Lenovo’s Wendy Welch: 4 Ways To Blaze A Path To Leadership Success

‘Change doesn’t always feel good,’ says Wendy Welch, executive director for US distribution and partner sales at Lenovo. ‘Sometimes we choose it. Sometimes it’s forced on us. We control what we do next.’

In her career journey of more than 25 years, Wendy Welch has taken big risks, even when she doubted herself.

Welch, the executive director for U.S. distribution and partner sales at Lenovo, joined the company in 2019 after a zig-zagged line up the ranks. But her story doesn’t come without taking risks.

During The Channel Company’s Women of the Channel 2021 East conference in New York City this week, Welch delivered a keynote speech on her journey to leadership and the risks women should take to get where they want to be.

“Naturally most of us gravitate towards the comfort zone,” she said. “Fear? Why am I going to choose that? But you have to move through fear to get to learn and grow.”

She wouldn’t be where she is today without taking control of her career and taking that leap of faith.

“When I had reinvented myself as a sales rep in a new company in a new industry, no one understood what I had accomplished and they likely did not understand my potential,” she said. “I needed to work on promoting and defining and elevating my personal brand.”

Here are four ways Welch promoted her attributes and personal brand and landed a leadership role.

Get Comfortable Being Uncomfortable

Welch once stayed at a job for two years longer than she should have because she was stuck in her comfort zone. She didn’t conquer her fears and take a leap of faith though. Someone pulled her out of her comfort zone. A neighbor suggested she apply for a job at his employer. She was flattered, but then felt that knot tightening in her stomach.

“I was also approaching 40 and I felt like as a woman if I didn’t make a career change soon and diversify my resume I’d likely get stuck in my original field,” she said.

But as she moved into the role she started to doubt herself, telling herself that she could never be successful in the position.

“That afternoon was the lowest moment of my career,” she said. “I had to make a decision. I could certainly go back to [my previous company]. That was the easy, safe and comfortable choice. But I’d also made a new commitment to this organization and a person that believed in me.”

She wanted the change, and she believed she had the will and skill to figure it out and reinvent herself. She then decided to give herself grace. Things take time, she remembered.

Reject The Imposter Syndrome

“I joined Lenovo in September 2019. I was in a new company in a new industry, moved to channel sales and bam, pandemic,” she said. “It was so much harder than I had anticipated. The imposter syndrome smacked me square in the face.”

She really started to question whether or not she was the right person for the job but had to remind herself that was not an imposter.

“What I was feeling was that I had chosen to go and learn and grow,” she said. “I was at the right company at the right time and this is where I wanted to be. I would have never applied for the job that I have now.”

She told the room of hundreds of women to reject the imposter syndrome. The concept, she said, has negative connotations for women and it diminishes their role in and their contribution.

“Change doesn’t always feel good,” she said. “Sometimes we choose it. Sometimes it’s forced on us. We control what we do next. I now believe and understand I am the only person that holds me back from my dreams.”

Cultivate Your Network

When wanting to switch jobs at a point in her career, Welch reached out to anyone who would listen. She needed advice, guidance and feedback and how to make the next move, the right move.

“I owed it to myself to go on the open market and do my due diligence, so I slowly started reaching out to my network,” she said. “I let key people know that I was looking for a new opportunity and I started applying for everything.

“Relationships are key,” she said. “I was actually a little late to really understand the importance of my relationships.”

Whether it’s bouncing ideas back and forth, motivation or just to chat, she realized that having a network of people to support you is key to success.

“I have now cultivated my own personal board of directors,” she said. “I trust them. They’ve been through my journey and I lean on them when I need advice.”

Pay It Forward

In one of her roles, she was moved into a mentorship program where she had to jot down her goals and objectives and realized she was moving back into her comfort zone, a place she worked so hard to leave behind.

She was also ready to further her career and went to her new boss to say that she wanted to apply for the regional vice president position. He told her directly that she was not qualified. She finally felt she knew where she wanted to go in her career and she was told no.

She needed someone to help her grow in her career. Now that she’s in a place of leadership, she knows how important it is to pay it forward to those earlier on in their careers.

“Mentorship had a huge impact on my career,” she said. “When I joined the channel I reached out to many people. You just have to ask. We know that women and marginalized groups are still underrepresented in the C-suite and we still are less than 20 percent of channel chiefs. We can continue changing these stats, and we do that by helping one another. We each have our own goals and our own journey.”