One of the best pieces of advice I received when I started out as an industrial engineer in one of Ford’s assembly plants was, “Don’t be afraid to do the job the way you do it. It may be different, but we look forward to your differences.” This encouragement gave me the confidence to be myself and find my own style. Today I pass that same advice on to others: “Be the best you can be, always utilizing your gifts and skills – not someone else’s.”
When you’re beginning your career, it’s easy to be quiet and blend into the background. My advice is to speak up when you have something to say. Let the team know that you can contribute. Be open to experiences with the people around you. Interaction is as much a part of the job as engineering is a process. Networking and political savvy are key components to your overall success within the business. Getting involved is the only way to make a change. Don’t stand on the sidelines; get in the game!
You are responsible for your career, so you have to actively participate in the direction it takes and in the opportunities that come your way. However, I’ve found that focusing too much on the next promotion is a mistake. Many times, a lateral move or crossfunctional assignment brings the better experience and does more for your development. Focus on the job at hand and perform that role with excellence.
As a leader, don’t be afraid to let the team shine and be recognized for their work. As a woman of faith, I equate my leadership role with being a servant leader. I serve my employees through mutual respect and collaboration and getting them the things they need to succeed as a high-performing team.
Know your priorities, both professionally and personally. In manufacturing, there’s a high level of urgency and the tough decisions you make can have long-ranging, visible effects. Always make data-driven calls that line up with your leadership priorities. With family, work-life balance has not been a problem because I know my priorities. I never feel guilty about spending the time I need on personal matters. The key is communication and planning.
At the end of the day, remember to set your priorities. Whatever job you’re in, do it well, hold yourself accountable and have fun.