People often talk about finding the right balance between work and life. For the most part, I’m nowhere near achieving a consistent, peaceful balance. Instead, I think I’m energized by having several balls in the air at any given time. Staying on top of, and growing in, a demanding work role, raising kids with my husband, staying close to family and friends, and participating in sports are the moving pieces. I’m fully engaged on all fronts though, and I take pride in that. It’s my perfect imbalance.
I have learned that no matter how focused you are on your own goals, it is only possible to succeed if you work with others. Your own success and satisfaction is intertwined with that of your team—at work, at home, or at a sporting event. As a result, I think a great deal about motivation and being a good teammate.
As a newbie with the all-female Radical Media competitive cycling team, I am seeing the importance of motivation! My teammates are amazing women who are constantly cheering for all of us—emphasizing team success and complementing effort regardless of the result. Their approach is teaching me how I can be a better leader, teammate, and motivator in other areas of my life.
Encouraging others is an art requiring people skills and intuition. I know I wish that I had been more outspoken when I was a younger lawyer, so I try to create a work environment that fosters dialogue. I ask questions of my younger colleagues, remain approachable and appreciative of all viewpoints, and try new approaches to feedback. Sometimes these small steps build team success in the long run, and it is extremely fulfilling to play a part in that process.
On Facing Challenges
I started my career as an attorney in my home country Sweden, and practiced there for several years. The switch to practicing in the United States has been my hardest career challenge so far. Working in a different language was difficult, and it took me some time to appreciate the nuances, fine-tune my drafting, and be nimble in negotiations. My teammates still occasionally make fun of my accent and expressions, though now it is actually one of the things I appreciate a lot. It reminds me not to take myself too seriously.
The biggest adjustment, though, was cultural, including understanding social conventions and relating to the backgrounds of my colleagues and clients. I have to find a balance between trying to fit in and knowing when to stand out. I would say I’m a work in progress, but I embrace the ongoing challenge!
Erica’s Advice to Young Women Starting Careers
First, keep an open mind about what your career will look like. My career is very different from what I had dreamt of when I was younger, but in a very good way. You should find a good starting place, but don’t be afraid to take risks and make changes. The people around you make a big difference in whether or not you will be happy at work, so strive to work with people you really like and follow those who inspire you. Doing that may take you to places you hadn’t planned to visit.
Another piece of advice would be to always take pride in your work, no matter how miniscule the task. People will recognize if you hold yourself to a high standard; it breeds trust in your ability to take on bigger projects, and will certainly bring you opportunities you may not have seen coming!