Thought for the week

Profitable Wellbeing: An interview with Suzie Lewis

An interview with Suzie Lewis, a global business leader and executive coach with extensive experience in driving international transformation projects to prepare leaders and employees for change. She is the founder and managing director of Transform for Value, and has spent her career working to transform organisational cultures for more inclusive environments.

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What did you want to be growing up?

This is an interesting question, as I am quite an impulsive person.

When I was about 10 or 11, I wanted to be a doctor - I think because my parents are doctors, I admire what doctors do and I have always wanted to help and support people.

But as I went through schooling, I realised I wasn't that gifted in science, maths, chemistry and biology - all the things you really need in order to be in the medical profession. So, I took a range of different subjects at school to keep my options open and when I left to go to university, I decided to study French and international relations because I love languages, human interactions and federating people. I wanted to understand the interconnectedness of the world and have always been fascinated by both people and culture.  

I proceeded to do my masters in French literature (I am a big reader) in France, looking at the notion of existentialism, humour and cultural identity and how we lead our life, essentially. After my master's I taught languages but soon realised that I wanted to make more of an impact - and that's when I went into business.

I went into the aeronautical industry and stayed there for 20 years. I feel lucky as they invested in me and supported my development in a whole range of areas, starting with being a lean expert on the supply chain, which meant I was always in contact with the entire organisational system and value chain; from the supply chain, to the customers and the employees that make up the organisation. This is really where I was faced with the question: what does this way of working mean for the people, the culture and the leadership? And how can I enable this change and make it sustainable?

This notion of the “human dimension” has been my driving force throughout my entire career.

What sparked your initial interest in the field in which you work?

It goes back to my upbringing. I have 3 sisters and I come from a family of strong women where healthy and respectful debate was the norm. We’d engage at the dinner table on important subjects, which definitely set a strong foundation for how I view the world.

Fast-forward to business, I saw so much within the organisation I was working in; I saw people burning out, I saw things I didn't think were fair, things I didn't understand. I saw the fact that women were not getting the positions they should be getting and that it wasn’t always a level playing field. There were these unwritten codes to the culture of inequality in how things happened. So that's when I started looking and thinking: 'Right, how can we change this?' I made it my soapbox subject because it is so important to me - not only for equality but for unlocking potential. That was my motivation - unlocking potential and creating more impact and momentum with the collective intelligence (diversity) we have. I weave the subject of inclusion into everything I do.

What is your favourite part about your job?

Meeting new people and the collective part of co-creating new approaches - and seeing when something works. While I am a big fan of creating transformational change, small is beautiful. I love it when you start small and see people getting excited about the results.

And what is your least favourite...

The resistance to change you get from individuals and teams, but also from organisational systems. Nothing is impossible - it's all about how deeply you believe in creating change and how you go about taking people on that journey.

What skill could you not do your job without?


What gets you energised?

Seeing potential expressing itself. That can be in something as small as someone daring to speak up in a meeting when they didn't dare to before; or as big as a whole new product launch.

What keeps you awake at night?

Me checking my authenticity.

Was I acting on my value base? Was I as impactful as I could have been? Was I as neutral as I could have been when working with the organisation? I am a passionate person, with strong ideas and values, and I have to make sure these are not getting in the way of my work.

What is one thing you know now that you wish you’d known when you started your career?

How powerful courageous conversations can be. At the beginning of my career, I spent a lot of time ‘thinking’ about the things I ‘do’ now - but not daring to do or say it.

What message or piece of advice would you give a student or young entrepreneur wanting to follow the same career trajectory as you?

It doesn't all have to be planned out. Take the time to go inside and think about what you want to do because you are going to spend most of your life there. You don’t have to know 100% what you want to do, but be bold enough to go and try different things and follow your intuition. I found my way to make a difference to people and society outside of my 10-year-old self’s dream to become a doctor.

Lastly – please don’t let people tell you things are impossible. They’re not.


For more information about Suzie’s work, visit ……

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