"Even though I have authority to make this decision, she jumped right over me to my boss."
Challenges like this generally arise from one of the following: (1) The original decision maker is not trusted, but their boss is, so team members leapfrog; or (2) the decision maker is trusted, but the coworker wants to "shop" for a more favorable answer.
The solution is always the same: The trust in this relationship can't be undermined, e.g. this person's boss should bounce it right back to her team member and emphasize that "shopping" is not tolerated. On the flip side, the employee here must consistently send a message through words and actions that they can be relied upon to make decisions. Then, he or she should take it a step further and ensure that the decision will be honored by other key players. Sometimes, this can be accomplished by simply copying people into an e-mail chain.
It's OK to call out a "shopper" by saying "I see that you reached out to my boss about this request. I just want you to know that he/she/they have given me full authority to address this issue and that I'm happy to do so!"
One aside: Things like this can be symptomatic of serious issues, such as sexism. I once worked with a senior executive that ignored my advice, but then easily accepted the exact same feedback from male attorneys. This kind of situation should be addressed with more gravity, likely through HR.
"Even ordering a cup of coffee here would take five meetings and three layers of approval!"
This is an issue common to large companies, where it is essential to maintain financial and business controls to manage things like fraud on a large-scale. The solution here lies in empowerment. I would bet that most individuals at a company like this are wasting time making decisions that are not in line with their "pay grade." People at lower levels of the management hierarchy should be given the ability to make more meaningful decisions. Approval processes should be replaced by "notice" processes. It's easy to confuse the group of people affected by a decision with the group of people (or person) who should be making the decision. They are not often the same. I also recommend that everyone make an effort to ask: "How does this serve our customer(s)?" It can be easy to create processes that seem important at the time, but create unnecessary delays or problems for customers. Many times, people end up on approval processes because they want to be informed of a decision (but they don't necessarily need to give input).
"Sorry! That person is the worst. But, at least he/she/they are good at their job."
Here is a short answer: "No, they are not." If an employee is "good at their job," but rude, abrasive, upsetting or worse to their coworkers, I would argue that they are not actually good at all. Part of almost any job entails playing well with others.
The solution here has to do with focus: shift it away from the problematic employee and onto the people who manage, supervise or otherwise have oversight with regard to the problematic employee. When a truly problematic employee is allowed to persist at a company, it doesn't just tell you about that person - it tells you something meaningful about everyone at the company that enables their continued employment. Scrutinizing these other people and their attitudes will often inform the next step, whether that is reaching out to HR, confronting the problematic employee directly, or otherwise.
"Why am I just hearing about this now?"
Poor communication is a challenge that can exist not just between individuals, but also between departments, functions or third parties (like vendors or customers). Although it can be tempting to react by copying everyone and their brother into every single e-mail, that often swings the pendulum too far in the other direction - the epitome of "this meeting should have been an e-mail" culture.
Instead, I recommend thinking of the following: (a) what information is most valuable to me to do my job? (b) who owns or creates that information? and (c) how am I currently obtaining this information? Then, the goal should be to work with others at the company to make the flow of this information completely automatic. Instead of waiting on a set of e-mails, can everyone reference a single dashboard on the company intranet? Can certain documents be automatically generated and distributed? Another helpful guide: There should only be one owner for generation of data (at the department or individual level) and this owner should be fully responsible for distributing it to everyone else. The owner should also be the only one making changes.
"I spend more time tracking metrics about doing my job than doing my actual job."
A somewhat cynical approach to this divides positions into two types: (1) Those where the employees work to benefit a cause, industry or customer need; and (2) Those where employees work to stay employed.
The collection of an undue number of metrics can often indicate that a company falls into the second category. Metrics should have a means to an end, as a way to gather information in order to make improvements. Metrics that are used to garner competitiveness within an organization or for other divisive reasons are always a bad idea. Metrics that are collected for a long time, but not acted upon by management, are wasting valuable time. Even worse, in the era of GDPR and more robust privacy practices, metrics can even present risk for your company.
At the individual level, there is nothing wrong with going to your manager and saying "Tracking these data points is becoming burdensome and interfering with the parts of my job that I enjoy the most - can we track on a yearly basis instead?" At the department level, I again recommend that each metric be held to the standard of "How is this benefiting our customers?" It is easy to justify metrics, because they almost always can be characterized to benefit the company. However, many will not pass a higher level of scrutiny about how they benefit the customers.
