I started my career as a mechanical engineer in the auto industry. Over the past 18 years, I've had eight jobs and four career changes spanning engineering and marketing before landing in AI technology. I've all too frequently been the only woman at the table.
In my career, I have encountered two types of male colleagues: "sponsors" and "offenders." Sponsors were the ones who would challenge me in private so I did my best in public and who provided me with high-profile assignments to ensure that my work stood out.
Then there were the offenders. On my first business trip, my colleague took me to a networking event during a major auto show. This was the first of many events where I would meet offenders who would question both my book smarts ("Can you explain the Bernoulli Effect?") and street smarts (folks going out of their way to make me feel uncomfortable to see how "tough" I was).
It didn't really hit me until I went back to my hotel room that night—I was exhausted. The battery of questions, snide remarks and encounters with men twice my age wore me out. That night, I realized that the "real world" was nowhere as advanced as I had expected. It caught me off guard.
While the workplace and I have evolved since then, the journey is far from over. This is a moment. This moment is a movement that is so much more than a hashtag like #metoo or #timesup—and it feels powerful. We, as women, have the power to take control of our lives and careers; we can't control every situation, but we can control our reactions to them.
While the task may seem daunting, here are a few things that have helped me continue to grow and keep moving forward:
Although the ride may be bumpy, stay the course.
It is far more empowering to focus on the destination than to get mired in everyday challenges or limiting beliefs. Everything else is just noise.
Have you ever taken the time to write down your values or figure out who you are at your very best? If you could be, do, have anything your heart desired, what would that be?
Write it down, then get busy making it happen. One of my mentors recently said, "There is a difference between playing to win and playing not to lose." Make sure you are playing to win.
I call it "approaching life from a mode of generosity"—the belief that there is enough for everyone rather than operating from a mode of scarcity. Scarcity can cause you to feel insecure, like you need to defend your turf because there is not enough to go around.
Be generous with your time, and look for ways to bring others with you up the ladder of success.
Ask for help. Pay for it if you need to.
This one is simple. Do an honest self-assessment. Maximize your strengths and hire for your weaknesses, at work and at home.
As a working mother of four, I know that it takes a village to maintain a successful career and give meaningful time to your family. Find a career that allows you to set your boundaries and fits your work and lifestyle.
Bring your whole authentic self to work.
Not too long ago, women were encouraged to conform in order to "fit in" at work, especially in male-dominated industries. Today, your unique set of talents is what is celebrated and is the single most important thing in catapulting your success. If you feel pressure to quiet parts of yourself at work, consider finding a new place to work.
It takes faith and courage to leap from one experience to the next. For me, finding
It took me a long time to get to this place, but I'm glad I'm here now. Make this moment your moment. Now is the time for women to be their authentic selves. Celebrate your unique talents, sponsor the next generation of women leaders, and define the next chapter of what it means to be a woman in the workforce.