Often the simplest life lessons translate seamlessly to the business world. For example, my parents taught me by word and example that integrity is critical to personal success. My career has afforded opportunities to witness positive and negative managerial examples. I now have the ability as a business leader to create a culture of trust and mutual respect. My team and I debate, make decisions together, and respect each other’s expertise. From the beginning of a person’s career, setting a similar standard for trustworthiness and integrity encourages others to do the same, and establishes a positive, professional reputation.

I also would encourage tomorrow’s leaders to take risks to find the right industry and profession for them. My own path to leadership was unconventional. With an educational background that focused on accounting, I later pursued a career in that field. But with exposure to the aerospace and defense industry through a client company, I became interested in both the client base and emphasis on innovation. I have been a part of the industry ever since, performing in a variety of different roles that aided my path to general manager.

There have been many times when I’ve pushed beyond my comfort zone to try a new role within the business or tackle a particularly daunting need. Some of these experiences have been difficult, professionally and personally. For example, my family moved when I accepted a position that required me to learn more about international business in Latin America while spending more than 80 percent of my time traveling. It was an important career opportunity for me, and a critical need for the company, but I had doubts about my family’s adjustment and my ability to succeed in the role. Eventually, organizational changes resulted in my move to a different area of the business after a challenging year of on-the-job learning. It was difficult, but I will always look back on it as the right decision because of everything I learned and all of the opportunities it afforded me and my family.

Never be afraid to be yourself, be adamant in doing the right thing, recommend ways to positively transform a business, or try new roles and responsibilities. Not only will you create your own unique path to career success, but you will encourage those around you to aim for great things. That’s what leadership is all about.

How has education affected your career?

My diverse educational background helped me to try a variety of roles until I found a path and industry that was a great fit for me.

Is there a role model who has had a profound impact on your career and/or life? What did he/she motivate you to do?

With unique backgrounds and career paths, my parents inspired me with their own lessons. My father never missed a day of work, and his integrity and ethics are the foundation for my work ethos. My mother passed to me her entrepreneurial spirit and vision.

Has discrimination affected you as a woman in the workplace? How did you deal with it?

The diversity gaps I saw in the defense industry as a newcomer made me try harder, assert myself more, and established my sense of self-confidence.