Somewhere between 7-8% of the Fortune 500 companies are led by women. No matter how many "Girl Boss" coffee mugs you buy, or how many "Empowered Women Empower Women" posters you hang in your office, the fact remains that a great deal of our economy is directed by men. So, when you beautiful ladies have the opportunity to walk into a Board Room - to request funding for your start-up, to pitch your product, to discuss your leadership of the company Sales Team - you need to recognize that this opportunity is about more than just "you." You very well may be setting the tone for how a room full of comparatively powerful men view women in leadership. Here are few things you should understand before you enter this space:
Composition of the Board
Before you walk into the room, you should know the names and backgrounds of each of the Board Members that you will be speaking to or otherwise interacting with. At a minimum, you should be familiar with the entity represented by that individual, e.g. Is this person the founder? Are they with the Venture Capital firm that contributed to the last round of funding? It takes only a moment to Google someone, and this may reveal an item over which you can bond if there a need to relieve tension, e.g. you both attended the same high school or root for the Tigers. Beyond these basic facts, you should try to understand in advance what each of these individuals want. Is the founder a grandfatherly type that just wants an exit so that he can spend time with family in Arizona? Are the Venture Capital guys stressing out because they've been holding onto your company for more than five years and there is still no prospect for either a profitable sale or IPO?
A Balance Sheet
Even if your job is to create splashy graphics for a new marketing campaign, you should understand how profit and loss are determined, what "EBIDTA" means, and whether the company is making its "plan" and what that "plan" is. I truly believe that everyone would benefit from taking at least one "Accounting For Business" course, even if it is a freebie you found online. Many people lack basic financial literacy for their own personal finances, and even more have little understanding of how the companies they work for actually make money.
The Company Website & Social Media
This may seem like a joke, but it isn't! In my role at work, it was easy to be focused only on what was happening in my little corner of the universe, and remain oblivious to other parts of the company. If it has been a while since you just read through the Company Website like you were preparing to interview, take the time to do that! You may realize that you overlooked an important new product launch or project. Make sure that you can answer questions like, "What is the company's most profitable product line?" or "What product is the Sales Team pushing right now?"
Some Board Rooms are very formal, others (particularly non-profit) are a bit more laid back. Some Board Meetings are followed by lengthy dinners at five star restaurants. Some take place in the morning over Tim Horton's coffee and danishes. Board Meetings can be lengthy, so it is usually best to err on the side of both comfort and formality. I used to wear trousers (with a bit of give in the waistband) with a blouse, blazer and simple jewelry for most of the Board Meetings I attended, and I never felt out of place.
A Basic Understanding Of Risk
The job of a Board Member is not to run the business or non-profit. This is common misconception. Most Boards give a lot of latitude and freedom to the Executive Director or President/CEO to manage affairs. I feel like a better characterization of a functioning Board is to act as a lookout. If the CEO is the captain, you're the person at the top of the mast looking out for icebergs. You should have at least a rudimentary idea about the kinds of risks that Board members are most likely to raise concerns about: too many competitors or too much debt, security or fraud, insufficient cash flow to get through a challenging economic time (hello "2020" nice to see you could join us), regulatory risk, such as new privacy regulations or OSHA guidelines, or any risk that could put a halt to your operations (e.g. flooding or widespread power outages.) Managing all of these risks is probably not your job, but you should know that these are the kinds of things that keep Board members up at night.
The Only Constant
After two decades of That Corporate Life, I think I've seen just about every kind of change that can occur within a company. Here is a short list: changing and consolidating buildings and locations; hiring sprees; massive layoffs; going through rounds of funding; going public; changing leadership at the Board Level; changing leadership at the Executive and Management Levels; buying other companies; being bought by other companies...it's been busy! Then, there are the personal changes that you carry within you into your workplace: breakups of romantic and platonic relationships; moving to a new home; pregnancy and having children; elder care and the loss of dear friends and family members...it's been busy, and sometimes overwhelming. Here are things I've learned about navigating through periods of significant change:
It's all a Wave
The most challenging changes are usually those that are unexpected or unwanted: the massive layoff, a loved one's illness, a restructuring that changes job duties in an undesired way, etc...Although none of us would ever say out loud that we expect to go through life without any major challenges, a lot of us react with heavy resistance when those challenges show up. In those instances, I find that it is important to greet the change as though you are standing on the beach awaiting the arrival of a huge wave. You know the wave is coming, and you know that it can't be avoided. All you can do is accept that it will hit, it will probably be a bit unpleasant when it does, but the hit will be followed by a period of respite as it recedes.
Look Through The Wave
Challenging days or weeks do not usually become challenging months or years without your participation. E.g. Let's say your company has recently been acquired, resulting in the departure of many of your favorite coworkers. It would be normal in this kind of circumstance to greet the experience with more than a little fear, resentment, gossip and snippy IM exchanges. But by acting from these emotions, you end up forgoing what little control you have in a situation like this.
