I began my career at ATF as an attorney in 1983. I had no aspirations for a career in management and administration, much less for an appointment to the position of chief financial officer. But my life demonstrates a pronounced tendency to embrace change and confront and overcome adversity.
In college, I triumphed over an eating disorder that caused me to drop from 130 pounds to 84 pounds in eight months. I eventually returned to a healthy weight, gaining self-esteem and a balanced perspective on diet. While the support of friends and family was critical, I realized I had strong survivor and coping skills to draw upon as I accepted new challenges and advanced my career and life goals. I have mentored colleagues with eating disorders or confidence issues, helping them channel their inner strengths to achieve a realistic perspective on their strengths and weaknesses. I was heartened as I helped a colleague persevere and begin to free herself from a debilitating, dangerous eating disorder.
During the first 10 years of my career, my father gradually succumbed to Alzheimer’s disease. I watched my mother shoulder an unyielding burden without complaint, with an abiding faith in God and with a calm demeanor. She is an inspiration to me, reinforcing my conviction that inner strength and a sturdy moral compass will offset private turmoil. The toll that Alzheimer’s disease exacted on my family increased my sensitivity to life issues that employees face on a daily basis. My staff and I continually search for mechanisms to support our work force as they cope with family and personal hardships.
In 2006, I left the position of deputy chief counsel to become ATF’s CFO, an atypical career choice for a law school grad. One of my colleagues characterized me as the “Challenger.” I readily accept this characterization.
I also would like to say that I accept every challenge without fear or reservation, but that would not be true. When I venture outside my comfort zone, anxiety is an initial traveling companion. My therapy is to jump right in and start tackling the challenge so that anxiety is soon replaced by the excitement and creative potential inherent in the challenge. As a close friend reminds me, it is important to recognize that we do have control of our lives and circumstances even though at times it feels like just the opposite.