There is something inspirational about hearing the stories, challenges and accomplishments of successful women in business. In this article I want to share a few tidbits from a variety of interviews that have inspired me.
The first is from an interview with Ann Miura-Ko (@annimaniac) who is a co-founding partner at FLOODGATE where her investment interests include innovations in big data, radical science, and marketplaces. “I always did something I was a little not ready to do. I think that’s how you grow. When there’s that moment of ‘Wow, I’m not really sure I can do this,’ and you push through those moments, that’s when you have a breakthrough.” — Marissa Mayer, Yahoo
“I always did something I was a little not ready to do. I think that’s how you grow. When there’s that moment of ‘Wow, I’m not really sure I can do this,’ and you push through those moments, that’s when you have a breakthrough.” — Marissa Mayer, Yahoo
Ann shares her personal story of being a woman interested in tech and how she juggled personal and professional aspects of her life. In the past, women have aspired to “have it all” how ever that is defined for them. However, we’ve come to question whether or not having it all should really be the goal.
Ann shares her own struggle with having it all at a point in her life when she was starting a new company, considering having a second child with her husband at the same time she defends her PhD thesis:
During those months of juggling pregnancy and my thesis, I also managed to make one of my first investments (Modcloth). If I knew how crazy those first couple of years of Floodgate were going to be, I’m not sure I would have done everything I ended up doing, but it all managed to work out some how. I passed my defense, wrote up the thesis and had a third child a couple of years later.
For people who believe that women juggling a career and kids are a liability, I would posit that there are few people in the world who know how to multitask and ruthlessly prioritize like a mother of young kids. It’s been the key to my success.
It was tough and perhaps at times she may have questioned her sanity for taking on three major life events at the same time. However, she was working toward goals that were important to her and so she pressed on. She found a way.
The interviewer asks a variety of important questions of Ann and she shares that she is a learner – always looking for new things to learn. She understands her strengths and limitations and knows when to say “no.” She talks about the importance of having a role model and being a role model for others.
My curiosity had me exploring a ton of very different paths in life, but self-awareness allowed me to close doors that weren’t a fit. – Ann Miura-Ko
I love her final piece of advice – what she would say to her 18-year old self:
No test will ever be able to measure the vastness of your human potential. Don’t let any teacher, parent, coach, or friend ever make you feel that it can.
Cathy Engelbert is another one of the many successful women in business. A reporter for the Washington Post interviewed Cathy Engelbert, CEO at Deloitte. Unlike Ann who started her own businesses, Cathy has been employed at Deloitte for over 30 years. She didn’t set out to be the CEO, she just wanted to be the best at whatever she did. But over the years, she learned, took on new challenges and worked her way to a position of leadership; overcoming gender bias and the glass ceiling to become CEO.
She also talks about successful women in business striving to have it all:
Q: Looking across professional services, what do you think is the biggest barrier for women?
A: The thought that they can’t have it all. Can they have a high-performing career? Can they have a career that evolves with the way our clients evolve? And can they raise children, or take care of elderly parents, or whatever issue they have in their personal life? That I believe is still the impediment.
I was pregnant with my first child the year I was up for partner. I started to think to myself, “Can I actually do this?” There’s a level of uncertainty when you think about the future, and you think about the job you have and wonder if you can balance it all.
However, the bottom line is – it if it important enough to you, you will make it happen, just like Cathy and Ann have done.
“If this is something that you really want to do, if you believe in it … simply keep forging forward because success will come.” — Cassandra Sanford, KellyMitchell Group
You need to clearly identify what that looks like and then surround yourself with the resources to make it possible. You can’t have it all by working alone. It requires teamwork, planning and a vision of what you want your end goal to look like.
Of course part of that will require saying NO. I know – we seem to shy away from that word, but if we continue to say yes to things that are outside our vision of what our successful life looks like, we’ll never achieve our goals.
Cathy had this to say about how saying no became an important part of her success:
I didn’t aspire to be the CEO of Deloitte, but I aspired to be a leader in Deloitte. And sometimes I said no to things that people came to me with. We have to not be afraid to say no. Sometimes when you say no, you think you’re taking a risk; but you’re also taking a risk if you don’t say it.
I would encourage you to seek out articles and interviews of some of the successful women in business that you admire. Learn their story. Hear about their sacrifices and difficult choices. Find pieces of their journey that can help you become successful women in business in your own industry.