As a young girl, my greatest role model was my maternal grandmother. We shared a love of cooking, math, and crossword puzzles. She was good at anything she put her mind to, and made me feel that I could do the same. I thought about being a teacher, but my practical grandmother suggested that a better opportunity for a rewarding career and family might be in accounting—after all, I could do people’s income taxes from home if I decided to have a baby. She was ahead of her time and progressive in her thinking, instilling in me a belief that balancing a career and a family would be possible if I tried. So, I took an accounting course in high school and got hooked.
I loved college, but ironically the only course I didn’t excell in was taxes. However, my passion for accounting drove me to become a CPA and join a public practice. The firm had a large presence in financial services. This became my niche until I worked on a prominent acquisition. It was in this role that I became adept at mergers and acquisitions (M&A).
When I was offered a job with GE Capital to help the company grow through acquisitions, my professional world at that time—accounting, financial services, M&A, and a desire to teach—remarkably came together. While my grandmother died that year, I was fortunate to have her long enough for her to bless my decision to join a great company.
I was now teaching, learning, and experiencing what it meant to lead people. I led finance, sales, and operational teams. Building expertise in each area was like adding tools to a giant financial services toolbox. I began leveraging my leadership skills more than my accounting background and discovered that leading teams was what motivated me.
Career progression into different disciplines is possible if you pivot, rather than dramatically shift directions. For me, leadership was the pivot point. If you are willing to continually learn and evolve, using your strengths can help you experience new areas.
Pivoting into new areas is not without obstacles and I have faced many challenges in my career. I have my own family now, and I work hard at maintaining balance in my life. Finding balance, like being a leader, is deliberate. My grandmother was right—balance is possible with prioritization and help.
How has education affected your career?
It instilled a passion for continuous learning.
What does it take to succeed and stay competitive in your position/field?
It takes a commitment to continuously learn, evolve, and change.
What advice would you give young women building/preparing for a career?
Don’t be afraid to take the difficult job that no one else wants. I made a career out of tackling challenging areas less desired by my peers.