Whether as the mailroom clerk at IBM or as Nortel’s chief marketing officer, I have never let people tell me what I could not do. I have focused on what I knew I could accomplish and pursued it. I had a clear vision of what i wanted my future to look like, and I did not waver in my quest for success. Every career has its obstacles; some easy, others more difficult. But it is the way in which we overcome these challenges that shapes our careers.
In the early 1980s, technology sector career paths for women were often set by gender. Out of college, women typically started as administrative assistants and worked their way up from there. As my typing was not quite up to speed, I had to find another way. I had an interest in technology and was determined to make my mark on the sector, even if it meant starting in the mailroom at IBM.
More difficult to overcome was my crippling fear of public speaking early in my career. Rather than avoid doing it, I recognized public speaking as a skill I needed to master to be successful. I registered for public speaking classes and sought opportunities to speak in front of audiences. Plenty of practice and the encouragement of colleagues boosted my confidence, and today public speaking has become something that I enjoy doing.
While we like to think that we can do it all by ourselves, a strong support system is an important element of success. This includes friends and family, as well as mentors to help guide you. There are times when I could not have gone on without my personal team of cheerleaders.
My mentors have been pivotal to my success. Mentors provide the confidence and the required road map to help you achieve your career goals. My mentors gave me a push when I needed it, but they also nurtured me and helped me develop my talents. I continue to participate in mentoring programs at Nortel and externally as well. Mentoring has played and continues to play an important role in my career, and I encourage you to seek out mentors to help you reach your goals.
My personal advice is to love what you do and be good at it. Remain a “work in progress” and remember that anything you want is possible.