When my first child arrived she had a short-term, but somewhat disruptive health issue. As a result, I took a break from my career and focused on my family for several years. Re-entering the workforce was a daunting prospect which required me to accept rejection and persevere. What I found was that the leadership roles I had assumed in the nonprofit world during this time were essential in helping hiring companies see my personal potential and business acumen. I continue to be involved in nonprofits today, serving on the board of directors of New York City’s oldest nonprofit, Leake & Watts. Leadership is leadership—both in and outside the corporate board room.
Once back in the for-profit workforce, I was playing a catch-up game. After five years exclusively focusing on my family, I needed to be realistic. I accepted a role that was junior to the one I previously held. Reigniting my career required dedication, hard work, collaboration and, to some extent, risk taking. All of these experiences helped to mold and expand my self-awareness and leadership style. It also helped me stand out, which led to quick career progression.
Over the years I have seen the power of teamwork. The collective work of many is what defines success. Leaders can emerge from all levels of a company when given the proper skill development and the context in which to exercise those skills.
Is there a role model who has had a profound impact on your career and/or life? What did he/she motivate you to do?
I have been fortunate to have a mentor who has served as both a listener and coach. Among many things, she has helped me understand the invaluable subtle (and not so subtle) differences between how men and women approach professional situations. She has also demonstrated through her own actions that there can be a healthy balance between home life, children, and a career.
What advice would you give young women building/preparing for a career?
Women in the workplace should be aware of the difference between mentors and sponsors and seek to build relationships with executives in both groups. Regardless of gender, it is essential to be self-aware, with the goal of enhancing positive personal traits and understanding personal weaknesses.