Acting from negative emotions reinforces the idea that this change is something "bad" that "happened to you." Few experiences in life are that black and white, so they should all be treated accordingly. Instead, try to envision a good result on the other side of the wave. Are there opportunities to advance? Have you met someone at the new company that could help you learn the ropes? Is this the "final straw" you needed to find motivation to start your own business, or go back to nursing school? Does this fuel you to advance, so that you can be the kind of leader to handle things differently?
Watch Your Whine
It can be very tempting to commiserate with others when your company is going through a lot of change. While a little of this can actually be a good thing, it is easy to fall into a trap of reinforcing each other's negativity. What people *really* need in periods of significant change is vision, support and optimism. Consider whether you can be a non-cloying voice of optimism for your colleagues. Consider phrases like "This is an overwhelming period of time for a lot of people, but it should level off after the end of the quarter," or "This seems insurmountable, but we've overcome similar challenges in the past," or "I can see that you guys are burning out, so I'm working with HR to grant everyone an extra personal day." Emotions and energy are contagious.
Ask For Help
Especially when going through a period of time where the workload is greatly increased, it can be hard to step back and say "Woah, I am not thriving here. I need support." The best way to make a request like this to your manager is to (a) quantify the burden; and (b) have a few options available. If your manager really understands the burden, it can help her if she needs to "make your case" to HR or other team members. E.g. If you took on a new Sales Territory and it doubled your work, it's easy to see the challenge. Quantifying the burden also helps buffer against any perception that your stress or burnout is a personal weakness. By quantifying, I don't mean to imply that you must have a number, only that you must be able to define the source of your stress in an articulate (and ideally, impartial) manner. Be creative when it comes to options. Although it is easy to say, "I just need a week off," your problems may be there when you return, making this relief short-lived. Maybe what you really need is more administrative support, to shed a time-consuming but unproductive regular meeting or project, or to build more breaks into your daily schedule.
Actively Manage Your Stress Level
The key word here is "actively." This means that you should make an effort, preferably, every day, to minimize your stress level, ideally in a healthy way. We all instinctively know what makes us feel better about our lives. For me, it's getting outside, doing yin yoga in front of the fireplace, calling someone I love, meeting a friend for coffee, taking a hike in the forest, swimming, and creating screenplays, paintings and illustrations. Some of the things I do to minimize stress are even smaller, like replacing caffeine from coffee with green tea and getting to bed a few minutes earlier. Consider setting alarms and reminders throughout your day to ensure that you are coming up for air. This is not a drill. I once worked with a wonderful man who had a heart attack at work during a period of extreme workplace change.
Remember That It is OK To Be Human
As I write this, I'm up to my ears training for a new role I "inherited" after my company was acquired. Our companies were fully integrated about a week ago. This means that one week ago, I could practically do my job with my eyes closed - the processes, people, forms, and tools were familiar and comfortable. Today, I am relearning even the most basic functions of my job, like how to edit a contract in new software.
I have had ALL the feelings about this, especially since this change comes less than 2 months after the death of my Dad, who was not only a wonderful father but also my #1 career adviser! Every time I feel disheartened, I just remind myself that I'm not a cyborg, but a human being and that my emotions are valid. You can be frustrated, sad, scared, or even heartbroken and still be a wonderful leader, coworker and employee. Practice phrases like, "I'm struggling with this, but maybe it will be easier after a decent night's sleep," or "It's alright that the meeting didn't go very well, I'm having a day where I'm feeling really sad. One bad meeting doesn't have to ruin our project."
Remember That Everyone Else Is Human Too
I've worked with a CEO who struggled with a drinking problem, a CFO whose marriage was falling apart, an Executive who was having a workplace affair, countless leaders who were balancing their job with elder care and the loss of parents. One of my favorite coworkers spent six months of weekends fixing up her departed mother-in-law's house for sale. Dozens of coworkers have balanced child-care responsibilities and children's school and sport schedules with full time jobs. Many coworkers have managed a serious illness while I worked with them.
A coworker once expressed to me that she though our CEO was stand-offish, but when I had chatted with him at company parties, he was a doting and concerned father, just hoping to point his children into the right direction, all while managing a travel schedule that would rival any working flight attendant and a demanding workload. From top to bottom, trust that the people around you know what it means to struggle with change at work. Most of them would love to help you and guide you, even the ones that may seem "stand-offish." You may be surprised if you walk into a leader's office and just say, "I'm not handling this change very well and I'm struggling with solutions. Can I have your advice?"
Freshen Up Your Workspace
I'm a huge proponent of the idea that your physical environment is a manifestation of your inner life. If you have had a huge change at the workplace, it can be really helpful to have a spring cleaning of your work environment. It can help a lot to give yourself a physical fresh start even if you are still struggling to give yourself an emotional fresh start. Sometimes even something as simple as a new notebook or coffee cup can give you a much needed boost of enthusiasm, focus and drive.
