I am a lucky woman. I have been lucky both with people and challenges. Early in my life, I experienced the political and economic turmoil of the former Soviet Union. I am grateful for the experience because that is how I first realized the importance of the free market and democracy, diversity and individuality.
Being a professional woman is another example of a fortunate challenge in my life. I am a wife, mother, lawyer, and business leader, all at the same time. Even though all of these roles are demanding, I enjoy each of them and, particularly, the challenge of combining them. The need to juggle critical tasks taught me that without trusted people to help me and generous mentors to guide me, I could not have gotten anywhere.
Looking at an obstacle as a hardship is counter-productive and leads to bitterness. I take the opposite view: every challenge, excluding tragedies, is an advantage. What would have happened if the challenges in my life hadn’t existed? If I had been born rich? If I had been born into a free society? Possibly, I might not have acquired the drive to take on problems, to grow and learn. Would I have the same values, the same character? Maybe not. Seeing my past obstacles as benefits leads me to seek new challenges. Fortunately, being a professional woman provides me with a wide range of obstacles to overcome.
One person alone, however, cannot take on a challenge of the same magnitude as a talented, dedicated, and diverse team with a common vision can. People are essential. One of my mentors has taught me that the worst, often impossible-to-erase mistakes are in communicating with people—disrespect, dishonesty, inattention. I know that credibility and trust are hard to earn and easy to lose. I understand that my life is not uniquely difficult. I try to introduce optimism and humor. I invest time. I do everything in my power to help. I ask questions. I learn from everyone. I invest emotionally, even though it makes me vulnerable. I voice frequently and happily my conviction that diverse teams outperform uniform teams. Hopefully, genuine and mutual trust develops. Then, with a little luck, a challenge comes along, and I have a trusted dedicated diverse team whole-heartedly sharing my vision and goals, and, together, we can succeed and, most importantly, share the joys of human connection and learning.
Is there a role model who has had a profound impact on your career and/or life? What did he/she motivate you to do?
When I hear the words “first role model,” the image that comes to my mind is of my mother, dressed in a business suit and rehearsing the defense of her PhD thesis. I was six years old at the time. She looked striking and professional. I felt that she was making an impact. My mother’s accomplishments would be impressive enough in 2013 United States. But she succeeded as a Jewish woman in a totalitarian regime in the mid-1960s. No hurdle I had to conquer in the U.S. could approach that level of hardship and discrimination. My mother’s accomplishments in her time, under her circumstances, made me believe that I could accomplish anything.