EP. 13 In Conversation With Ann Cairns, Executive Vice Chair at Mastercard and Global Chair at 30% Club

Novi CEO Griselda Togobo spoke to Ann Cairns about how to negotiate a pay rise, why finding a sponsor can be a career gamechanger and what to do if you’re overlooked for a role.

Don’t be a lady-in-waiting in your career but seize the opportunity to take the next step up.

The advice came from Ann Cairns, executive vice chair at Mastercard, in response to a question about how to deal with career setbacks.

Ann, who was in conversation with Novi CEO Griselda Togobo, spoke about her experience when she was number two in a global banking role and was expecting to get the top job but was passed over.

After a few of weeks, she was contacted by a head hunter and took up an offer to move to the Dutch bank ABN-AMRO. The decision was a good one and opened new horizons.

She told Griselda that women shouldn’t sit back and accept the deputy role if they wanted to aim higher.

“My comment on that – you might have heard me say this – is don’t be a lady-in-waiting, that’s that number two position.”

She added: “Decide what you want and go for it. The next opportunity that comes along, take it. Jump, because maybe that’s what life’s telling you that you need to do.”

Why imposter syndrome can be good

So-called ‘imposter syndrome’ when women doubt themselves, even if they’re well qualified for a role, is widely regarded as a problem in business. But Ann said that a good leader recognised he or she didn’t have all the answers.

She told Griselda and the Forward Ladies audience: “I think if you don’t have imposter syndrome you must be somebody who has a fantastically egotistical picture of yourself that’s probably wrong.

“One of the things about changing your role a lot is it teaches you humility and it also teaches you that you must listen to your people, because when you’ve changed role, say from an engineer to a banker, the people who work for you probably know much more about their subject than you do, so you’ve got to listen and learn and respect people’s opinions.”

You have to ask for what you want

Ann said that once you’ve decided where you want to get to in your career, it was good to ask for help.

When she was working for British Gas, she decided she wanted to work offshore. She rang the colleague who was in charge of that division, introduced herself and said what she wanted. Eventually, she became the first woman to qualify to go offshore in Britain.

“I think for these kind of things, where you’re not waiting for a job to be advertised or anything like that, where you see something you want, you think about who can help you get there and you contact them. Because what’s the worst that can happen? Somebody could say no but then you go a different route. So never be afraid to do that.”


The benefits of finding a mentor or sponsor

Griselda asked Ann how someone should handle a situation if their boss wasn’t performing well but they weren’t able to go above them to instigate a move.

Rather than approaching your boss’s boss, Ann suggested: “If you know somebody else very senior in another part of the organisation who can speak on your behalf, I think that is a really good thing to have and to do. Finding yourself a sponsor, who’s not in your direct business line can be very important, or a mentor.”

Ann sponsors men and women in her organisation and elsewhere and enjoys encouraging them to take the next step.




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Listen to what Ann had to say about her life and career…

[1:37] How she launched her career as a research scientist and became the first woman on the oil and gas rigs in Britain, before moving to Citibank.

[4:49] How her modest background and her father’s advice that she could be anything she wanted fired her ambition and how she was led to believe she should follow her dreams.

[7.05] Advice for new leaders on how to get to know their team.

[12.28] How a boss once told her she needed to slow down to speed up and why you should make decisions in the same way you play chess.

[20:23] How to negotiate a pay rise by getting informed about the compensation package for your company.

[25:25] How she came back from maternity leave to a promotion and why you need good people above you.

[32:10] What she knows now that she wished she’d known when she was younger.

[34:10] Why it’s important to keep learning, reading and listening to what other people have to say.

[39:52] How to identify future leaders and avoid missing talented people.

About Ann Cairns:

Ann is the executive vice chair of Mastercard, representing the company and brand around the world. Before taking the role, Ann was president of international markets and managed all customer-related activities worldwide.

She began her career as an award-winning research engineer and became head of offshore engineer-planning for British Gas. She was the first woman qualified to go offshore in Britain.

She is the global co-chair of the 30% Club and is the lead non-executive board member of the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.

Prior to joining Mastercard, Ann headed the Financial Services Group with Alvarez & Marsal in London, where she led the European team managing Lehman Brothers Holdings International through the Chapter 11 process.

Other senior leadership experience includes the CEO of transaction banking at ABN-AMRO and 15 years at Citigroup.

About Griselda Togobo:

The Novi CEO, Griselda Togobo MPhil, ACA, is an international corporate consultant and trainer. She is also a multi-faceted entrepreneur, engineer and chartered accountant. She is a commercially focused business consultant but her experience as a black woman in the corporate world drives her. She now uses her international experience to help progressive global companies create inclusive workplaces. Griselda gives keynotes, talks and workshops to businesses interested in improving the gender and racial diversity of their teams. 

Griselda is passionate about supporting female leaders through the professional women’s network wearenovi.com.

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