Though mergers and acquisitions have changed the names, I’ve been fortunate to work for the same company my entire career—one that values diversity, practices inclusion, and rewards individual performance. Today I’m in my dream job, where I have the opportunity to identify and develop leaders, oversee employee engagement, and lead diversity and inclusion efforts.

My career began as a clerk at a printing company that published telephone directories. I made coffee and copies while building relationships with leaders across the company who helped me learn the business. While not exactly the challenging work I’d hoped for, I quickly established a reputation for being willing to do whatever was asked, always doing my best, and having a voracious appetite to learn.

I quickly began to see opportunities. It was apparent from what I was seeing and hearing that there were inefficiencies between departments, as well as best practices. I made notes of these inefficiencies, built relationships, and recommended improvements. It was important to me to find ways to improve the business and make it easier for people to do their jobs.

My efforts were noticed. I was promoted to customer service representative, and then placed in charge of other representatives, where I focused on earning the trust and respect of my team, removing obstacles, and improving efficiency. Since then, I’ve been given opportunities to accept challenging assignments in new areas of the business—and the lessons I learned early in my career have served me well in each new role.

Here is what I have tried to practice and share with others:

Understand your company’s goals and direction, then consistently try to deliver outstanding results.

Build authentic relationships by reaching out to people and collaborating.

Innovate and lead change every day. Be determined to make a difference.

Give your absolute best, be a voracious learner, and accept difficult assignments.

Display integrity in all you do: there is never a right time to do the wrong thing.

Recognize that a career is a lattice, not a ladder: sometimes you have to deviate from the course to advance.

Remember balance is important but no formula works for everyone. You can have it all, just not all at the same time; realize your career is a journey and you’ll find balance in different ways at different stages of your life and career.

What advice would you give young women building/preparing for a career?

Women begin their careers with just as much passion, ambition, and education as men—and they aspire to be CEOs in equal proportions to men. But as women reach various milestones in their lives—as they begin to think about marrying and starting a family, they sometimes become less eager to volunteer for high-profile assignments that enable them to grow and advance. Don’t assume that your personal life will necessarily revolve around your husband’s career; understand that you, too, can have a successful career and manage a family and personal life. There are many ways to make that happen and find the right balance in life—and as more women reach the top ranks in corporations and other institutions, we’ll have more role models to set this example. We need more women using their passion and ambition to keep advancing, because everyone benefits when there is diversity in leadership.