In today’s culture, we celebrate women’s professional achievements with well-deserved fanfare and recognition. We are finally enjoying the rewards of our hard work and persistence. However, we must also recognize that our predecessors, visionary women who worked tirelessly for their own rights and for the rights of future generations, helped us here. It’s our responsibility to ensure that we pay it forward by helping other young women executives entering the workplace.

My career in banking began early in life. While still in college, I worked a part-time job as a teller in a small community bank. I had a practical avenue to experience what I was studying; this would prove to be an invaluable asset as I progressed in my career. It was the early ’90s, when there was tremendous upheaval in our economy. Thus, working at a small bank with a lean workforce meant that I had many different tasks and needed to learn different aspects of banking. Unknown to me at the time, this part-time job would turn into a long-term career that I love and am passionate about.

While still in my twenties, I had a team of people reporting directly to me. This meant that I needed to develop my own management style and sharpen my skills as a leader. I wanted to be someone who could not only manage, but also motivate and inspire.

Throughout the course of my own professional development there have been people who have influenced and helped shape my career. One particular lesson that I continue to apply today occurred when I was still in the early phase of my career, and I chose not to provide feedback on a specific issue and decision. Later, discussing with a colleague my disappointment over the decision that was reached, I mentioned that since I wasn’t asked my opinion on the matter, I simply didn’t offer it. This wise individual stopped me and emphatically stated, “What makes you think it wasn’t your responsibility to provide your point of view?” Until then, it hadn’t occurred to me that offering my opinion was my responsibility and my obligation as a manager. This still applies today. When I have the opportunity to mentor younger staff members at Union Bank, I remind them of how important it is to articulate their point of view and always provide feedback.

I am hopeful that in my career I have contributed not just by opening doors of opportunity for other women, but also by opening their eyes to their own potential.

What does it take to succeed and stay competitive in your position/field?

Creativity and leadership to accomplish objectives no matter how challenging or dynamic the economic and competitive environment becomes.

Has discrimination affected you as a woman in the workplace?

How did you deal with it? To a small degree, yes. I worked harder, and never believed there was anything I could not do as long as I wanted it badly enough, and was willing to work for it.

What advice would you give young women building/preparing for a career?

Find a great mentor (male or female), build a solid network in your industry, and remain flexible in your path to success. You may be surprised at the unique opportunities that will come your way.