I grew up as one of seven children raised by a single mother after our father died. Educated in a public school environment, I was selected with several other students to be placed on an accelerated academic track. The quest for academic excellence in my early development was the first of many opportunities I had to “reach for the stars,” and it instilled within me a passion to succeed. Later in life, my focus was to excel in whatever professional roles I obtained with an eye toward achieving the ultimate (higher) position I could attain with each employer.

My first position as an Assistant U.S. Attorney honed my litigation skills to proficiency. Although Ienjoyed this role, I pursued other legal positions to broaden my experience, to enhance my ability to evaluate legal matters, and to use those analytical skills to resolve wide-ranging business issues. In working for a governmental agency, a national law firm, and three corporations in different industries, I experienced a very diverse set of business situations and complex legal issues. Most importantly, I learned how to successfully resolve various business crises in an innovative and organized manner.

The best advice I can offer aspiring professionals is to first focus on your personal growth: seek opportunities to hone your skills in your area of expertise and cultivate your leadership abilities; develop your aptitude for the business environment in which you are working; and volunteer to take on challenges outside your comfort zone to expand your knowledge and skills. As you conquer new frontiers or responsibilities, you will broaden your expertise and strengthen your business acumen in areas that you may never have imagined.

Secondly, to help enhance your professional development, seek a mentor (within or outside your company) whom you admire as a role model and trust to give you honest, constructive suggestions in business matters. Third, adopt a “value-add” philosophy in all aspects of your job responsibilities. Ask whether you are adding value with each project you undertake, and demonstrate leadership by motivating those on your team to contribute in some unique way to achieving the overall objective.

At the end of the day, you must hold yourself accountable to achieve the company’s objectives in an efficient, comprehensive, and effective manner. Set high standards for yourself and meet them!