact with your customers. Are you a retail company with inventory? Do you have a physical location or are you using e-commerce? You could be collecting data on in-store or online orders (or both). You could also be tracking a product’s popularity by region, for example, to understand purchasing trends and enable proper inventory management. Offering Wi-Fi to your own customers enables marketing push notifications for promotions and insight, plus data collection on volume, popular times, and popular locations. The better you can predict, the better and more profitable your business can be.

TIP: It’s technically possible to collect data from every connected device, piece of equipment, and asset — but you don’t have to jump in all at once.

 

4. Managing and making the most of growth

As your business starts growing, you’ll find a host of new opportunities become available — as well as a new set of challenges. Technology, when employed smartly, can help turn more of these nice-to-have problems into major wins.

Expansion could require outfitting a larger office, or balancing an increasingly remote workforce. The key is to evaluate your current space and the ways people interact and work within it, so you can make informed changes for the future. Business growth can also lead to supply chain and sales complexity. You may have started out dealing with a handful of suppliers or a predictable group of customers, only to enter a logistics nightmare as orders increase. When you can no longer rely on eyeballing inventory, it’s time to employ a technology solution.

TIP: As you are making plans for your company’s growth, consider how technology will play a role in that vision. That way, when upgrading your technology products, you can make sure you are addressing the needs that exist today — and the changing needs of tomorrow.

 

5. Keeping you in business

Businesses are rapidly becoming more digital — think about how you hail a ride, book a trip, and the bank account you carry in your pocket — and customer demands for seamless, immediate service are increasing. This is why you should be thinking about digital transformation — applying technology within your organization to deliver more profitable revenue, greater competitive advantage, and higher efficiency – even if you aren’t in the tech industry.

According to Gartner, 75 per cent of businesses will be digital businesses, or will prepare to become digital businesses, by 2020 — but digital transformation will not look the same for each one. What is most important is that you identify the areas within your organization that will most benefit from new technologies, and begin there. These projects will reap you the most success, and provide valuable learnings for subsequent initiatives.

TIP: The best place to begin your digital transformation is with your IT network. Digital transformation is all about using technologies that rely on connectivity — sensors, software, devices, and equipment — to make your business operate faster, simpler, and better than before. Those technologies cannot do what they are meant to do if your IT network can’t handle the data traveling across it.

 

The Cisco Women Entrepreneurs Circle addresses some of the obstacles female-led businesses face in building their tech capabilities. In partnership with organizations including the Business Development Bank of Canada, Cisco is connecting women to the expertise and knowledge needed for their entrepreneurial ventures to thrive. Are you a business owner? Fill in a short survey to register for the free virtual training from the Cisco Networking Academy, and kickstart your journey towards business success.