What it Takes to Become a 'Woman Worth Watching'

Our software leader answers three questions that explain her journey.

According to Que Thanh Dallara, she gets to work on “really fun stuff.”

As the President and CEO of our Connected Enterprise division, she leads efforts in software innovation, including IoT solutions, data analytics and new business development.

She was recently named a “Women Worth Watching” by Profiles in Diversity Journal for being courageous and one of the best examples of women in leadership.

She gave us a few insights on how she got here.

What do you like about working at Honeywell?

No question – our people. I’ve been told many different stories of where people came from, the struggles they’ve had to overcome to get here and the things they’ve learned along the way. My colleagues’ personal stories are inspiring and have shaped their collective view of the world. Thankfully, Honeywell values people from all walks of life, from so many diverse backgrounds who contribute unique perspectives and experiences. It is a testament to Honeywell’s performance culture that it doesn’t matter where or with whom ideas originate as long as it’s pushing our company’s story forward.

It really shows that behind any business is the vibrant lives of the people who build it: all of us. Our lives and how we got here are the remarkable fuel that drives how we work together to solve problems imaginatively and overcome the obstacles we find in our way. Our collective past experiences have no doubt run the gamut of countless swings and roundabouts, from the exciting, to the dramatic, to even the comical and hopefully, from time to time, the happily mundane.

What can you tell us about how you got to where you are now?

Like most people’s lives, it’s a tale of twists and turns! So, when my daughter Isla was five, she liked to recount the story of my early days when I was five.

Though I grew up in Australia, I was born in Vietnam a few years before the Vietnam War ended. To hear Isla tell this exciting story, she would say it was a tough period for my family – but luckily we left under the cover of darkness on a river cargo boat, tricking the "bad men" by the expedient measure of pushing them off the jetty. Unluckily, they pursued us, and destroyed the boat's navigation equipment in a fit of pique before casting us hopelessly adrift in the South China Sea for about a month. Luckily, we were shipwrecked onto a tiny tropical island in the Philippine archipelago, where the people, though impoverished, were very kind to strangers and gave us as many hot dogs and candy as we wanted to eat (sometimes it was ice cream – the food always changed depending on Isla's tastes). Luckily again, we finally immigrated to Australia, also known as “The Lucky Country,” where my family had the chance to start anew.

Obviously, the real story is a bit different from how Isla tells it, but it goes to show you how ups and downs don’t have to hold anyone back, no matter how dire they might seem at the time. My story is just one of many other similar immigrant stories. My family was thankful for the opportunities that came, making the most of them, starting from scratch, being mindful of the unexpected adventures that came before.

It inspired me to build a business at the age of 16 to help pay for my college tuition. That gave me an early lesson in how to manage cash flow, lead a team of employees and to also learn from the mistakes and challenges that are an inevitable part of life (and work). They’re the scar tissue you need to earn to master skills in any area. I sold the business once I graduated and started work at McKinsey. And the story continues today…

What advice can you give others?

Thankfully, my kids will never have to go through the same dramatic upheaval I did early in my life. But I make sure they know my story because it's important they know that not everyone they come across in life grows up or learns the same way. Everyone has something in their background they can bring to bear on a problem or its solution, in fact, we are stronger for having such a diversity of experiences and skills at Honeywell. Despite the many ups and downs we all experience, the way you tell your story -- not just of tough times, but how you overcame those tough times can be the key to you getting ahead in whatever you want to do, and can also help others to learn from it. We all have something to contribute.

My successes have followed from failures that I learned from, just as good luck is often just around the corner from bad luck. My story shows that no one, no matter where they came from, is prevented from making the most of opportunities that come their way, as long as they develop the right mindset in the way they tackle life's challenges.

Even if it doesn't come with hot dogs and candy as a reward.

Victoria Streitfeld

Corporate and Financial Media Relations