Covid-19 pandemic: Figuring out that the only thing I could really control was my own reaction

Covid-19 pandemic: Figuring out that the only thing I could really control was my own reaction

We asked female leaders, who will be speaking at our summit in 2021, to share their personal thoughts on the challenges, opportunities and new perspectives they have personally encountered as they navigate through the still ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. This special series should inspire and encourage you to continue to manage the crisis in the best possible way. Enjoy this article from Bianca Stringuini.

Bianca Stringuini is Senior Director, Inclusion & Community for Asia Pacific for VISA and leads the team responsible for implementing the inclusion, diversity (I&D), community and social responsibility strategy for the region. This role also includes an increasing focus on team wellbeing and further progressing Visa’s efforts to purposefully contribute to the communities it serves.

Bianca herself is an excellent example of diverse experiences, having the wealth of over 15 years of expertise in talent, leadership, diversity and inclusion practices and as well as marketing, real estate, fashion, financial services and payments. Most recently, she founded a consultancy focused on leadership and diversity training for a global clientele, and prior to that, was Head of Diversity and Inclusion for JP Morgan Chase, AIG and American Express. She was also a Senior Consultant at Mercer and has spearheaded strategy and implementation projects, business development and branding projects, as well as change, talent and performance management projects throughout her career.

How has the Covid-19 crisis affected your life and work so far and how have you adapted to the new situation?

The coronavirus pandemic is a crisis probably unlike any other crisis in recent times and it has affected everything and everyone. The way we work, where we work, social distancing, lockdowns, family interaction, the whole experience was life changing. I believe it is important to focus on what Covid-19 affected positively in my life such as being closer to family, and friends far away who suddenly were more available for catchups. Working from home as the new normal (a challenge I’ve always faced in Asia Pacific), the digital transformation (and transformation in general) leap, the re-evaluation of several constructs in my personal and professional life, my son getting fully potty trained 😊. I’ve adapted but dealing with control and the lack thereof was hard, trying to embrace uncertainty and yet managing to understand the parts of my life I was still in control.

I was figuring out that the only thing I could really control was my own reaction, my own thoughts and actions, being less reactive and more purposeful.

Bianca Stringuini, Senior Director, Inclusion & Community for Asia Pacific, Visa, Singapore

Where have you felt you have reached your limits and what did you do to keep your head above water?

We all have been through enormous change and have experimented grief in some shape or form this year. The worst-case scenario is people losing loved ones, but everybody lost something all along the way like projects, years in school, proximity, trips and so on. For me, it was hard to cancel my Christmas holiday in Brazil, my native country. I haven’t been home in 3 years, my mom hasn’t seen my son since he was 4 months when they last saw each other in person, and it breaks my heart. I had to believe that this was the sensible choice, not just the only one, but for “the best”, imagining that soon we will come out of this pandemic and will be able to see our family and friends again. I counted on friends a lot, I kept celebrating the small wins, the daily moments of gratitude, I took some time off. Sometimes this year my head was not above the water but seeing a glimpse of light made me push through to the surface.

As the saying goes, “with every challenge, there is an opportunity”, what opportunities have you personally discovered (are you discovering) during this downtime?

First and most importantly the opportunity to learn. I’ve completed a few online courses, opportunity to spend time with family, appreciating the day to day without the escapism of the usual 45 flights I would take a year, listening more, having multiple discussions about topics such as race, inclusion, social economic divide, digital transformation, flexibility, and change. Without this crisis we would never have taken them head on.

Being a female leader, how has leadership changed for you? How have you changed as a leader in an uncertain time?

Yes, this has been a phenomenal test of leadership and those who displayed empathy, compassion, curiosity and resilience did better.

The time for ruthless is past, the time for inclusive leadership is now, more personal, more human.

Bianca Stringuini, Senior Director, Inclusion & Community for Asia Pacific, Visa, Singapore

It also showed an immense amount of fantastic female global leaders who shined for these attributes and managed crisis with people at the center. I have definitely tried to be more agile, more consultative, more compassionate and dealing with less ego and more collectivism.

What has been your biggest learning(s) so far and how do you intend to develop it/them?

My greatest learning is around resilience and the power of letting go, and being able to say, “this too shall pass” and hope for better. So many times, I did break down and cried but I feel I’ve learned a bit more about myself and my purpose this year, it certainly gave us all some time to think and reflect on ourselves and our life purpose. I’m renewed in my belief in wellbeing and mental health awareness, in my focus on doing a work that is purposeful, in my daughter’s passion for the environment and the part I have to play in it, in my belief that inclusion and diversity is more important now than ever and that we must find a way to build the world back better.

Review 2019: Collaborating to Build a Better World

Once again, remarkable women and influential leaders from all over the world convened under one roof to share their expertise, perspective and acumen on how the world we live in is developing and what everyone can contribute to make a positive impact. Learn more and download the offical review 2019!

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