“Managing the misconception that empathy is a flaw will always be a challenge unless the organisation values this quality in its people.”
Nikki Demetriou knows what’s up.
Nikki's been a part of The Dream Collective’s network even before we begun running our programs & even back then, was so passionate & supportive in our vision to see more women in leadership.
As Country Manager for luxury Swiss watch label, Baume & Mercier, she's been through it all. Overcoming imposter-syndrome & rejection whilst trying to understand & develop her own personal leadership style so when we looked back out to our network for a remarkable woman to profile, Nikki was an obvious choice.
We spoke with Nikki about finding support in a not-so-likely place, how she developed her own leadership style & how she worked through one of the biggest professional challenges to date.
This is Part 1 in a 2 part series
1. Tell us a little about yourself
I first grew up in Melbourne then moved to Sydney at the age of 10. After school, I actually didn’t attend uni but instead chose a TAFE course for a Diploma of Business.
Once I completed this, I worked for 5 years before travelling overseas for a few years. On my return, I began working back on the luxury jewellery industry which is where I’ve been since!
2. You are possibly one of our most loyal & long-term supporters - and we have a pretty extensive network! Do you remember what about what we were doing back then that really resonated with you?
I first came across The Dream Collective when I was invited to one of your networking events by my previous manager who knew that I was really passionate about leadership.
However, when she changed roles & I stopped receiving the free tickets, I actually started buying tickets for myself & my team as I found the events to be so valuable, speakers amazing & the forum really inspiring. Safe to say that I’ve been hooked ever since!
3. Tell us one thing you love talking about
There are actually three; work, travel and politics. Interestingly, my friends and family have banned me from talking about the last one but I still find a way to introduce the topic!!
4. Becoming Country Manager for an international luxury label would be no easy feat. Talk to us about the pathway to this position & the qualities you believe possess that have enabled you to succeed.
My passion for jewellery and watches began straight out of high school with my first job as a sales assistant in a large retail chain. Over the next 20 years my career rarely deviated from the world of jewellery and I had the opportunity to work at all levels of the industry, from design and manufacturing, to sales and account management, as well as business and brand management. Throughout this journey, there have been two main drivers which have remained constant; commitment to quality and the pursuit of excellence in customer service.
5. Your commitment to Baume & Mercier is unwavering & we love that. Did you choose them as much as they chose you? Talk to us about what you value most in BEM.
Baume and Mercier was actually the first of the Swiss Watch Brands to have a presence in Australia more than 150 years ago. The idea, then, of global expansion wasn’t common practice and I find it extraordinary that the brand had the vision and foresight to broaden its reach all those years ago. Today, the brand still has lofty goals but at its core are values that closely align with my own. Those of quality, elegance and staying true to its heritage.
I’ve just returned from a visit to BEM’s headquarters in Geneva and what most resonated with me was the absolute attention to detail that goes into the design, development and production of each and every timepiece. It’s this exceptional precision which is truly inspiring.
6. With a career trajectory like yours, you surely had to overcome a few barriers. Tell us about the most significant moment in doing so?
I had been working in the jewellery industry for about a decade when my dream job opened up. The role was National Sales Manager for a global fashion jewellery brand and incorporated all the experience I had gained in my career to that point; industry knowledge, account management, retail and wholesale sales, gemmology and design qualifications and a keen interest in fashion. It also required leadership experience and managing a small sales team which I didn’t have. I didn’t get the job. I was devastated. I realised I needed to take a job outside of the industry to gain this experience. Six months later the company called me back and offered me the job. Needless to say I accepted straight away. Stepping away from the industry I loved to gain managerial experience was crucial for landing me my dream job at the time.
7. What has been the biggest challenge for you in your career?
Several years ago, during a performance review with my manager, I was given feedback that was totally at odds with my values and which was tough to hear. I was told that I cared too much about my customers and my team. That I allowed my empathy of others to hinder my ability to make decisions which were in the best interest of the company. Given that my department was experiencing massive growth at the time and I led a sales team which was surveyed as the best among our competitors it was clear to me that my leadership style was viewed as a weakness despite the accelerating business performance. That my desire to achieve superior levels of customer satisfaction by listening, connecting and acting on customers’ needs was perceived by others as a shortcoming. Managing the misconception that empathy is a flaw will always be a challenge unless the organisation values this quality in its people.
8. Any words of advice you’d like to share with women who'd like to follow a similar career pathway to you?
While there are more and more female leaders in the workplace today, strong female role models are rare. Find that person in your workplace who values you and believes in your potential. It usually isn’t your manager, sometimes it’s a colleague or even an employee. Most importantly, remember to not only seek a role model or champion but to be that person to others. It’s extremely satisfying to see someone succeed with your support.
This is a proud partnership with Baume et Mercier.
With a 187-year history, Baume et Mercier has built an international reputation for creating luxury Swiss watches of the highest quality.
As a generous Maison that expresses watchmaking excellence in all its creations, their ethos - devised by its founders - is simple: “Accept only perfection, only manufacture watches of the highest quality”.
To learn more, please visit www.baume-et-mercier.com