Twenty-six years ago, I began my career at a time when men dominated the leadership roles in the general workforce. My company was no different. Because of my upbringing, I had an inherent respect for them, but found it difficult to see myself as their equal. However, this perceived imbalance made me determined to prove myself. I felt challenged to do even more than my male counterparts. I pushed myself to gain credibility in my field and to earn their respect. At times, I was the only female in a meeting with many other managers. In hindsight, this was probably more important to me than it was to them.

Since that time, the workforce has changed dramatically. Women in leadership are much more accepted and cultural diversity has become the new norm. At my company, we have an extremely diverse workforce. Our collaborative atmosphere allows team members with diverse backgrounds to find better solutions and to solve challenges from new angles. This melding of ideas and perspectives is vital to our organization’s success. But even as we move toward the future, I have not forgotten my past. I try to make all coworkers feel comfortable in any environment.

Currently, my company fosters collaboration by encouraging managers to take on new challenges and positions outside their comfort zones. While increasing breadth of expertise, their new job responsibilities expose them to different working groups, allowing for both personal and professional development. In my career I have accepted positions I never would have considered in the past. However, I persevered, worked hard, and learned everything I could. I kept a positive attitude and eventually found fulfillment in positions I never would have believed I could enjoy.

Through my career, I have learned that the most important part of succeeding as a professional is to treat everyone fairly and show flexibility within my working groups. My twenty-six years at the company have been an amazing experience. I never would have guessed that I would one day become CFO of this organization—and the first female CFO at that. I found that by working hard and striving to do my best, while encouraging and cooperating with others, I have been surprised at how much I achieved.

How has education affected your career?

I am a firm believer in education, not only for myself but all who work with and around me. Over the years I’ve encouraged continued personal and professional growth through acceptance of a myriad of educational opportunities, both formal and informal. Education and an openness to new learning experiences have allowed me to develop professionally, sharpen my leadership skills, and give me a broader perspective of the world we all live in. In terms of formal education, my bachelor’s degree is in accounting. I am currently pursuing my master’s degree in finance. With my job as CFO, I believe both disciplines complement each other and allow me to analyze challenges from different perspectives. As a CPA, I find tremendous value in certifications as well.