Women have a long history of successful negotiations.
Women have used their powers of persuasion, collaboration and vision to accomplish amazing feats. Think of any feminist icon, and you'll likely find an individual who relied on good negotiation skills to tackle difficult challenges. Still, over my career, I've found that many women are insecure about their ability to negotiate with others, especially under difficult circumstances or when the stakes are high. When I have coffee with my friends and discuss their small businesses, this is the advice that I find myself giving over and over again.
Define the Ideal Outcome
This is the same principal that athletes use to win games: Picture the ideal outcome before you start. This is an important step because it will help you to gauge what is really valuable and what you can do without. For example, if you are entering a negotiation with a key customer, the ideal outcome may involve a long term commitment to your products or services or resolution of a dispute without losing that customer's business. Always know what you are aiming for before you start negotiating. This is important because without defining your goal, it's easy to get mired down in details.
Think of tough negotiations like getting pulled over at 4 AM. Talking too much is going to get you into trouble. Yet, so many women feel the need to explain their positions. This can be really common for female solo-preneurs and small business owners, where the business is so personal for them. Things that are usually no one's business in a negotiation (except yours): Your fear about your business's reputation, your fear that you don't have the personnel, money or time to meet someone's demands on your business, your anger about a request, your sadness about a request, your competitor's approach to handling a problem, your business's financial standing, your present workload, etc...
Contrary to popular belief, not every position during a negotiation needs to be well supported and communicated to the other side. Often, this just allows the other party to pick apart your positions, one by one. Don't take the bait! State your position, succinctly and clearly, and resist when the other party questions "that one word" or "that one e-mail" or "that one exception." Keep coming back to your primary position like a Mom sidestepping her kids' attempts to eat candy for dinner.
Take Your Time
There are many tactics oriented toward accelerating negotiations, especially if someone is trying to get you to purchase something. Remember, if you feel overwhelmed or want a second opinion, don't hesitate to punt. There is nothing wrong with buying yourself time. Even at senior levels of a business, it's not uncommon to ask for extra time to discuss a point internally or spend more time with a document. It doesn't make you look unprepared or uninformed to ask for more time. When you feel pressure, ask yourself and the other party if there is a material reason that the matter must be concluded that very instant. If not, take a day to sleep on it or discuss it with a friend or counselor.
It can be easy during tough negotiations to fall into the temptation of "good vs. bad" or "us vs. them." Try to avoid doing that. Everyone you negotiate with comes with their own unique set of needs and insecurities and issues. I've been absolutely dressed down for taking tough positions and refusing to cave in, but you just have to shrug and accept that many people have never been very good at hearing "no" for an answer. It isn't personal, as long as you've been respectful. When people realize that they are not going to get something they want, they can become irritated, spiteful and aggressive.
Be prepared for that aggression with a simple response, like "I realize that you were hoping for a different answer, and recognize that must be frustrating for you, but please know that I am unable to agree to your request." Resist the urge to say "at this time." It's one of those phrases that people will latch onto! So...if not at this time, what time would work? What has to change for you to give me what I want? Resist the temptation to "soften" a refusal or hard stance.
Always, Always, Always Say "Thank You."
It can be really tempting after a tough negotiation to just walk out of the room or slam the phone down, sighing "I'm glad that's over!" Still, I can't tell you how many relationships have been salvaged by the simple act of saying, "I realize this has been a challenging discussion and that we covered a lot of points. I really want to say 'Thank You' for taking the time to speak with me today." Many negotiations are uncomfortable and if there is anything we all know about human beings, it's that they really don't like to be uncomfortable. Just acknowledging that can de-fang even the most difficult negotiation partners.
Always, Always, Always Express Optimism
This is a useful tool whenever things appear to be going South. It can be very powerful to say, "I'm confident that we'll reach agreement on this." After all, you probably will! In all of my negotiations (thousands of them), I've had very few deals ever "hit the floor" over a genuine impasse. In negotiations as in life, when you expect the best, you often receive it.
What decades in offices and board rooms has taught me about fostering women in the workplace
The CEO of my very first "real" employer was my friend Jenny's grandfather. The CEO of my next "real" job was a JD/Ph.D., who had me work at his kitchen table with his cat. The CEO of my next job was a beloved British entrepreneur with a twinkle in his eye, who treated me like I was his smart granddaughter and probably called me "honey" a dozen of times. The next job I worked at was at a huge company, but the General Counsel was a well-spoken, amiable British gentleman. The next job I worked at was a scrappy re-incarnation of a 40 year old software company, led by another man, this time a visionary, tenacious Minnesota native with energy and optimism to spare.
