The path to the top does not necessarily require a clear-cut plan
Anne Bloch Østergaard’s rise in business has been anything but typical. Today, she is Group Senior Vice President in Systematic, but it was never her original ambition. Her journey proves that career advancement does not necessarily require a clear career plan.
Today, Anne Bloch Østergaard is one of the most recognisable women figures in Systematic, but her role was not always as prominent. She joined Systematic in 2007, and for more than a decade, she worked as a specialised commercial lawyer in Systematic’s legal team until her career took a decisive turn that turned into a dedicated focus on leadership.
In 2018, Anne was elected to the Systematic board as an employee representative and during this time, her immediate leader was absent. Anne accepted to head the department, and since then, her organisational responsibilities have grown rapidly.
“I have never had a five-year plan for my career in Systematic or anything close to that. For most of my career, I have simply been focused on doing a good job. It has always been important to me that everyone around me, whoever they are, feel comfortable and safe working with me. I could probably have been more proactive in my career. While I have always wanted to make a difference, been a curious mindset, and be open to new opportunities, I was never good at expressing my ambitions. If I could give some advice to my younger self, I would say don’t hold back, go pursue your goals,” Anne explains and continues:
“When I talk to young women, they often ask what my plan was, and my answer is you don’t need to have a plan or to decide between being a mother or having a career. I have always prioritised having time for my children. While it might seem like it, you don’t need to be in a hurry to advance your career. Instead, make the most of your windows of opportunity when they appear.”
The art of believing in yourself
After her promotion to Group Senior Vice President of Legal & Commercial Services in 2019, Anne’s responsibilities have continued to grow. Today, she oversees Commercial & Legal Services, Marketing & Communications, Compliance & Audit, and Business Process Improvements. She has also served as the interim manager for People & Culture and IT & Security.
Assuming responsibility for such diverse areas sometimes triggered feelings of imposter syndrome, but Anne has deliberately chosen to overcome the fear of failure and focus on the tasks ahead.
“I was fortunate to be given a lot of responsibility in a relatively short period. It’s a great challenge to lead people – and even more so when you have different professional backgrounds than your teams. In my younger years, I sometimes struggled to believe in myself, but as my responsibilities have grown, so has my belief in myself. I see this lack of self-belief in many women; unfortunately, it can hold them back. So many talents in our organisation have much greater potential than they know. I really hope that our women’s network will help open their eyes to the opportunities in our organisation.”
A space for change
During her time at Systematic, Anne has always networked with female colleagues across the organisation to spar about specific challenges and exchange experiences. As the leader of Systematic’s new women’s network, Headway, Anne will now look to relay her experience to advance Systematic’s diversity goals. Specifically, she hopes to help ensure equity in career opportunities for female talents at every stage of their career.
“I believe it is important for women to have their own space to discuss biases and the challenges we face. Real change requires real action. So, I see our network as an important step in tackling important issues. I have never really asked for the opportunities I have been given in my career - and maybe I should have. I would like our ambitious talents to be more proactive than I was and to seize exciting opportunities when they spot them. In essence, I want our rising stars to shine – and I think our network will provide an important space for just that.”