I’ve learned that the trajectory of a career path can change in an instant. My course was forever altered during one brief conversation that occurred years ago when my mentor challenged me to cast away any notion of professional limitations and embark on a less-traveled career path that would lead to me accomplishing my goal of becoming a corporate controller. My mentor convinced me to pursue an MBA at the University of Chicago – a program, I thought at the time, that might not be practical from a time standpoint and far too expensive. She helped me realize that returning to school after a 15-year break would not be a costly sacrifice made in vain, but rather an investment that would pay longterm dividends in both my life and in the lives of others.

Upon receiving my MBA and achieving my goal, I was inspired to find a way to repay this person, who obviously saw something in me that no one else did. Having lost contact with her as she approached retirement, I felt I could repay her best by striving to become the type of manager she was – one who engages people to extract their hidden qualities, enhances their best talents and encourages them to achieve the improbable.

Today, as a vice president and controller at CDW, one of my biggest priorities is to place people in positions to be daring, solve difficult challenges and pursue long-term professional goals that others wouldn’t dare. Over time, I’ve found that being a mentor takes a significant time investment, tireless compassion, an empathetic ear, and a keen sense of what truly motivates and inspires people to do great things. For the most part, these things can’t be taught – only learned through others who first came alongside us to nudge us when we needed direction.

People are a company’s most valuable resource, and even the best business strategies will not succeed without the right people in place – being mentored by servant leaders. Looking back on my career, I’ve had the opportunity to both inspire and be inspired, to serve and be of service to others. I serve because I was first served by another, and feel a great sense of gratitude and responsibility to pay it forward.