When I began my career in the mid ’70s, there weren’t a lot of mentors that looked like me to provide advice on how to navigate the uncharted waters of corporate America. The advice my parents shared sustained me through the ebb and flow of my career. My stepfathertoldme,“Don’tletanyone tell you what you can’t do.” And my mother’s advice was, “You’ll have to learn to hold your head erect and command all men’s respect.”
When there is no clear path, you have to forge your own. When you are doing things that have never been done before, there is no right or wrong answer, even though I was often told what I couldn’t accomplish or shouldn’t pursue. I wanted to make a good living to support my family, so I boldly pursued the opportunities I was offered. I set my sights on what I wanted, and before I reached the desired position I would tell people I was already in that position. I found ifwalkedconfidentlyinthedirectionIwasseeking,doors opened. I wasn’t afraid to try things I’d never done before.
I didn’t have a straight upward trajectory. Every time I took a step back I fought hard to regain the ground I’d lost while I waged an equal battle to hold on to my dignity and faith through the process.I worked through divorce and single parenthood, juggling business travel and daycare issues; deciding between being present at a business meeting or attending my son’s sports events; relocations and downsizing. It wasn’t easy, but I set goals and continued to see myself growing so it was worth it. I also hoped I was teaching my sons life lessons along the way.
My resume speaks to the risks I’ve been willing to take and the opportunities I have been given. I have never had a job that I had prior experience in, but each position was a stepping stone to the next. As my career has advanced my mentors have mostly come from the men I work with. I feel I have an obligation to ask questions, listen to learn and to share what I’ve learned. I also feel a strong sense of responsibility and commitment to perform well so the doors I came through stay open for the next woman or minority.