In thinking about sharing insight on how to achieve success, I reflected on the experiences and opportunities that led me to my executive leadership position in New York, 3,000 miles from my childhood home in Ireland. like many others, my path to success started with the values my parents passed on to me. They raised me to have a strong sense of responsibility for my actions that later developed into a strong work ethic that helped me overcome many challenges. In our home, entitlements were earned, not given, and I have carried those values with me throughout my professional career.
I developed a disposition toward challenging perceived boundaries. I chose to study engineering, not solely because I enjoyed math and science, but because engineering was seen as somewhat out of bounds for women. I liked the idea of challenging stereotypes and went on to excel in my studies. It was my propensity to challenge perceived boundaries that led me to pick up and move my family from Dublin to New York to run CA’s professional services business. The position required a complete transformation of a business that was losing millions of dollars a year to one that was profitable. To make things even more challenging, a year after I took the role the company entered a period of significant instability and change.
I often look to the words of Sir Edmund Hillary for inspiration when considering monumental challenges. His answer to the question, “Why climb Mt. Everest?” (a feat that, to me, seemed equal to the challenge I was considering) was, “It is not the mountain we conquer, but ourselves.” In thinking about the opportunity in New York, there was something very appealing about trying to succeed where others had not. In 2003, I accepted that challenge and have never looked back. In fact, by “conquering myself,” I eventually was named executive vice president and became a member of the executive leadership team.
The advice I offer is not unique, but it has worked for me. First, take nothing for granted; earn your entitlements. Second, challenge perceived boundaries and fight through stereotypes. Finally, approach every challenge as an opportunity to learn more about yourself and the great things you can accomplish.