Whether to make the leap to a new role or workplace is always a difficult call. It sometimes requires pushing yourself out of your comfort zone. For the first 15 years of my career, I worked as an international tax attorney in various firms.
While serving as a tax attorney and liaison for the Latin America and European regions at Avon Products, Inc., an offer was unexpectedly presented to me to join the company’s treasury department. Having devoted time and energy to practicing tax law, the decision was quite agonizing. I enjoyed practicing tax law (this may be difficult for some of you to believe), and I felt comfortable and safe in that role. However, after evaluating the remaining opportunities in the tax department, and recognizing the potential to expand my skill set, I accepted the offer in treasury. It was time to move on.
This move was one of the best decisions in my career. I gained management experience and surrounded myself with seasoned treasury professionals who helped me shorten the learning curve. I quickly learned about a new, but complimentary, discipline that would open doors for me later in my career.
Five years later, I joined United Rentals, Inc. as treasurer. During my tenure, I have been responsible for tax, real estate, and credit & collection. As I entered each new discipline, I again surrounded myself with seasoned experts to facilitate faster learning.
On Finding Success and Staying Competitive
Being nimble in a dynamic market place, regardless of your field of expertise, is a standard requirement to stay competitive. Adapting to the marketplace, and continuously contributing to your organization’s goals, will be your route to continued success.
On the Importance of Role Models and Mentors
Like many of you, my role model is my mother. She embodies the classic immigrant story—coming to the US as an orphan/refugee. Side by side with my father, she worked tirelessly to provide opportunities for my siblings and me. To this day, she motivates me to remain humble, to be independent, and not to squander the educational and career opportunities afforded me.
On Facing Challenges
In today’s business environment, you should not be surprised to know that I have been a casualty of a corporate liquidation, as well as a restructuring—two of my five career moves have been involuntary. While these incidents were initially challenging, and sometimes de-motivating, in retrospect I understand that they forced me to move out of my comfort zone and ultimately helped expand my skill set.
Irene’s Advice to Young Women Starting Careers
1) Be prepared for, and learn to, embrace change
2) Work hard, but enjoy your work
3) Be respectful of your colleagues
4) Surround yourself with smart folks