The traditional concept of a career ladder has changed dramatically over the years. In my experience, the straight line from one position to the next, leading to a corner-office job, just doesn’t happen very often. The reality is often more circuitous and, in the end, more productive and satisfying.

I began my career in IT and accounting, but prior to my appointment as chief administrative officer at Williams, I served as the vice president of human resources for 10 years. That was a position I did not anticipate at the beginning of my career, but one that found to be extremely interesting and fulfilling. In fact, I believe that the nontraditional path I’ve followed has given me a broader and deeper perspective and made me a better leader.

Being a woman in the energy industry may sound like a very tough position, but I’ve never felt like I’ve encountered an obstacle that was insurmountable. I believe a successful career, like a successful life, is very dependent on your mindset, your capacity for hard work, and the ability to integrate pieces of your life together as appropriate. And, I’ve been fortunate to work with good leaders along the way.

A common phrase often heard today is ‘work-life balance.’ For me, it’s always been more like ‘work-life integration.’ There are times when your work takes precedence, and other times when your personal life takes precedence. both are always present. It’s a matter of which one rises to the top at a particular time. I don’t know that one ever finds ‘balance’ in the true sense of the word. Instead, I believe you learn to integrate the pieces of your life in a way that makes sense and is most satisfying.

A few approaches to consider might include:

  • Integrating the pieces of your life in ways that engage and sustain you personally and professionally.
  • Being open to new, unexpected opportunities.
  • Finding new ways to showcase your contributions.
  • Looking for volunteer work in the nonprofit world that broadens your skills set.
  • Focusing on purpose.

Most importantly, use life to produce something that outlasts it. That’s the axiom I keep next to my computer and the way I try to approach my life personally and in my career.