I grew up with two brothers, and was fortunate to have been raised to believe that I could do anything that they could do. This came in handy as my first job out of college was as a supervisor of a group of 55 men working in a vegetable oil refinery. It never occurred to me that there were those who thought a woman could not do the job. That naiveté helped me to settle in and do the job I was hired to do, eventually earning the respect of those doubters. Of course, life experience has since taught me that the doubters do exist out there; but I have consciously decided to practice ‘deliberate naiveté’ so that I do not create artificial barriers for myself.
I love a good challenge, and a good day is one in which I learn something. I believe that this has helped me to create my own success. I do not consider title and salary to be the key symbols of success. This has allowed me to Ann Oka I take lateral moves to expand the breadth of my knowledge and experience. Early on, I recognized the career limitations of remaining on the technical path of engineering and operations. I moved out of my comfort zone into a position in finance, and pursued my MBA to further develop the business skills that I would need to grow in my career.
Pursuing these challenges has meant taking on some risk. I have relocated four times, and most recently changed companies after almost twenty years. These are the choices that I have elected to make as opportunities have arisen.
I believe it is very important for individuals to recognize the many choices that they have, and to own the choices that they make. We choose which limitations to accept, and which to push through. My advice to women seeking to grow their careers is based on what has worked for me: keep all options open, always seek a challenge, choose wisely, but don’t be afraid to err. But most of all, remember that we all live in the today, and we better be enjoying that!