It was one of my first important presentations in front of the company executives as the youngest director in the company.
I was already nervous about taking the position—that little voice in my head was telling me I couldn’t make it in a male-dominated corporate world. Why not take the comfortable, safe path? Why not stay under the radar? My mentor, Neil listened to my fears, but he saw my potential and convinced me to break out of my comfort zone and fulfill my desire to succeed.
The upcoming meeting allowed those old anxieties to surface. However, just as I began the presentation, Neil showed up, quietly standing in the back of the room. I addressed the crowd with renewed confidence. When he noticed the ease with which I spoke, he nodded and left—never saying a word.
Sometimes we need people to help shepherd us through our professional fears and anxieties. I’ve been very fortunate to have that network of support throughout my 33-year career.
One of my goals is to help other women develop the same network of support that I have enjoyed. In 2012, I coordinated a Women’s Leadership symposium for FedEx Ground. Women leaders from all across our company met to discuss the successes and difficulties we faced each and every day. The pay-it-forward message of the conference resonated. Women’s leadership groups have cropped up across our network, with women mentoring other women and men offering support.
Our networks need to be bigger, though. I am proud to be part of the 16 percent of women in Fortune 500 executive positions, but we need to continue to work together to make that percentage larger. Because when women succeed, we all succeed.
On Finding Success and Staying Competitive
Succeeding, and staying competitive, takes resiliency, credibility, and trust. Welcome change. Build credibility in your field, and you will gain the trust of those around you.
On the Importance of Role Models and Mentors
An executive at a hospitality company for which I had worked many years promoted me to be the youngest director at the company at that time. He instilled confidence in me and relieved my anxieties about taking the position. He listened to my fears, but ultimately convinced me that I had the talent and leadership to escape my comfort zone.
On Facing Challenges
I took a 45 percent pay cut to go from the hospitality company to FedEx, and from VP to a manager-level position. Many close to me could not believe I would take that chance, but I wanted a new challenge and to work for a great and globally-respected company.
Kelly’s Advice to Young Women Starting Careers
Be patient. Impatience drives people to make the wrong decisions—to take the wrong career path. There is no correct timetable for your career, except for the one you create for yourself. It’s yours to navigate.
2 Comments on "Kelly Gray"
What a wonderful article! I am fortunate to work for a predominantly female company, I cannot imagine the struggles you must have had. Congratulations on a wonderful career!!! Marilyn
Kelly is the reason I am where I am today. It is with much thanks to her that I was able to relocate!