I knew very early in life that, like my dad, I loved math and science. He spent his career in the defense industry, so when I was looking for that all-important first job as an electrical engineer, it seemed like a natural place to start.

Some 27 years later, I have undertaken numerous assignments, some more challenging than others. Along the way, I’ve worked with all kinds of different people. Little did I know how much each of those opportunities would prepare me for my current role as chief information officer of a Fortune 100 company.

I learned that women leaders need to embody resilience, tenacity and compassion. By resilience, I mean we must not allow professional setbacks or “bruises” to undermine our confidence. Female executives also need to be tenacious about mastering the tough assignments. Those are the very projects that teach you the most. In terms of compassion, we need to nurture the people we meet along the journey. Appreciation and respect for others help build rich networks you can count on, and that can count on you.

Another piece of advice that I’d like to share is that it’s OK to be tired and to be frustrated from time to time. Perfection in one’s career, as in life, is illusive. Rarely will your career path be without the occasional valley. Don’t let the hard work that it takes to climb the next hill slow your progress.

If you’ve been handed a project outside of your comfort zone, consider it a gift. Use it to grow your skills. It won’t be easy, but your managers must have thought you were capable; so prove them right and reap the benefits.

I’ve never shied away from the tough projects, the ones that nobody else wanted. I would encourage you to embrace those opportunities, too. It’s often while working through the problems that you grow the most professionally.

Challenge yourself, respect others in and out of the workplace, and you’ll open doors for opportunities you never imagined.