Sapna R. Sood: An empowering leadership

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At a young age, Sapna R. Sood, president and chief executive officer of Holcim Philippines, a leading building solutions company, had her sights already set on studying history and working for the United Nations, when a trip to an oil refinery made her think twice.

“I thought that it was very interesting, very cool,” Ms. Sood, 44, said of the visit. “It was through that that I decided I would like to be an engineer,” she added, noting that her chemistry teacher also encouraged her. She enrolled in the University of Sydney and graduated with a degree in chemical engineering.

Afterward, she went places, literally. Her stint at chemical company Linde Group took her to countries such as Germany, USA, Singapore and China. In 2013, she became part of French cement maker Lafarge as a senior vice-president of Health and Safety. Two years later, Lafarge merged with another global cement giant, Holcim, forming LafargeHolcim. Shortly after, Ms. Sood was designated to lead the newly formed entity’s operations in the country.

“It’s a great job because there’s a lot of interaction with people,” she said. “We at Holcim are about helping the country build better, so I talk to customers, I talk to government officials… I of course talk to employees.” She likes to walk around the office, dropping by departments to understand how things are progressing.

“I very much believe in setting out and working on a clear direction
with the team,” she said. Moreover, she encourages people to focus
on their strengths and capabilities so that they can make great contributions
to the company and grow. Her management style is about empowering people.

The Philippines is currently in the midst of a great infrastructure overhaul program of the President Rodrigo Duterte-led administration. To better support this, Holcim Philippines initiated its own transformation in 2017 to contribute not just cement but building solutions that can help the country’s infrastructure push.

Ms. Sood said they’ve started focusing on creating new solutions, exploring digital platforms to better reach customers, increasing the efficiency of plant and logistics operations and further improving cost management. The company is also in the process of expanding its capacity, she added, from 10 million tons of cement to 12 million tons by the first half of 2019.

“This transformation is exciting and it’s challenging and we’ve just started. It’s a journey that will take a few years. And for me, it’s an ambition,” Ms. Sood said. “It’s a fantastic company, I want to see it grow. I want to see people being fulfilled.”

Even as she leads the company amidst a demanding transformation, family remains Ms. Sood’s foremost priority. Though she admits to working long hours, she makes an effort to be home for dinner with her family. “I work after that,” she said, chuckling. Ms. Sood also sees to it that she has time for herself. “Because I think that helps people rebalance. It brings perspective.”

These privileges aren’t exclusive to her. Ms. Sood wants her people to foster healthy personal lives. “They work very hard. They need time to reconnect, to have time for their families and themselves,” she said.