My first job after college was as a junior analyst for a small mutual fund. As soon as I started, I began work ing towards several pro fessional certifications that related to my role. After four years, I went to business school to get an MBA. By the time I was 27, I had completed most of the formal train ing that was relevant to my field.

Reflecting back on it now, I’m glad I got this done early in my career, because once I got mar ried and started hav ing children, my time constraints grew expo nentially. I’d encourage those starting out to tackle any formal train ing as early as possible – it only gets more dif ficult later!

Much of my best work was not assigned to me. Early in my career, I had a minor role on a team working on an acquisition. When our CEO decided to proceed with the purchase of the company, I figured he would need a presenta tion about the deal, his rationale for it, and the expected impact to our bottom line. I drafted a presentation for him with the appropriate charts, pictures, and projections. It was great experience for me to put myself in his shoes and think about how to present this to our share holders. He was very happy I had anticipated what he would need.

I encourage our employees to create projects that ignite their particular interests. I believe everyone can be a leader. Every job provides the opportunity to embody the values of your organization, serve others, listen, use your unique talents to be a force for good, and try to bring out the best in your colleagues. Senior managers notice and appreciate people who practice these things consistently.

Feedback is critical to professional growth and success. Recently, I gave a presentation to a board. Afterwards, I asked a colleague for feedback. While she was encouraging about what I said, she thought the way I said it did not instill confidence. While I thanked her for her comments, I felt a bit defensive. I liked the way I approached the meeting. But I have come to appreciate that candid feedback is very difficult to come by and, for the most part, likely to be close to the mark. Asking for feedback is good, but hearing it is better! I still work on this every day.