If you had told me 25 years ago that I’d be leading teams and organizations with my technical vision, I would have laughed. I wanted to be a fashion designer. But here I am. Leading, learning, and growing every day.
My life and career have been unconventional. I have had wonderful successes marked by occasional disappointments. I have overcome poverty and homelessness through resilience and courage.
While the lessons from my journey are many, there are a few thoughts that stand out.
Support the women around you. I have a saying “we eat our own”. This refers to the responses to women by other women. It occurs in our professional and personal lives when we diminish other women’s achievements by putting them down. It’s challenging dealing with male egos when you are a female leader in the workforce. When you add the envy of your female colleagues, the odds against rising to your potential success are near insurmountable. Be the voice of encouragement and support. Think about the impact of your words. Be kind.
“Sometimes, all that’s needed to lift women up is to stop pulling them down.” – Melinda Gates
Follow your passion. I am passionate about technology. I believe that embracing technology can increase the quality of our lives by providing connections, insights and capabilities we never thought possible. In the late 90’s, when volunteering at a senior center, I was teaching the elderly how to send e-mail and use the Internet. Seeing them receive their first e-mail from distant relatives and the tears welling in their eyes was beyond rewarding. That feeling is what drives me forward – the knowledge that what I do impacts people. You will be most successful if you believe passionately about what you are doing.
Take a stance on what you believe. You will never be a leader if you don’t take risks. You know the adage – if you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything. I was recently watching Brene Brown’s Netflix Special, Call to Courage. She sums it up nicely by saying “don’t take the cheap seats”. Get in the game and bring your whole self with you. State your truth even if it means standing alone. Be courageous. Be vulnerable.
“Sometimes winning is not coming in first. Sometimes winning is doing the really brave thing.” – Brene Brown
Be a lifelong learner. We are all teachers and we are all students in life. The greatest gift we can give others is to share the lessons we have learned. The best of those lessons come from our failures. For a long time, I was afraid to share my failures. If you knew I had been homeless or had taught myself how to program instead of through more formal education, I feared you would not accept me or let me lead. I have learned that, by embracing my most humble moments and sharing them, I can inspire others to strive for greatness. The learnings from my failures make me a better leader, friend, and contributor in this amazing journey we call life.
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