Last fall I hosted a global town hall meeting for the nearly three hundred professionals on the law and contracts team at Honeywell Aerospace. The central topic for the meeting was integrity and compliance. As I prepared my remarks, I was reminded of something that my dad said to me when I was six years old and wanted to play with a neighbor friend. “Ok,” he said. “But remember who you are and where you came from.”
That was the first time I heard those words, but it wasn’t the last. My father was the son of an immigrant, a child of the Depression, a former Marine, and a man who had scrapped and hustled his whole life, first to survive and ultimately to thrive. Losing his mother at age two and being raised by his aunt, he had a difficult childhood and it shaped who he was and what he expected his children to be.
“Remember who you are and where you came from.” I heard those words again and again growing up. I heard them when I boarded the bus bound for my first day of high school, when I went to town to hang out with my friends, when I left for college, and when I headed to an internship at the White House.
For Dad, those words were shorthand meaning to mind my manners, pick true friends, make good choices, follow my intuition, and be true to myself.
I was working at a now-defunct law firm many years ago when I discovered that a senior lawyer was billing inaccurately. I knew that presenting this information could affect my career and ultimately the future of the firm. As I sought advice, my father’s words came back to me. I knew what I needed to do.
A few decades later, I am now general counsel for a technology leader with about 38,000 employees.
I always emphasize that integrity and compliance is more than a corporate process. It’s also about individual morals, ethics, and values, applied consistently in a business setting. It’s about being honest, always, regardless of the consequences. Finally, it’s about “remembering who you are and where you came from.”
How has education affected your career?
Even though I had decided early on that I wanted to be an attorney, my mother was adamant that I take accounting and business classes in high school. In college, a professor persuaded me to change my major to economics. In law school I did well in my litigation courses, but found that I was more interested in corporate law. Without planning it, I built a portfolio of skills that prepared me for the job I have today.
What advice would you give young women building/preparing for a career?
Don’t limit yourself, set ambitious goals, and go for it.