I've been working through at least two decades and while I have encountered many female leaders, I have not yet worked for a company helmed or owned outright by a woman, not even when I had my own Consulting Firm and took on private clients.
Does this cause me anguish? No. My own mother openly admitted that having a career was not much of an option for her and her friends, who were all ardently expected to be married by the age of 21. I feel extremely lucky for the benefit of the few extra decades that allowed me to have an education and career. I've spent many years supporting HR functions at companies as well, and feel fortunate for the opportunities that I've found. It is clear to me that many working women never fully realize their potential. If I could wave a magic wand, knowing everything I know now, this is what I would put in place at every employer for which it would be realistic:
Treat Employees Like Adults
People often equate control with leadership, but they are not the same thing. As a leader within your organization, you should feel confident that you hired good people. If you hired good people, you shouldn't have to baby-sit them (except for the most entry-level roles). If people need an hour off or the flexibility to work at home because the plumber is coming, or because they need to pick up their child from day camp, they should be able to simply tell you about it, not ask for your permission. You should be able to trust your employees to check their schedule and ensure that any important matters are taken care of. If you don't have this trust over your employees, well, maybe you shouldn't be hiring people.
Strong Paternity Coverage
When I had my son, I was in labor for 19 hours and ended up electing for a C-section in the 11th hour. It was such a physically grueling process, I didn't recover enough to move around easily until about six months later. During this time, I was so lucky to have a dedicated and involved partner, who allowed me the time and space to heal. The only problem? He had no paid leave. Many families now do not have the benefit of grandparents or family close by, or the financial means to pay for assistance or child care. Many couples rely heavily on each other for most parental duties. By empowering men and treating them like equals under parental leave policies, you enable them to better support your female employees.
Natural Placement of Women on the Executive Leadership Team
Here is a clue: If anyone on the Board or Executive Team has made any statement to the following effect, your company is probably not succeeding here: "We really need to put a woman in this position." I'm unimpressed with the "token" woman approach. It's like watching a movie where the only minority character is a goofy best friend - you know you're not seeing real inclusion, just a halfhearted attempt to tick a diversity box. This is a subtle point because it speaks to the very heart of company culture. Women should seamlessly fit into Executive Leadership (and NOT just as the Marketing Team or HR Lead). When I look at an Executive Team and see only men (or all men and one "token" woman), I already know that I'm not at a woman-forward company. The next place I look? The roster of speakers at the Annual Sales Meeting/Kick-off. Most large companies have an event like this each year. If the overwhelming number of speakers are men, I definitely have concerns about equity within an organization. No number of "celebrating women in the workplace" Zoom calls can compensate when women's voices are not heard at the highest level of the company.
Reserved Parking for Pregnant Women
It is simply considerate to show support for the physical demands on those of us who carry children. It shouldn't be much trouble to negotiate for extra parking space in a commercial lease if necessary. In parts of the country where parking comes with a lot of restraints, it might be nice to offer some kind of voucher instead.
Expanded Parental Leave Policies
New Zealand recently passed legislation directed at allowing parental leave policies to cover those families that have experienced a loss of pregnancy. Only when women's experiences are shared can leaders in the workplace understand that this may be a circumstance where someone may not feel comfortable pursuing bereavement leave or perhaps taking any leave at all. Many companies have expanded their parental leave to six months or a year. These policies have often fallen short for many women and deserve to be viewed with a critical lens for all areas of improvement, especially now that most companies are global. I was once pregnant the same year as my boss in the UK. I received 8 weeks of leave, she received a full year of protected employment (at least 6 months of which were fully paid.) Now that it is so easy to compare notes across borders, employers should be sensitive to these discrepancies.
I once took a year and a half off to move across the country and start my own consulting firm. My adventures were cut short due to personal circumstances. When I decided to interview for jobs closer to my family, I discovered that every single interviewer was focused on this "gap" and wanted to hear my explanation. Many women have such gaps, most often because of child-rearing and care-taking for relatives. During the pandemic, record numbers of women were forced out of the workforce for these very reasons. As employers, we all need to stop emphasizing women's departures from the workforce or viewing them as times where skills atrophy. In fact, we should champion programs that help women re-enter the workforce as valued employees.
Minimize Invasive Technology Oversight
There is always an onslaught of software oriented toward measuring productivity. I feel confident that 99% of it misunderstands what productivity even is, or views it through a biased lens. Many women need to flexibility to use a company-issued laptop to check on child's homework assignment schedule, buy a different child a pair of new socks, schedule a wellness check up for their elderly parent, respond to a customer's inquiry, review a corporate document and prepare a report for their co-worker - all within the same hour! Employers should focus on outcomes, period.
