Change has been the one constant during my career.

In my 25 years in the electric business, I’ve been part of the industry’s most significant evolution from a fully regulated business to the challenging world of deregulation and competition. This business also has changed from one where few females reached the top jobs to an environment with tremendous career opportunities at all levels of the organization for talented women.

My career at Ohio Edison, and then FirstEnergy, began right after I graduated from Case Western Reserve University School of Law. At that time, there were no clear paths for women’s careers in the electric utility business. We tried to fit in as best we could by mimicking the clothing and work styles of the men who held the leadership roles. That has certainly changed.

I started my career working on regulatory issues, and it was the best training ground I could have imagined. These issues touched every aspect of our business. While I was developing my legal skills, I also was gaining knowledge about my company and industry. Meanwhile, I was learning from the talented leaders around me, honing my own leadership skills.

Leadership isn’t gender-specific. Effective leaders share common traits. They demonstrate the qualities of strong leadership every day through their actions, decisions and sometimes simply through the image they project.

Great leaders also are great communicators. They have frequent, open and honest communication with employees. They know how to deliver tough messages. But they know it’s equally important to be a good listener.

The opportunities for young people starting out in this business are incredible. The best advice I can give new employees is to find something they love to do, work hard at it and always give their best. Accept and even embrace change – it will keep coming, and you may even learn to enjoy it! Talent is essential, but determination and a solid work ethic are equally important.

I’ve never seen challenges as roadblocks. It fact, they have served to strengthen my resolve and remind me of the importance of mentoring talented individuals who will be our future leaders, fully equipped to meet the challenges that lie ahead.