I work for a company that has long been a leader in providing equal opportunity, offering performance-based rewards, and creating cultures of excellence. My career at AT&T has been mine to make. Gender has never held me back because the company is a true meritocracy.
Along the way, I’ve had phenomenal teachers from whom I’ve learned a lot and to whom I owe a great debt of gratitude. As a young manager, I learned the importance of finding the challenge in any job, no matter how menial or trivial it may seem.
My first job was in regulatory affairs, where I took filings to the Texas Public Utilities Commission and made copies of other companies’ filings. It was not the most exciting job initially, and I decided to expand it, to create what I thought added value. I started paying attention to what was going on at the commission and reporting back on what I learned. Others found that valuable, noticed the extra effort, and realized that i was capable of handling jobs with more responsibility.
I also learned that an employee’s position in an organization shouldn’t hold them back and stop them from speaking up. When the company was trying to get caller ID approved by state regulatory commissions, some organizations, such as women’s shelters, wanted the ability to block caller ID, with good reason. At the time, our policy did not allow blocking. Although I was only a manager, I recommended to the senior officer in charge of regulatory affairs that we change our policy. She listened and agreed. That was a real eye-opener, affirming that anyone at any level can make a difference.
Today, as head of talent development and diversity, I try to share with younger managers what others have taught me:
- Always say “Yes” to opportunities. They really do sometimes come just once.
- Be yourself. Celebrate and communicate what makes you unique and demonstrate what you have to offer.
- It matters how you get results. No ethical shortcuts.
- Your career is a continuous journey. You never “arrive” at the destination. Keep learning.
- Keep in mind that you can learn something from everyone—and sometimes that means learning what not to emulate.
- Think big picture. Always consider how you can add value to the company and make your corner of it work better. Do that, and success will follow.