Get comfortable with being uncomfortable. It’s a mantra as well as something of a modus vivendi for Isabella Höllriegel, Account Manager with global technology research and consultancy Gartner in the DACH region. And it has its roots in her early experience as a CEMS intern with the company.
“Gartner has a philosophy of throwing you in at the deep end,” she laughs. “Even when you’re totally green, there’s a kind of can-do culture that encourages you to rise up to challenges you think yourself entirely incapable of managing. And the great thing is that as an experience, it accelerates your learning and your trust in yourself and your own capabilities, perhaps more than any other.”
In Gartner, Isabella has found a culture that inspires her as much as it challenges her. From the word go, she says, she has had the space and the autonomy not only to learn but to grow – and to take ownership of every opportunity that has come her way. – which was an “amazing way” to kickstart her career, she says.
“What’s perhaps most empowering about working with Gartner is the atmosphere of trust. As soon as you start, you understand that the people around you will put their trust in you and your abilities, so it’s on you to trust yourself and to really own each challenge that comes your way, no matter how daunting it may feel.”
Doing the preparation
A function of this kind of self-trust is putting in the work too, she says. In sales, there is a huge imperative to do the groundwork; to prepare meticulously and to understand the client’s needs, even before you sit down to meet and discuss.
Isabella’s role involves working with upcoming companies in the tech industry – innovators and trailblazers who are developing new ways to harness and deploy some of the most exciting technologies in the spectrum, from AI to virtual reality and beyond. She works shoulder-to-shoulder with the C-level across her client portfolio, advising them across critical issues that can range from funding to product development and growth and expansion. It is a role that is varied, diverse, challenging and “thrilling,” she says. And although no one day resembles another, there are nonetheless core activities that tend to inform her work on a regular basis.
“Typically, I kick off my morning talking to the region to understand where the focus for the week should lie. Then I prepare my client calls for the day and strategies the best ways to support them on their strategic initiatives. Ideally, I would also have one or two proposal presentations or negotiation calls and probably an internal workshop for upskilling.”
Something she and her team instituted during Covid was an evening call to share highlights and challenges and to build a feeling of connection. It’s a habit that they are loath to lose, she adds.
“There’s a real team spirit in this company and we help and support each other. Gartner tends to hire people based on their personal traits and values as much as professional competencies, which means that as a community we tend to get along really well. This kept us really well connected and supported during the pandemic. Coming out of it, we routinely organize afterwork activities and I’ve forged great friendships here as well as strong working relations.”
Coming out of Covid, many of her clients have had to change goals and strategy to accommodate the “new normal.” Adapting to sudden shifts in strategic needs has not been an issue, she says; in no small part because of the rock-solid business knowledge and real-world application of skills that was core to her learning as a CEMS student.
‘At CEMS, the knowledge base you build is solid and its deep. And the business projects you pursue really ground that knowledge while giving you the confidence that comes from putting theory into practice. CEMS gave me confidence and credibility – and it’s a credibility that has sustained me and continues to sustain me in every conversation with every chief executive as we discuss corporate strategy. My clients are diverse and have their unique vision, goals and needs, but because I understand the core mechanisms or business and how things tie together, I can bring value to the table fast.”
Isabella would not hesitate to recommend Gartner to any CEMS student who, like her, has a “hunger to learn” and to push their career forward dynamically. A key piece of advice she would share is to prioritize upskilling, and to constantly ask for feedback and input from others – even those outside your team or region. The opportunity to learn, she says, is second to none.
I really think the level of ownership you receive at Gartner from the very start is a very special asset. It is a steep learning curve but when I look back on how much I have learned within the first year of my career at Gartner, I am very proud. For anyone in the CEMS community looking for a challenge, Gartner is the place to be!