Juliane Hefel's story is worth telling.
It's a story about what you can achieve when you let your passion lead the way, learn to trust yourself and your talents, and find the courage to articulate your biggest aspirations.
It's a story she tells as often as she can.
Because as a woman building a career in a male-dominated STEM field, she understands just how important it is for stories like hers to be heard. Her story, she said, could inspire others to take leaps of faith, to trust themselves and follow their hearts.
"People believe in stories, people want to hear stories because it helps them to understand the world and it helps them to understand the context that we are operating (in)," Hefel said "So I think the power of stories is critically important, especially from a leadership perspective."
And that art of storytelling—of communicating—is one of the things that makes Hefel such an effective leader. Because she understands the power of words, the nuance of words. Language is, after all, at the heart of who she is professionally.
Hefel holds a master's degree in language interpretation, speaks five languages fluently and started her career as an interpreter in a patent law office.
But as much as she knows and loves language, she understands the power they have when coupled with action. That, she said, is the essence of effective leadership.
"I consider myself a storyteller and chief repeating officer, and what it comes down to—for me—are three things: Choose your words wisely—that means with purpose, transparency and clarity. Then listen to what others say, and then do what you say."
Every one of Hefel's professional successes was earned—earned because she never gave up, never lost sight of what she wanted to do and accomplish. Even when disappointments threatened to throw her off course.
Every step of the way—through the successes and setbacks—Hefel returned to the one thing she knew she could count on: herself.
"To overcome any challenge, whether it is professional or personal, you first have to have trust in yourself," Hefel said. "That was a trait that I developed early on in my career that enabled me to embrace some—definitely what I would call 'nonlinear'—career moves."
Trusting yourself, she said, isn't always easy. But it is critical. It requires introspection and honest assessments of your strengths and weaknesses. And it requires listening to your heart and finding the courage to chase those career opportunities that allow you thrive, to find contentment.
For Hefel, that journey was unexpected.
It started in that patent law office and later transitioned into a 16-year career with Henkel, during which time she held a number of leadership positions, including corporate vice president, a role that allowed her to lead the company's automotive OEM business in the Americas.
Today, that journey has brought her to PPG, where she serves as general manager for the Specialty Coatings and Materials strategic business unit, overseeing 700 employees across six manufacturing sites worldwide.
"What really makes me proud is that I have always been able to follow my passion," Hefel said of her unusual career path. "And I hope that my journey inspires others to embrace change and bold decision-making as I strongly believe there is always something more exciting waiting for you around the next corner."
More than believing in that opportunity around the corner, Hefel advocates for it.
She champions leadership development and opportunities for women and underrepresented minorities. She calls the pursuit of building a more diverse industry "a passion," noting that when broader ranges of thoughts, backgrounds and world views come together, companies are stronger.
"I am also a believer that diversity drives better business results," Hefel said. "In particular, in today's complex world, we need more diverse voices than ever to succeed."
And to champion that vision, she knows there are a few things she has to do.
First, she has to see those around her and seek their ideas and opinions, especially if they aren't quick to offer them. Then, she has to make sure they have the opportunities they need to thrive.
To do that, she knows she's going to something else. She's going to have to inspire confidence. And for that, she knows just where to look.
All she has to do is tell her own story.
Years with company: 1
Years in the rubber industry: 1