Milena Maneva is the Head of Business Continuity & Resilience, EMEA for Cantor Fitzgerald / BGC Partners, looking after the continuity and resiliency for over fifty offices and six thousand staff. Milena is also the co-founder of the Resilience Think Tank and has 14+ years combined working experience in financial services, risk management, oil trading, governance, business continuity and crisis management.

Raised in close proximity to a nuclear power plant, Milena became aware of the value of monthly drills as a child. Those early experiences shaped her into the industry leader she is today. Milena holds an MSc in Risk Management and is a certified member of the Business Continuity Institute (BCI). Milena is on the Committee for the BCI Women in Resilience (WiR) Group, as well as on the Steering Committee for Network of Women (NOW-London). Milena is passionate about helping organizations become resilient, as well as helping people realize their true potential.

  1. Could you describe your typical workweek?

My workweek and intensity vary, especially when disruptions arise. I would never be able to call my workweek typical, every day and week feels like it is new. I also feel my role is certainly ever evolving. I personally strive to be available, informed, and aware of what is currently going on. Looking after so many regional offices and brands can be challenging; therefore it is important to continue building and maintaining relationships with key stakeholders or as I call them, Business Continuity Champions, who can support you and inform you of any disruptions or changes happening locally. Relying constantly on news or status reporting is not the only way.

I also strive to continuously evolve my knowledge and improve my experience, therefore listening to podcasts, watching webinars, reading case studies, preparing presentations and scenarios are key parts of advancing your experience as a professional which can inspire you to do your job so much better, as well as influence people to do the right thing. A big part of what I do is helping individuals and teams to build more resilient systems, processes and improve their operational and organizational resilience.

  1. What excites you about the Continuity and Resilience industry? 

Making a difference, influencing change, changing mindsets and cultures, overcoming challenges, and building a better and more resilient world is what motivates me in the business continuity and resilience industry. For me, resilience is a journey, not a destination.

  1. What do you think are the usual challenges young professionals have to overcome because of being new in the field?

The continuity and resilience industry needs more young people. The biggest challenge for young professionals is getting into the industry, there are not enough opportunities. Another challenge is for young people learning more about business continuity and resilience. It is hard to be confident enough to challenge existing practices, challenge opinions, processes, or even mindsets for the greater good of achieving organizational resilience. How do you teach a young person, who was just hired, to challenge their manager or heads of departments?! In fact, resilience should be something taught at a very young age to foster the right mindset to create and design everything with resilience in mind.

  1. How can we better prepare young professionals for the demands of our rapidly growing industry?

We need to build better leaders and prepare the next generation for the inevitable. Resilience is grit, not a skill. Organizations need people to be more resilient. Other professionals and firms should take time to speak to young people in schools, colleges, and universities about the importance of resilience. There should be more opportunities and placements for these young people to join our industry. Until everyone is resilient, we cannot be fully resilient. Although young people need opportunities, they should also be proactive and invest in their future by developing their social skills, personal resilience, and social purpose, but also future proof their skillset for generations ahead.

  1. You have recently co-founded the Resilience Think Tank. Would you share with us the story behind it?

The Resilience Think Tank (RTT) was founded in 2021 and is dedicated to providing independent guidance and research to the risk and resilience industry. The founders of the Resilience Think Tank are based in Canada, the United Kingdom, and the United States and have combined experience of 87 years helping organizations become resilient. We are committed to ensuring diverse voices are included in making communities and organizations more resilient.

The BCI Americas Awards Winner 2021 (Consultant) – Mark Hoffman MBCI – created a working group in early May 2021 to discuss how business continuity and resilience professionals can articulate their value. The current co-founders enjoyed the conversation so much, we had so much to learn and share with one another, which proved to be beneficial to other professionals and business owners too. That is how the Resilience Think Tank was founded! Our mission is:

  • To be an ally for risk and resilience professionals to allow them to elevate themselves within their organization
  • To promote diversity within our profession
  • To be champions for the ‘teams of one’
  • To remain independent, vendor and product-neutral
  • To focus on what is relevant in risk and resilience right now
  • To mentor the next generation of professionals
  1. As an active global committee member of the BCI Women in Resilience (WiR) Group, how does participating in activities organized by the group can benefit women working in Continuity and Resilience?

Our WiR Group provides voice and confidence to women in the continuity and resilience industry. We spotlight women and give them the opportunity to talk about their experiences, their challenges, and also share their journeys. We give new voices the opportunity to speak at events, webinars, write articles and speak/participate at industry events to elevate their profile and boost confidence. We understand that speaking might not be for everyone, hence why our group provides various methods of expression. We strive to help our members with challenging situation, answer key questions and cover key topics of interest. Our group members can utilize information almost immediately, which can help them with their career and also provide an opportunity for networking with other women and allies in the industry. Over the past few years, we have noticed that women in our group have elevated their profiles and gained more senior positions. There is certainly something incredible to be able to witness change and support women globally.

  1. Any words of advice for young women out there in the industry?

Get out there and network, connect to other professionals and like-minded or diverse individuals who can inspire your development, and your career or even positively influence you with their pool of connections. Young women need the confidence to make the first step, it can certainly be challenging and sometimes out of one’s comfort zone to network or get out there and speak, but every step, regardless of how small, can shape your future and build your confidence more.

I don’t think you can be a truly successful leader without a strong vision and emotional intelligence. Of all the successful professionals I have met, these are the two qualities that always stand out as defining attributes. You have to be patient, work hard, show up and you are sure to succeed and make a progress. Join focused or established business continuity and resilience groups and professional affiliations as a member. Young women can volunteer to join a group where they can make a difference, make friends, and build a bigger network.

Self-confidence is crucial. The ability to walk into a room full of senior stakeholders and influence them to do the right thing and change behaviours is very important to realise any vision. For that, you need to be brave and be willing to go outside of your comfort zone. Past experiences also help to build your confidence to face new challenges and learn from one incident to the next, almost like steppingstones, helping you to develop and strengthen future successes.

Young women should invest and/or improve their:

  • Communication skills
  • Confidence
  • Integrity
  • Empathy
  • Problem-solving
  • Perseverance
  • Adaptability
  • Team Player
  • Influence / Personal Impact

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Author: Lucil Aguada