As the third child in a family of seven children, responsibility was placed on us older children to help care for our younger siblings. As a result, at an early age, I developed crucial organization, collaboration, negotiation, decision-making, and delegation skills, and sought out challenging and exciting tasks at home and school. My parents had no formal education beyond high school, but they fervently believed a college education was critical to their children’s future. They encouraged us to dream big and work hard. It is from these experiences that I formed my strong belief that one never stops learning.

Today, I am fortunate to work in an environment where I interact with some of the best engineers and leaders in our industry. They help create an environment where continued learning is promoted and valued. During the early years of my career, we didn’t have a formal mentoring program; however, my supervisor encouraged me to take on new and exciting challenges. These challenges cultivated and strengthened my areas of technical expertise, my leadership abilities and my knowledge of the business environment.

One of my greatest career accomplishments was getting promoted to my current position—senior vice president of engineering and Technology. In this role, I report to our Chairman, President, and CEO Clay Jones, and serve as the voice of our engineering workforce. After accepting the position, I soon realized that this job would require much more public speaking than I had done in the past. To overcome this new challenge, clay served as my mentor to provide guidance and feedback.

As I have taken these increasing levels of responsibilities at Rockwell Collins, my biggest concern has been maintaining the right level of work-family balance. One important lesson I learned is that there will be times when work requires more of my attention, and I need to give it that priority. But there also are times when my family requires more attention. With the right level of planning, prioritization, and family support, I am able to find that balance.

If you aspire to be a leader, my advice is to establish your reputation as someone who can make things happen, take on challenging assignments that stretch you beyond your comfort zone, and deliver results that go beyond expectations. Seek out strong mentors who have walked that path before to accelerate your learning curve.