The three truths I have learned throughout my career are the importance of taking chances, the criticality of relationships, and the underestimated value of hard work.
I have had opportunities to work in different areas of the business, including corporate, operations, merger-and-acquisition integration, purchasing, and business finance roles. Many people, myself included, hesitate to expand beyond the areas that we know best. Although taking on a new function might have been uncomfortable at times, changing roles was beneficial to my personal development and were times when I learned the most. Being open to new challenges and trusting oneself are critical to continuing to grow your skillset and stay engaged.
I have always maintained that my first goal is to make everyone around me successful—including my boss, peers, and team. When we focus our efforts on enabling success for others in our network, relationships, or lack thereof, have a direct impact on results. Humans are at the center of everything we do in business, regardless of industry or product, and we need to take time to cultivate trust. Results are unsustainable if relationships are not made a priority. So when faced with the choice of spending ten more minutes with a team member to address a concern versus completing a high-priority task, the time spent with the colleague is often more important and will benefit long term.
I cannot underestimate the help I have received from several significant sponsors and mentors throughout my career. Key relationships with people who can offer constructive and impartial perspectives make an extraordinary difference in navigating corporate environments. However, I do not believe I would have been a beneficiary of guidance without a positive attitude and credibility. The best way to attract sponsors is to be the type of person we would like to mentor ourselves.
Lastly, there is no substitute for practice and hard work to perfect a craft, regardless of natural ability. In Outliers: The Story of Success, Malcolm Gladwell writes that researchers believe the magic number of hours required to achieve excellence at performing a critical task is 10,000. In business, every day we have the opportunity for more hours of practice to work toward perfecting our craft. It might seem obvious, but I believe dedication and hard work are the foundation to achieving career success.
How has education affected your career?
Certainly formal education is an important foundation in business, but I look at education as both formal and informal. I have always tried to be a student while observing leaders, work styles, situational dynamics, and how people handle situations to optimize results. Some of my greatest “teachers” have been childhood sports coaches, car salespeople, and airline ticket agents, from whom I’ve extracted lessons on how to motivate, sell, and provide excellent service, respectively.
What advice would you give young women building/preparing for a career?
Take chances. Temper that internal fear of failure. I have certainly made many mistakes in my career, but each of them has made me better, by making me more empathetic, knowledgeable, and humble, among other takeaways. As hockey great Wayne Gretzky famously said, “You miss 100 percent of the shots you don’t take.”