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If you work for a cause that is close to your heart, you can do amazing things

Vera participated in our CAS International Leader & Entrepreneur at ZHAW. In her impact story, she shares what she learnt about purpose-driven teams and how she changed the way she leads her team and interacts with clients after the program.

Vera, please share with us three important facts about you.

  • I work at a bank, but would not consider myself a stereotypical banker. Psychology, communication and just the human nature in general are far more interesting to me than numbers.

  • When travelling I love leaving my suit at home, grabbing my backpack and spending time in simple guesthouses learning about other cultures.

  • A lot of people assume that I am very outgoing and extroverted, since I have learned to navigate social situations and use my humour to disguise my insecurity. Fist impressions may fool you.

Portrait of Vera Zeller
Vera Zeller

Why did you decide to participate in our action learning program?

Being in a leadership role for almost 5 years at the time, I knew I wanted to invest in my personal development by starting a Master’s program around leadership. I looked at different schools and programmes and went to an information meeting at ZHAW. When Steffi Neumann presented the CAS International Leader & Entrepreneur, I was fascinated.

Developing leadership skills and at the same time doing something really meaningful was what drew me to this CAS and was the ultimate reason to start the MAS at ZHAW. I also hoped to gain some insights and understanding for entrepreneurs during the process, since I work with corporate clients, a lot of them at the beginning of their journey.

My fond memories of a trip to Cambodia in 2015 and the chance to work with an entrepreneur in this breathtaking country was a bonus.

What did you learn in the program?

I rediscovered my shy and insecure side and learned to open up more, communicating my feelings. I was amazed at how connected I could feel to a team, that worked remotely because of the pandemic.

The biggest lesson however was: If you work for a cause that is close to your heart, and the whole team has a vision, you can do amazing things and move a lot. The bond you build is far stronger and deeper than I ever

experienced it in the past with any team I was a part of.

If you work for a cause that is close to your heart, and the whole team has a vision, you can do amazing things and move a lot. Vera

What does purpose-driven leadership mean to you?

Not every company has such an obvious purpose like a BOOKBRIDGE project. However, finding meaning in your daily job and asking team members about their reasons to get up in the morning is possible everywhere. This could mean trying to take a step back from the typical quantitative goals and asking ourselves questions like: Why are you here? How can we collaborate best and serve our clients? What is it that they need? Why are you important in this company? What strengths and experiences do you bring to the team and how can we best use them? How can we support each other?

Vera and her team during a program module
Vera and her team during a program module

What impact has BOOKBRIDGE had on your private and professional life?

I really loved working on a project that made so much sense and gave me the impression, that we were contributing to changing the life of our social entrepreneur and the people around him.

The motivation that I gained changed the way I interact with our clients. I now understand their situation in a very different way and know how special the process of setting up your own company is.

Also, how much effort it takes to really develop a business plan was a good learning for me and gives me a sense of respect for our clients.

Can you give an example on what you started to do differently after the program?

As mentioned above, I incorporate more questions in team meetings and one-to-one-conversations with my team members. Finding their purpose, talking about strengths and emphasising the power of a team are now topics we discuss.

Asking what we can learn from challenges we face, asking how I can support my team members in their development and with their personal goals are now things I pay more attention to than before.

What did you learn from your social entrepreneur?

I admired his ambition and how brave he was. Leaving a job with a secure income to make his dream come true was a big decision. Saren never lost his sense of humour and positive outlook, even when tough decisions were to be made. I hope to remember this for a long, long time and try my best to also stay as positive as possible, even during challenging times.

Reunion of the program team
Reunion of the program team

One last question, what is your commitment towards a world of purpose-driven leaders?

I am really committed to having discussions about purpose-driven leadership and the importance of it. Even if I am in a professional environment, where a lot of things are still done differently, I try my best to lead my team with purpose – even if others tell me it is too “soft” or “female” for a leader to be like this. I am happy, and so is my team, and that is all that matters to me.

Thank you Vera for sharing your impact story with us. We keep fingers crossed for the next step in your life.

Are you curious about our action learning programs after reading Vera’s story? We invite you to learn more about our unique learning journeys and apply for our next program.


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