Growing up in a single-parent family with two older sisters provided me rare challenges and experiences. My sisters and I had chores that encompassed interior and exterior home repairs and general up-keep. The responsibility of these chores taught me the value of a strong work ethic, the importance of having self confidence, and the power of being independent.

I have always believed in the power to create positive change. Some people choose to spend their time focusing on their mistakes or how they got where they are. I believe it is much more productive to understand whereyou’ve been, then move on to focusing your efforts on how to create a positive future.

More than 25 years ago, I chose to work for a company offering both opportunities and long-term job satisfaction. I was committed to contributing my best and constantly striving to make a difference. It is critical to know yourself—to understand your strengths and opportunities, so you know where to focus your development. While I worked on becoming successful in current positions, I would preparefor the next job by expanding my knowledge about the job and skill requirements. My ultimate goal was to become the first female African-American zone manager. Ishared my vision and goals with others who could impart their knowledge to help me achieve this goal. I assessed my strengths and opportunities, and encouraged others to provide open and honest feedback.

Five years ago I achieved my goal, but it did not come without sacrifice, challenge, and dedication. Each increasingly responsible position has built my confidence, expanded my knowledge, and developed skills that have contributed to my success. My family and I have relocated seven times, accepting new challenges and opportunities and proving it is possible to have a family and a career.

I know I have not achieved success without the encouragement and support of family, friends, and co-workers—success is never achieved alone. Having knowledge of the business has given me the courage and confidence to go places no one like me has ever been. My satisfaction is knowing I have not compromised my values to achieve this.

My advice to women seeking to advance their careers is to have a plan of action. Stay committed to the plan, but more important, execute the plan. Reflect on your failures, but revel in your successes to build confidence. Take control of your career, and don’t wait to be tapped on the shoulder. Moving out of your comfort zone is when you will experience exponential growth. Lead by example and reach out to others, sharing your knowledge, experiences, mistakes and successes. Careers don’t just happen, and you must be committed to “stay the course.” Let’s continue to support each other because thereis plenty of room at the top.