Find your passion and enjoy every minute of it! Following that directive over the past 20 years has served me well. I have many passions – God, family, friends and the law. When I finally focused on and really prioritized them in my life (and put what others think in the appropriate places) I became successful in all my endeavors.
The path I walked was littered with challenges and boulders that seemed almost insurmountable. As a woman of color navigating through what was predominantly an all white male profession, I faced a combination of unique barriers. I was not from the same background, culture, or socio-economic class as my colleagues and was unprepared and ill-equipped to deal with what I faced upon entering the profession of law. Not only was I routinely the only woman or person of color in any meeting, luncheon, room or gathering, but I was questioned at times whether I was in the right place or who I was with because, as I later learned, individuals of color were not allowed in that particular group, country club or restaurant (yes,in the ’90s!).
I resolved to learn as much as possible from those around me and seek out mentors from the top. I became the unofficial mentee of a white male partner who chaired our litigation practice group. Through that relationship, I gained invaluable experience that allowed me to become an excellent lawyer and navigate the corporate hierarchy and culture. As a result, many doors were opened to me that would have remained otherwise impenetrable, my confidence was bolstered, and my desire to become a leader and mentor blossomed. I became a Partner of a national law firm, a member of our Executive Committee and lead our firm’s diversity efforts.
Today more than ever, women are presented with unique opportunities to engage in interesting and challenging work and professions. You should seek out and take advantage of those opportunities, even the most challenging ones, by saying “yes” and stretching beyond your artificial barriers to learn, grow and experience life. Find several mentors, learn as much as you can and extend a hand back to others who may be walking, unbeknownst to you,in your footsteps. You will never look back and be sorry that you did!