Throughout my career, I’ve taken steps to enrich myself. I think those steps have helped me stand out and touch those inside and outside my organizations.
First, I’ve always been willing to take on tough challenges, even ones that others have shied away from. As a result, I’ve been labeled “courageous,” and courageous is in high demand in most organizations these days. I advise young women not to be afraid of challenges, or of making mistakes. Even if you stumble, you’ll be recognized for tackling the situation. And you’ll learn from your errors.
Next, I have always taken steps to build networks, skills, and experiences outside the workplace. Over the past 20 years I’ve volunteered in organizations and roles outside my industry. Currently, I work with the Cancer Hope Network, helping recently diagnosed patients navigate the care system. This has shaped me, both as a person and as a leader. I have developed better listening skills, greater empathy, and deep personal relationships.
Finally, I am a huge supporter of mentoring. In fact, each year I mentor a young woman from a local high school who has expressed interest in business. It’s been so enriching—not just because I can expose her to so many different aspects of the business world, but also because she teaches me. In the IT profession, it’s always about the latest technology, and no one knows the latest technologies better than high school kids. She gives me an edge! And the experience enables me to give back. I think all Women Worth Watching® can play an important role in raising the next generation in each of our respective fields.
On Finding Success and Staying Competitive
In the information technology field, you have to remain current, because technologies are constantly changing. Even if your organization isn’t going to adopt “the latest tech,” be aware of trends, know what your competition’s doing, and always be mindful of business risks. Additionally, understand what great leadership looks like and surround yourself with great leaders and advisors. Finally, allow yourself a break—give your job your all, but also take time to recharge.
On Facing Challenges
Although the decision wasn’t about me getting laid off wasn’t personal, it was a real blow to my confidence. I needed to reflect on the path I had traveled in order to figure out how to move forward. I began building more effective networks and recommitted to keeping my skills fresh— even those not specifically related to my role. It was definitely an inflection point, and helped to shape who I am today.
Sue’s Advice to Young Women Starting Careers
First, be precise about what you want to do, and spend time building a plan that is realistic, achievable, and flexible—because most career trajectories don’t follow a straight line. Be willing to take lateral moves to gain broad exposure.
Second—and I can’t say this enough—network, network, network! Learn lessons from those before you. Find mentors and advisors who will be happy to share their experiences and help you map out your path.
Finally, develop yourself outside the workplace. Volunteering in your community can be a truly enriching experience, especially an opportunity that’s outside your area of expertise.