Identify your goals, then the steps to achieve them. This is how I approached my career. Even twenty-five years into my professional life, I follow this approach. It has served me well.
Growing up, I aspired to be a dancer, a scientist, or possibly both. I actually began college as a dance major. However, I had to admit I wasn’t as talented as the other students. Not seeing myself as exceptional, I instead chose a different path. A degree in actuarial science enabled me to leverage my interest in math, which also happened to be an area in which I exceled.
While I strongly believe in education, I also think other factors are influential in determining a successful career. The passion to achieve is a powerful element. Find a profession that blends your talent and passion. It can ignite a desire to always aspire for more professionally. I do enjoy numbers, but I’m a people person too. Once I entered the workforce, I realized I belonged in the investment field, which is the right fit for me.
An amazing mentor can also make a difference. I benefited from quite a few mentors. Relatively early in my career, I had a manager who provided me with the necessary insight to help launch my career. Mentors are not only for recent college graduates though. I try to maintain a board of sponsors for myself—a variety of senior people whom I can seek out for counsel and advice.
No two careers are ever alike, nor are they ever without complications. I did encounter one universal dilemma faced by many women: How could I have it all? As a working mother, I wanted to succeed not only in my career, but also at home. The balancing act is complicated. We’ve made progress today with the introduction of benefits like flexible working arrangements, but the challenge remains as to how to feel fully engaged on both fronts.
I think a lot about diversity and inclusion. Recruiting people with different backgrounds and points of view can create a more empowered team. There is strength in diversity of opinion, background, and thinking, as well as communication and learning styles. As women ascend the career ranks, they should try to seek out these types of inclusive environments as a way to advance.
Learning never stops, regardless of how far you have been promoted or successful you are. Always have an appetite for knowledge, as it is essential to a rewarding professional life.
What does it take to succeed and stay competitive in your position/field?
Don’t hesitate to express your opinion, but balance this with forging relationships and aligning yourself with your organization. At the C-level, the ability to effectively communicate the correct message, to the correct audience, at the correct time is essential. Look at everything from a broader perspective with a solid grasp on vision, strategy, and structure, and know which details matter.
What advice would you give young women building/preparing for a career?
I think it’s important to be self-aware. Acknowledge both your strengths and weaknesses. Prioritize those characteristics. Develop a plan for how you will overcome any challenges that could impede your career aspirations. Also, focus on building strong relationships. Create a diverse professional network with mentors and when you’re experienced enough become a mentor yourself.