In every great career, there are great obstacles to overcome, and great lessons to be learned along the way.

As one of 12 children of a low-income single mother in rural Missouri, I thought my dreams of getting an education and pursing a career were nearly impossible. But as I worked towards my goals, I discovered my mother’s resolve, inner strength and strong work ethic were deeply embedded within me. These core strengths helped me gain confidence in knowing I could excel to heights beyond my meager beginnings.

The summer after graduating high school, I worked at a plastics factory to put myself through college and, from there, earn two graduatelevel degrees. My education allowed me to begin focusing on how I could use my skills to help make communities like the one I came from healthier.

Growing up on Medicaid, I know firsthand how important it is for families to have access to affordable health care. That perspective has helped motivate me to serve communities, first with the state of Ohio and now with UnitedHealthcare Community & State. At UnitedHealthcare, where I manage state partnerships for a business that serves more than three million low-income children and families, I find great satisfaction knowing I am helping children in need access better health resources.

Throughout my career, mentors have played an important role in helping me to grow professionally and personally. They helped me realize that you should never be afraid to ask questions and call on those around you for their perspective and input to get the job done in the best way possible. A good leader knows how to utilize the diverse skills of the people around her, a key reason I was committed to serve as a charter member and help establish the vision and goals of UnitedHealth Group’s Diversity and Inclusion Council. This group supports workforce diversity so talent from every background can bring forth their unique contributions.

I’ve also learned how important it is to make time for family, exercise and staying healthy. In the long run, investing in your health and wellbeing will help give you the energy you’ll need to reach your personal and professional goals.

But perhaps the most important lesson of all is one for today’s young professionals: never forget the help you receive from those around you, and find ways to “pay it forward” by helping others to grow and meet their goals.