I began my career as a marketing researcher at UPS. Now, I lead a product development business unit, one that supports a $3 billion auto remarketing company. I’ve also worked in software, logistics, and financial services organizations. The theme, or path, of my career is not around a specific industry; it is around people—my team, my colleagues, and our customers.

I am fascinated by what makes customers tick. This natural curiosity developed into a passion for understanding customer needs and harnessing the power of their insights into innovative products that delight customers and make development teams proud.

On paper, my career has taken a traditional path within product development: product manager, director, and VP. But the most recent move to VP required the most thought and planning. It is an awesome responsibility, both to the company and to my team. Before moving into this role, I had to be sure that I was prepared for the challenge of not only providing the product strategy for an industry-leading, 70-year-old company, but that I was also ready to build a team, essentially from scratch.

How did I know I was ready? Thinking about the challenge of a leadership role in an established company, while simultaneously building a team responsible for reshaping the company into a product-focused organization, scared, excited, and motivated me. Those are feelings that lead to great work. My job now is the best of both worlds. I lead a successful and established business with the atmosphere and fire of a start-up.

Safe choices are rarely the ones you look back on as good decisions. The passion I feel every day lets me know I made the right decision.

On Finding Success and Staying Competitive
Though it might sound cliché, in an established organization, you must be willing to challenge the status quo—especially in an organization that is successful. Formulating a vision of success, and motivating a team to help you carry out that vision, is only part of the battle.

It’s often a daily challenge to communicate your vision to those outside your team, but if you remain passionate, and keep the needs of the customers and the goals of the company in clear view and in alignment, you’ll maintain the credibility you need to be an effective change leader.

On the Importance of Role Models and Mentors
I’ve been lucky in that I’ve had several influential, supportive managers throughout my career, both men and women.

On Facing Challenges
As most working moms will tell you, it’s a constant challenge to balance career and family. You can’t have it all. You have to make trade-offs and manage your time. You can’t work 24/7. You must work smarter and learn how to leverage your team and your boundary partners. There is not enough time in the day to be involved in every detail, so you need to know where to insert yourself and how to best use your limited time.

Bonnie’s Advice to Young Women Starting Careers
Don’t look at consensus building as a weakness. It’s a quality of a strong leader. The leaders I respect most are the ones who are confident enough to listen to the opinions of others, weigh the options, entertain differing ideas, and then take quick, decisive action.