Adjust Performance Review Criteria and Processes
As noted above, so many women have been adversely affected by this pandemic, both personally and professionally. So, why have so few entities formally adjusted their expectations? Schools continued with standardized testing, with little regard to the difficulties of online education. Workplaces still went through standard performance review processes. Especially when the responsibilities of childcare, elder care and housekeeping fall disproportionately on women, for several years after the pandemic, conscientious employers should take care to adjust expectations.
Mental Health Support
The responsibilities mentioned above fall on the shoulders of high functioning female employees as well as entry-level. Especially for those women who are the "token" female executives, the pressure can be extremely high and take place in an environment where colleagues may offer little understanding. During my entire career, one of the most frequent complaints that I have heard from female colleagues is that their male boss's expectations are shaped by the fact that he has a stay-at-home-wife handling the messy details of life, whereas these female colleagues were knee keep in the details of their own.
I have a friend who lives in a million dollar home (I realize that in some parts of the country, a million dollars will get you a leaky studio above a nail salon, but here in the Midwest, this is impressive real estate), as her and her husband both have great jobs - and she still frets over what to make for dinner, how to keep up with laundry, etc...For men, as their professional success increases, their responsibilities at home often seem to decrease. For the women I know, this has rarely been the case.
In addition, when you are one of the few (or the only) woman in leadership, you can feel a lot of pressure to not "show any cracks in the armor." I've experienced that myself. All of this puts women at high risk of burn-out and makes it imperative for employers to have good mental health support available for employees who need it.
The events of the last few years have been exceedingly challenging, especially for women of color. As managers and leaders, we must check in with our teams, and make it clear that we care about more than just ensuring that work is being completed on time. If we don't show genuine care for our employees, what gives us the right to ask them to show genuine care for the company, their tasks and projects, or our collective success? Some people - especially men - may have evolved in a culture where it seems "soft" to really ask how people are doing, personally and professionally. Still, for many women, this is exactly the kind of thing that makes a huge difference.
Creating a Life Mission Statement
I was on mandatory bed rest with minor PTSD when I finally decided to write a Life Mission Statement. It ended up being four words.
My mind didn't take to bed rest with the same enthusiasm as my body. I had terrible cabin fever. I missed my job, however chaotic. Reality started to take on a strange, detached element, as though I had woken up in someone else's life. I woke up at night and decided to walk into the kitchen. The entire process of going from my bedroom to the kitchen took about an hour, and I crawled for a portion of it because my back hurt so much. I put my head down on the cold granite countertop and stared around the room and out the window. I couldn't remember why I chose that light fixture, or that couch, or those tiles, or that color for the cabinets. I couldn't remember that last time I had paused to look at the moon and was startled by how bright it was.
The next day, I woke up and wrote only four words:
Love. Passion. Generosity. Creativity.
I vowed right then and there to make only choices that aligned with these four words. Over the last several weeks, I had been plagued by one recurring thought: I had been working so hard for such a long time and I was the only one benefiting from that fact. I had let my career become the end, instead of simply a means to it.
Slowly, I started to heal and gain enthusiasm for regaining some of my previous routines. I was especially excited to retain my routines in order to dismantle them forever. Soon after my recovery, I moved across the country, started my own consulting firm, and rekindled a love for art and writing fiction. Many years later, I look back on this period of time as one of my greatest periods of personal growth.
How PTSD Helped Me Discover My Purpose
It strengthens the power of mental imagery.
In its most unpleasant forms, this mental imagery comes as terrifying nightmares, vivid flashbacks, and reliving painful events. The last form is worth focusing on for a moment. To relive an event is to have harnessed the powers of your mind to not just remember what happened, but to experience it as though it is completely present and real.
Even years later, I still struggle with this a little bit. Almost every single time I come to a hard stop in my car, I can hear, see and even smell another car slamming into the back of it. This is an important distinction about the mental imagery related to PTSD – it can manifest at any time, including during the day. For most of us, we may casually recall things or informally focus on future events, but we don’t necessarily live them as though they are real. Our dreams may seem real, but we don’t experience them just sitting at our desk in the afternoon.
Over time and with an extraordinary amount of focus and patience, I learned to capture this sensation a bit and focus it into a positive place. Instead of approaching my nightmares from a place of anxiety and avoidance, I started to approach them from a place of respect and curiosity. Instead of praying every night that I wouldn’t greet my alarm clock at three in the morning, drenched in sweat and shaking like a leaf, I started to devote my focus to trying to remember all of my dreams, in the vivid detail in which they were offered, and I would ask my subconscious: “What are you trying to show me?” I slowly found that my mind transitioned from harrowing nightmares to meaningful discussions with deceased loved ones and inspired visions for the future.
It creates dissociation from reality.
