There are no absolutes for great leaders.
Leadership is as much about tenacity as it is about personal values. Inspiring leaders are numerous, but I identify most with those who make difficult decisions with confidence, care about their employees as individuals, and execute the mission, vision, and goals of the organization they lead. I am often asked by young professionals how I became chief financial officer, and I tell them that, while it was a personal goal, the journey was far more important than the result.
Growing up as a military kid taught me to readily adapt to change, quickly assess situations, and confidently make decisions. Both of my parents stressed the importance of education. My sense of empowerment came from my mother, who told me that no matter what path I chose in life, I would have an education. My father encouraged me to choose a discipline that would give me new opportunities. I decided to study accounting specifically because there were few women in the field at that time.
Work/life balance is important. As a military wife, I moved five times in eight years, including an overseas tour. Even so, I progressed in my professional life by actively seeking opportunities as a corporate staff accountant, an Air Force auditor, and a financial operations supervisor. I then took a nine-year hiatus to become a full-time mother, which was a key work/life balance decision for me. Many thought this choice would ruin my career, but it did not.
Returning to the workplace after a nine-year absence meant accepting a position at a lower level than I previously held. A commitment to hard work and professional development was essential to establishing myself as a key contributor with potential as a future executive. The determination to work hard and whole-heartedly accept my new career differentiated me from others. I always tried to regard obstacles as opportunities, adjust my strategy as needed, and consistently do my best work.
Those who succeed never stop growing and learning. I strive each day to be an accepting and engaged leader and to provide each of my team members with an individualized path to realizing their potential.
What does it take to succeed and stay competitive in your position/field?
Credibility is the most critical factor for success in an administrative field supporting a technical organization like NASA. It is necessary for me to add value at key decision points. This means providing a sound business approach that is strategic, logical, and executable.
Has discrimination affected you as a woman in the workplace? How did you deal with it?
I’m tough, so I tried not to let the obvious bias toward promoting males stop me from reaching my goal. I sought out men for my network and capitalized on their corporate knowledge to gain the credibility that is so important at NASA.