You Can Rise to the Challenge

My career was not defined by a linear ambition to reach the top. It was my openness to new opportunities, however unexpected, that shaped my experience.

I graduated with a degree in accounting and after some time in public accounting, I spent the early part of my career at Viking Electric as the company’s controller. I felt very competent, accomplished, and comfortable in my role. But in 2008, the president and chief financial officer threw me a big curveball. An opportunity to lead our Human Resources team was open, and they wanted me to take it. My mind immediately went to a negative space, listing all the reasons this was not the best idea. When I realized they were serious, I shifted to calculating what I needed to do to make this work for me, the team, and the company. Being open to this opportunity—and those that followed—opened doors I wouldn’t have dreamed of knocking on.

From HR, I moved into sales leadership, led a system conversion project and, ultimately, became president of Viking Electric in 2017. My comfort zone had been left far behind. However, I gained confidence in my abilities and leadership skills with each new challenge. In taking that first big leap out of finance/ accounting, I gained a new perspective regarding what I was capable of and a more holistic understanding of the business. Had I not moved into HR, I would not fully appreciate how crucial the HR function is in shaping culture and driving optimal business results. By leading the most significant change in our organization—a complete ERP system conversion—I developed critical change-management skills that make me a better leader.

I didn’t have my sights set on becoming the president of Viking. But when I moved out of my comfort zone, the experience ignited a desire in me to be on the short list for the next great opportunity. Linear thinking can limit you. By thinking more broadly and leaving your comfort zone, you can unlock opportunities to grow and reach your fullest potential.

Though I don’t consider myself a role model, female colleagues have reminded me that my position in the company makes me one. Conscious of this fact, I work to give back to women in the organization. Whether I’m sponsoring a women’s employee resource group; speaking on a diversity, equity, and inclusion panel; mentoring; or pushing women in my company to articulate their ambitions, my goal is to raise the visibility of talented women and encourage them to help shape their own experiences. We can all accomplish so much when we embrace our curiosity and are open to new challenges.