Reflecting: My Journey as a First Year CEO of an AML Solutions Provider


By Holly Sais Phillippi




As I approach the end of my first year as CEO of AML solutions provider Alessa, I am filled with a sense of thrill, honor, and humility. This journey has been nothing short of rewarding, which is a testament to the incredible mentors who have guided me throughout my career. Their wisdom and support were instrumental in shaping the leader I am today.



When the opportunity to become a CEO presented itself, it was both an honor and a bit frightening. I would be lying if I said I did not grapple with some uncertainties, such as questioning my readiness for such a significant role. However, I believed that as long as I stayed true to my core values, it would be the key to my success, strengthened of course by the support of my family.



This first year was not a walk in the park by any means, and this might sound strange but it’s facing those challenges that I love and find very rewarding to tackle. It also reinforced a crucial lesson I learned along the way in my career: the importance of a passionate and committed team.



The adage that no single person can drive success alone has always rung true for me, but this year it was louder than ever. A leader is only as strong as their team, and while that sounds like a hallmark card it has proven true time and time again throughout my leadership career. I will take passion and commitment over brilliance any day, not to say that we don’t have great brilliance in the Alessa team, but it is the passion and commitment that gets us through those challenging moments!



This year also offered me a new perspective. In reflecting on my career, particularly this year as a CEO, I realized that my gender often didn’t cross my mind during most of my career, including in any executive meeting settings. However, mentoring young women and early-career individuals has brought a new awareness. Their questions about gender dynamics in leadership have made me more conscious of my unique position as a woman, at times being the only female at the table. This realization hasn’t changed how I act, manage, or engage, but it has added another layer of pride to my achievements. More importantly, it has strengthened my commitment to ensuring that the individuals I am lucky enough to mentor have similar opportunities, aspiring for a future where gender parity is the norm, not the exception, in executive spaces.



This year has been a remarkable journey of growth, learning, successes, and leadership. It’s a journey that reminds us all: with a strong team, a commitment to core values, and a passion for success anything is possible. While some might refer to the first year as a CEO as the ‘honeymoon phase,’ I can assure you it was not always so. However, regardless of the twists and turns, we tackled them one by one, and I feel confident in saying it was a great year! I was also very fortunate that my investors proved to be more than just financial backers; they were/are partners, offering support and guidance that has been invaluable throughout my first year’s journey. As I look ahead to the second year, I remain confident that the foundations laid this year will continue to guide our success, leading to even more significant accomplishments. The anticipation for the coming year is exciting and I have no doubt that it will be filled with boundless possibilities and opportunities for growth.



Embrace a mindset of continuous learning and openness to new ideas, surround yourself with passionate, dedicated, and positive individuals, have faith in your abilities, stay true to your core values, and build a network of mentors for guidance and support.


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