Shortly after I was promoted to vice president, I received a beautiful bouquet of flowers from a friend. The card read, “Is that the glass ceiling I hear shattering?” I realized at that moment that I had made a significant breakthrough that not only would benefit me, but also would open the door for many other women.
When I reflect on how I got here, it’s easy to remember the tough assignments and long days stretching into long weeks and long months. However, what stands out is that I was given some amazing opportunities. It’s tough to develop and grow if you are never given the chance to take risks and reach beyond your current role.
I feel very fortunate that I had good mentors who had faith in my abilities and trusted that I could get the job done. One mentor took a chance and put me in a leadership role on a very troubled program. While we both knew it would be a stretch, we worked together to identify areas where I would need additional support and made sure those resources were available. The results were very positive. We turned the program around, and I was able to demonstrate that I was ready to take on more responsibility. This was a turning point in my career. My next assignments were on larger and more complex programs, which ultimately led to my current position.
I’d like to say it was an easy path from one assignment to the next, but that wouldn’t be the entire truth. Along the way, there were many obstacles I had to overcome. When leading military aircraft programs, I encountered biases because I was a woman, and I had not been in the military. However, once people realized that I was competent, that I understood the business and that my motivation was to help the team and the customer succeed, these obstacles ceased to exist.
The path I took also required some personal sacrifice. It’s difficult to raise a child and maintain a happy marriage when you work long hours and travel frequently. Having a saint for a spouse helps, but learning to balance my time and be present in the moment, whether at home or at work, has been my strategy for success.