A common symptom of PTSD is the sensation of being disconnected from your career, friends, family and former interests. I still remember returning to work after the trauma, and how surreal it felt. I can best describe it as being an alien in your own body, witnessing even the most mundane activities as completely novel and fascinating. This kind of dissociation can certainly fracture families and foster alienation and depression if left unaddressed. However, it can also un-link you from the negative emotions and relationship patterns that existed before the trauma.
After having the kind of thoughts that follow trauma ("Am I going to be in physical pain for the rest of my life? Why did this happen to me?”), the cursory small-talk that people engage in seems out-of-place. I was only asking big questions, so suddenly things like a coworker’s stressed out rant about a difficult supplier, or a car cutting me off in traffic, had no meaning. Dissociation removes your emotional connection from things and people and allows you to view them for the first time, in a completely neutral way, and awaken to the possibilities.
It can make you question your existence.
Once you’ve had a meaningful brush with your own mortality, it is not the kind of experience that you can quickly shake. I went through a significant period of deep paranoia and soul searching. While working with my therapist, Pat, she once said to me “It’s like you don’t feel you have a right to be here,” “here” being the Earth. “Here” being Existence. Her words struck a deep chord.
Learning to say to myself and others, through my thoughts, beliefs and actions, that I deserve to be here, was a profound act of self-affirmation. I had never been overly concerned with other people’s opinions, but before the trauma, I had a serious tendency toward perfectionism and a not-inconsequential fear of failure. After learning to stand strong in the truth that I deserved to be here, I found myself filled with considerable forgiveness for my own flaws. I didn’t have to earn my right to be on the Earth, and I wasn’t valuable only so long as I was contributing to a relationship, family, group, workplace or community.
It forces you to harness your inner strength.
I reminded myself every single day that PTSD was not my brain and mind betraying me, but rather trying to help me. The brain changes in response to trauma. Remember those vintage commercials that would say “This is your brain,” while holding up an egg. Then, the egg would splatter in a frying pan, and the voice over would say “This is your brain on drugs. Any questions?”
We all like to think of our brains as being very static, but, our brains adapt to environmental stimuli all the time, and are much more dynamic than we give them credit for. Those who suffer PTSD may demonstrate a reduction in gray matter in the parts of the brain associated with survival. Trauma does not harm the brain, it puts it under new management. This management is no longer concerned with studying for finals, but on securing basic needs. Basically, this is a pretty stressed out, hyper-vigilant version of your brain. This version of your brain is not interested in connecting with friends over tapas and Netflix. No, this version of your brain is scanning the room for additional threats to your well-being as if it were a T1000 cyborg.
It’s pretty hard for people who don’t have these kinds of challenges to just chill out, so you can imagine the uphill battle PTSD sufferers undergo to just relax. I once checked my horoscope for four straight hours because I was desperate for proof that I would wake up the next day. This is the kind of stress response that takes a little bit more than green tea and a few sun salutations.
The toolkit you develop to conquer that kind of anxiety is not for amateurs: It requires a careful curation of every single aspect of your life until your overwrought PTSD brain finally learns to look around and say “Woah. I’m safe…and I kind of like it here.” My life became simple. Many years later, my life is still simple and my levels of anxiety are low.
It highlights the differences between the terrible events in your mind and the actual events in reality.
Before the trauma, I worried about all of the typical things that people in their twenties and thirties worry about, but I can say with absolute honesty, that I never once worried about either being in a car accident, having internal bleeding, or losing feeling in my legs for six months. Acknowledging this disconnect forever changed my relationship with worry; forever diminished its power.
It also brought about an intense sense of utter humility. Never had I truly pondered how much of my life – of everyone’s life – rested on the benefit of favorable circumstances. My gratitude for simply being alive and simply having an opportunity to regain health was overwhelming. Knowing that your fate has rested on a stranger’s car being several additional feet away, or the fact that the emergency room was five miles away instead of twenty will make you understand gratitude in a completely new way.
It changes your relationship with time.
People talk a lot about how “time slowed down” when an important event happened. Reliving events makes it feel like they are happening “this instant” instead of in the past. I found that I spent a lot of time simply looking through my physical pain and anxiety by focusing on the future. When I was on bed rest, I would have entire conversations with children I didn’t have yet, partially out of boredom and partially to stay connected to a vision of a life after recovering.
Since then, I have simply lost my belief in time. Sure, I allow it to have a minor role in my life, so that I can drop my son off at school before classes begin or make it to important work functions. I also honor the abstract nature of time, in the sense that if enough of it passes, even our sun will cease to exist in its current form.
Still, during that time of recovery, my discussions with people from the future and dreams of people from the past remained as real to me as anything else. I’ve often said since then that the people you love are always every age at which you ever loved them. I believe that while our bodies may be subject to the laws of time, our souls are not. The part of us that is untouched by our external circumstances has never lost anything, has no idea that it is ever any time other than now.
