I challenge women just starting a career to become the change they want to see in the workplace and the world itself. My work ethic stems from my parents, who instilled in me the belief that when someone gives you a paycheck, make sure your work is worth that money. Give more than you receive and put forth your best effort on every task. Whether you’re peeling crawfish (as I did at age 13), working at the local grocery or being an officer of a bank, do your work with pride.

Early in my career a mentor told me that success required much more than simply doing a good job at the position for which you were hired. Rather, you needed to know everyone else’s job. In my mentor’s case, that covered everything from emptying garbage cans to making coffee for clients to balancing the company’s accounts. This idea of knowing a company inside and out has since served as my personal benchmark and one that has guided me in my own career.

Today’s world is a fast paced one where you must constantly juggle many balls. To be effective, figure out what is important from a spiritual, professional and personal position, giving time to each area. Above all, remember that only you can define yourself.

A key quality for success, as well as effective leadership, is listening—hearing someone with resolve and passion. We don’t all think alike, nor do we have the same beliefs. Yet, every belief is important. Every person on this earth has a lesson to teach and every person has a lesson to learn. This concept has allowed me to build the excellent team that I have in place today at Sallie Mae. My team members feel very comfortable in coming to me— whether they agree or disagree with me—because they know they can freely provide their point of view.

Lastly, remember that mistakes are a given in life. The chal- lenge is to understand that every action produces a consequence, one that can be good, bad or indifferent. The idea is to embrace the resulting lesson. If we don’t, we are not learning; if we are not learning, we will never grow. And if we don’t grow, we can never realize our full potential and evolve into the unique individuals we are meant to be.