Jumping Out of My Comfort Zone: My Time in the Global Accelerated Development Program

My joined Nielsen in 2015 as a Training Lead for our Field Operations teams in Ho Chi Minh City is now a Client Delivery Manager

My joined Nielsen in 2015 as a Training Lead for our Field Operations teams in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. In 2018 she entered our Global Accelerated Development Program, which prepares early-career Nielsen associates for leadership roles, and she’s now a Client Delivery Manager.

One afternoon in the summer haze of 2018, I found myself walking along the historic streets of the Istanbul Grand Bazaar. As I gazed at the colorful crystal lamps and patterned carpets that looked exactly like I imagined when I first heard about them in the One Thousand and One Nights folk tales, I felt so thankful for the opportunity that had brought me to Turkey. Together with Nielsen associates from 12 countries, I spent one incredible week in Istanbul, crossing back and forth every day between Asia and Europe, to attend the kick-off forum of the Global Accelerated Development Program (GADP).

The GADP is one of Nielsen’s fast-track programs for emerging leaders around the world. Initiated in 2016, the 18-month program selects around 20 early-career associates each year. Following an in-person forum, participants are placed in a series of six-month rotational assignments in different areas of the company. In each rotation, GADP associates drive key initiatives, while also gaining exposure to promising opportunities, expanding their network and diversifying their skills and knowledge. Thanks to this program, I have had the opportunity to see Nielsen through a diverse lens, from back office to front line, from local to global perspectives. It’s given me a rounded view of how a business is run, as well as the mindset to drive change and embrace risks.

I found the rotational assignments both fascinating and challenging. Since this was a unique opportunity for me to explore Nielsen in a fast and intensive way, I pressured myself to jump out of my comfort zone for one of my rotations and chose an area I hardly knew anything about. Coming from an operations management background, I was comfortable with managing fieldwork timelines, data quality and resource effectiveness. So I felt both anxious and excited when my first assignment was with the Global Procurement team. During my six months on the team, I gained a foundational grasp of strategic sourcing, vendor selection and efficiency analysis in different markets.

Then came the next two rotations, where I got to dip my toes in the waters of client servicing. Fortunately, I was able to leverage my operations knowledge when I moved to Global Client Delivery. There I participated in global initiatives to drive efficiency and advance automation, so that we can deliver data, analysis and insights to our clients even faster and with a higher quality.

During my 18 months in the GADP, I told myself to keep in mind the Law of Two Feet. Brilliantly simple, it says that if you find yourself in a situation where you are neither learning nor contributing, then you are responsible for moving to another place where your participation is more meaningful. Therefore, I tried my best to make the most out of each rotation and checked in with myself regularly to ensure that I was learning and contributing effectively. The six-month timeframes challenged me not only to learn as much and as fast as possible, but also to reflect about how to make an impact on the business in that short a time.

Besides on-the-job training, the GADP offered a monthly learning series for skills development, with access to structured courses on a wide range of topics: project management, conflict management, Lean Six Sigma, Agile, finding personal strengths, influencing and persuading others, and working globally. In addition, the program facilitated informal, interactive leadership forums, in which senior leaders from around the globe spoke about their journeys and shared career advice; we then had opportunities to share our thoughts and ask further questions. Those conversations helped me think about things in new ways and gave me the confidence to move from an insecure early-career associate to a future leader.

Mentorship was another rewarding component of the program. I was connected with a senior leader who was managing a group of markets in Greater India, Greater China and the Pacific. With more than 20 years of Nielsen experience, starting with Operations then ending up in Client Service, my mentor knew exactly how it felt to move from a back-office fieldwork management role to a client-facing role, and she gave me valuable advice for my transition. I came to realize that many times, learning does not come from a formal class but from connecting with the right people at the right time.

I have always wanted to become a social entrepreneur who provides business consultancy to enterprises that balance purpose and profits. Nielsen has given me invaluable skills to become a better leader and come closer to this dream. I appreciate how the company has enabled me to stretch myself every day to become a better version of myself.