GWPR EMPOWER Masterclass Session three – Plot your International Career with Sabia Schwarzer

Published 19th Jul 2022

Summary of the session by Harriet Weiler, Director Corporate Communications & CSR, VitalAire GmbH and GWPR Empower programme mentee. Sabia Schwarzer is Global Head of Communications, Brand and Corporate Affairs at Merck Group

Sabia Schwarzer Empower Mentor quote Throughout my life I had people who listened to me, encouraged me, asked many questions and helped me find my "game". Then there were people who walked alongside, so when I thought I would stumble, I could quickly grab their arm. And then there are those who would "sit in the dust" with me in silence - because sometimes all it needs is presence. As a mentor. I love to be what others have been for me.

“It is all about your life goals. Keep them at the centre of every career move. Push for them!”, was the central message Sabia Schwarzer gave us regarding our own (international) career planning. With convincing clarity, infectious energy and a huge dose of empathy, Sabia reported about her own career path, her experiences and the biggest lessons learned over the years. 

While she talks about her experiences in Asia, America and Germany, it becomes clear that she has always remained true to herself during her more than 25-year career. Did she plan it specifically? No. But as the child of an Indian and a German, it was always clear to her to aim for an international one. “I value people,” she says, “Do not judge. Rather ask why his/her behaviour is different from what you have experienced.” 

And so it comes as no surprise that Cornelia Kunze, chair of the GWPR international board, says of Sabia that ”she is a leadership role model and that she admires her for her abundance of caring for others, as well as her generosity for everything in life.”

First lesson: The basis for wanting an international career is a love of people.

But that alone does not lead to success. A little luck, chance and right timing are also key ingredients. “You can learn almost every business from scratch, but one needs to be open to asking for help and assistance”, is what Sabia is convinced of. It is important, she said, to be present and to meet people to underline what one brings to the table. 

Second lesson: Find people who are willing to help. Do not be shy to ask questions. Build networks. 

And as Sabia tells us about how her husband and herself were determined to work in America and explains that that was the reason why they entered the Greencard Lottery, it shows her ambition and determination to stick to her goals and do whatever it takes to achieve them. They won the Greencard and moved to the US, so lesson no. 3 is not surprising. 

Third lesson: Be clear about what you want and why you want it. 

She encourages everybody to analyze the motivation to work abroad and then: “Just jump!” It is about identifying companies with international “mindsets” and jumping onto possibilities. And on other occasions, it may be a chance to turn down a job in order to stay true to one’s own goals. Uncertainties should not stop us if the overall goal and our motivation are clear.

With all of her international experience under her belt, the many impressions she has gained in different cultures and the lessons she has taken away from her encounters with many nationalities, she finally concludes:

Fourth lesson: Diversity will never be learned. 

Diversity training and programmes which are run by companies – she doesn‘t really believe in. But living, travelling and working abroad develops a true understanding of diversity. As for her, it is clear that: “Home is where my family is, where my friends are.” 

Book recommendation: Philippa Perry. How to Stay Sane