I’ve been in IT for a long time, and came into it as an entry-level manager. I worked my way up, kept my head down, and took the tough assignments, always looking for opportunities to grow. More often than not, management would tap me before even I felt I was ready. Too often we restrict ourselves, but that can limit our work. You have to be able to make changes and take the assignments no one else wants. That’s where you get the best experience, and where you learn a lot about yourself.

Success comes from building relationships with people—not political maneuvering, but genuine relationships that will carry you through difficult times. I think men and women share on the job, but women do it differently. It’s important for me to have people with whom I’m able to share, like Susan Chambers on our executive committee; we just get together to talk.

People who are successful hopefully like their work, but they also have to know when they are out of balance. Whenever I was way out of balance in my life, I struggled; I had to learn to schedule and prioritize personally and professionally, and be able to mentally leave work. Although it sometimes takes a long time to shut down, it’s healthier and makes us better at what we do when we’re able to turn it off outside the office.

I have a strong circle of family and friends, and a little condo on a lake about three hours’ drive away. No one there knows who I am, and I can just escape for a few days. I’ve also learned that if I schedule time to go home, I am forced to leave the office. And if I take my laptop home without the power cord, I can only do about two hours’ work in the evening.

The best part of any job, dealing with a team of any size—it’s like watching a thousand kids grow up. To see them do things that help our business is just a blast. What would I do differently? My feeling is if I did something different, I wouldn’t be where I am today. My advice to women is

  • Learn as much about the business as you can.
  • Take one step at a time.
  • If you do your absolute best, you can get noticed. People who think they have to finesse and politic their way to promotion will not be successful over the long term.