Growing up in a farming community in northern Indiana, one of eight children, the philosophy instilled was clear: work hard, do your best, and be practical. That led me to accounting and becoming a CPA. Working in public accounting for a couple of years was a great experience, allowing me to see different businesses, hone my skills in juggling priorities, and work for a variety of bosses and clients.
In the early 1980s, I went to work in accounting for an international offshore drilling company. Mentoring was not universally practiced, so I used opportunity—and observation of bosses, peers, and business contacts as models, both good and bad—to help shape my business practices and approach. Although mentoring is a very important tool, if you cannot find one, there are alternative approaches to continue to advance your business skills.
Working in the oil industry during the downturn of the 1980s taught me a great deal, including the “serenity prayer.” You have to focus on what is within your sphere of influence and apply your energy there. Teamwork and cooperation are vital and need to be deliberately fostered. While people may take a job for a variety of reasons, I believe they stay because of the people they work with and their ability to feel like they can make a positive contribution, especially when a business is going through difficult times.
Developing my career in global companies, I have come to respect and appreciate how differing cultures and points of view are a vital part of making a company successful over the longer term. I’ve also learned that when dealing with such diversity, one should not underestimate the amount of planning, patience, and persistence required to successfully enact change.
Although not raised to be particularly adventurous, as my career advanced, I learned to be willing to explore different paths, leaving a comfort zone for an opportunity to have a positive impact. When I accepted my first position as chief information officer, I had the opportunity to learn a great deal about technology, and I taught a great deal about business and process to my team. The company, the team, and I all gained from the exchange of experiences, and I continue to strive to learn and teach every day.