Mojgan Lefebvre: Integrating Work and Life

February 17, 2015

Mojgan Lefebvre

Mojgan Lefebvre filled us in on women she admires, daring moves in her career, and more!

Mojgan Lefebvre is Senior Vice President and Chief Information Officer for Liberty Mutual Insurance Global Specialty. In this role, she drives technology strategy and execution for Global Specialty's specialty, commercial, and reinsurance business entities. 

What woman do you most admire? What has she taught you?

Orit Gadiesh, the Israeli-American corporate strategist and Chairwoman of Bain & Company. I was fortunate to work under her leadership during my time at Bain. One of the things I learned from Orit was her firm belief that where you go in your career depends on the risks you take, and that the biggest risk is not taking any risk - which means that occasionally you’ll fail, and that’s ok. The important thing is to learn from your failures. Without taking risks, you won’t have the opportunity for big successes either. And she made sure to run the company with this philosophy in practice.

What would you say is the most "daring" move you've made in your career? What did you learn from that experience?

A few years ago, when my children were younger, I was lucky enough to have two job offers to choose between. One was with a Boston-based company – where I live – and was a logical next step in my career. The other was a global CIO position, for a company headquartered in France, which would stretch me in many ways. I was worried that the more challenging role, with its regular travel to France, would put too much of a strain on my family and me. On the other hand, it was a role that excited me very much. It would teach me new skills and connect me with other cultures, which I’m passionate about. Deep down I knew this was the right opportunity for me, so that’s the path I took. It was frankly scary some days, but in the end I made it work. That’s one of the things I learned – if something’s really important to you, you can find a way to make it fit in your life.

What’s the best piece of career advice you’ve gotten along the way?

Make sure you not only have your own unique brand, but that you live it. Don’t try to live up to what others want you to be or do – stay true to your individuality. Focus on what you think is important and your unique strengths. In my case for example, one area I focused on was my affinity for other cultures. Having lived in many countries in my childhood, this was an area I was always passionate about and focused on developing. So when I was at Bain, I took advantage of international assignments they offered and opted to work out of the Paris office for seven months. I used that time to become fluent in French and to really understand the French culture. This later came in handy when I was presented with my first global CIO role for a France-headquartered company.

Who are your favorite social media influencers?

I follow Sheryl Sandberg – she’s had a huge impact on the dialog around women in the workplace, and has encouraged many women to speak up about their capabilities and contributions. Christiane Amanpour is another – I have tremendous respect for her open-mindedness and her perspective on world events. Jon Stewart – amazing use of humor and comedy in getting some of the most critical social messages across. And I follow Hadi Partovi, founder of code.org. He has helped society understand that coding is something many people can do, and he’s promoted coding and computer science to girls, encouraging many of them to consider the field. 

How do you think women can support other women on their path to success?

I don’t think there is one simple answer; it’s a combination of things. Generally, diverse teams are more successful, and women managers can help ensure that we build diverse teams. Mentoring is another way women can support other women. This can be the traditional senior women supporting those more junior, but mentoring can take many other forms, too. Experts in a particular field can support women with a desire to move into a new area. People can be skill, culture, or technology mentors. Almost every woman has skills or abilities that can help others.

There are many theories about why there are so few women in top levels of management. Certainly one factor is that at a time when many women would be moving up in an organization, they are also focusing on families and children. Supporting work-life balance is essential to help competent women to have both careers and families.

Highly successful women provide role models for other women, enabling them to see themselves in a similar role, in a kind of “if she can do that, so can I” type effect. For this reason women in very senior roles can support women by taking advantage of opportunities to share their successes and what they’ve learned along the way.

Any tips for work/life integration?

This is a very personal area. For me, the key has been building a very strong support system. Some women have family locally who can help them – if so, take advantage of that. I didn’t have family close by, but I’ve found many things to “outsource.” Cleaning, for example. That helped me spend more time with my children and husband. Find help, hire it, do what you need to do to support yourself and your family life.

In-home child care has enabled me to attend early morning meetings and travel overnight. If this is an option for you, it can make all the difference.

Sometimes the choices are hard and uncomfortable and you’ll feel like you short-changed your kids, your spouse, or yourself. Keep in mind that you’re not alone. Many women struggle with this, and my advice is to find a friend who understands, and make her part of your support system, too.

What was the last book you read?

Thrive (The Third Metric to Redefining Success and Creating a Life of Well-Being, Wisdom, and Wonder) by Ariana Huffington. She explores work-life balance in a really engaging way. Simple things like getting enough sleep and new ways of thinking through mindfulness. A fantastic read.

Fill in the blank: People would be surprised to know that ______

As an Iranian-born woman, I have worked on programming American military weaponry. While I was in college at Georgia Tech I worked as a programmer in the GT Research Institute to help support myself through school. One project involved programming for an unmanned aerial vehicle for the US military. I guess you could describe this as a very early drone.

If you could dine with anyone, past or present, with whom would you dine and what would you like to ask him or her?

I’d have to say one person at the top of my list would be Malala Yousafzai. What she has done for the education of young women is transformational, starting when she was only a teenager. I’d want to ask her what her parents did to inspire in her such conviction, courage and integrity. I think she is an amazing role model for girls and women and all people around the world.