I know that especially after the pandemic, racial tensions and political unrest of the last few years, I am far from alone in having suffered trauma. If you are someone who has struggled with anxiety or trauma, I hope that this helps you feel less alone and more optimistic about the future. There are many resources for those suffering from mental health issues, but I would start here: National Alliance on Mental Illness.
Relatively early in my career, I read somewhere that a great deal of the wage gap between men and women could be explained by the fact that women were much less likely to negotiate their salaries. Taking this information to heart, I've negotiated every single salary I've received since graduating law school. When I did not feel comfortable negotiating the actual salary, I devoted energy toward ensuring additional vacation time, stock options, bonus eligibility, and other benefits.
Still, just because I'm relatively experienced at negotiating salaries does not mean that I ever find the process to be particularly comfortable. In fact, even at this point in my career, I can still find the process to be daunting, intimidating and (depending on how badly the job is needed) a little frightening. Nor can I can pretend that every single one of my negotiations have been successful.
For example, when my son was about four months old, I was desperate to leave a position that was making me unhappy. Luckily, a well established company in the region had recently emerged from bankruptcy protection and was looking for a corporate attorney. I applied, interviewed and received a job offer. The problem? The offer was a pittance. The position involved 50% more hours than I was presently working, but paid barely 5% more than my current salary. The myriad questions during the interview process about "How do you feel about taking calls from us after 8:00 PM at night?" made my qualms even heavier.
As unhappy as I was in the position I had, it was clear that this was an Old Boys Club and frankly, their offer was insulting. I tried to work with what I had. I reviewed the offer and said that I would take it, but that I was surprised at how low it was and would accept only contingent on my ability to work one day a week at home. During this negotiation, I inadvertently let it slip that I had a newborn at home. Instead of accepting my counter-offer, they yanked the entire offer off of the table. It was thinly veiled (if not overt) sex discrimination and I gladly accepted their decision. Good riddance! This isn't the 1800s, and men who are that intimidated by working mothers seeking reasonable flexibility and a justifiable salary don't deserve the talents such women bring to the table.
Contrast this with a different salary negotiation a few years later. I was actually nervous about "throwing out a number" because I wasn't quite sure what the employer could afford to pay. I hedged for a couple of weeks by saying things like "If I'm the right candidate, I'm confident that we can arrive at a mutually agreeable salary." They were clearly in start-up mode and running lean. Still, I didn't want to low-ball my own salary! When I finally gave them a number, it was greeted with a solid "Yes" (from an amazing female executive) along with "The next time someone asks you for a salary, you should say 'This is my number, and I'll earn every goddamn penny of it.'"
Here are my tips for negotiating a salary:
Tips For Establishing Material Worth
Understand the Landscape
There are plenty of amazing resources that you can rely on to determine the scope of your position’s ideal salary range, including the following: Salary.com, Glassdoor.com, Payscale.com, (discreet) discussions with other employees at your company (either current or former), discussions with those who hold equivalent positions at other employers at industry networking events, government informational sites such as the Bureau of Labor Statistics (www.bls.gov), and comparable job postings, such as those on Linkedin.com, Ladders.com or Indeed.com that include salary information. Through these methods, you should be able to determine an acceptable salary range for your position.
If you find that you consistently come in on the lowest end of the salary range (or worse, under the range) you should determine whether there are mitigating factors driving that trend. Examples of mitigating factors include the following: (a) you have chosen to work at a start-up, and anticipate that your salary will grow in a manner somewhat commensurate with the growth of the company (or perhaps, your compensation is disproportionately made up of things like vacation time and stock options, in lieu of higher salary); or (b) you are simply inexperienced and unable to yet command the highest salary for your position. These are acceptable reasons to be on the low end of the salary range.
After several years at a job, you are no longer “entry-level,” and your pay should be adjusted accordingly to reflect your experience and successes. Be wary the minute you realize that you are on the low end of a salary range. While it may represent something simple (e.g. inexperience), it could also represent something insidious (e.g. sexism). The key is to evaluate the trend over time in terms of degree (e.g. just how far under that range are you, woman?) and amelioration (e.g. have you and your colleagues been regularly rewarded with raises or bonuses?)
Pay Attention to Attrition
One significant workplace trend to pay close attention to is that of attrition, specifically what your employer does to prevent it (or not). I can think of several employers locally with a reputation for offering lucrative positions to junior employees, only to burn them out with overwhelming workloads, excessive hours, and unrelenting pressure to meet unrealistic goals. While these employees make decent money to start, the pace is not sustainable, so few obtain advancement within the company’s ranks. If you look around and notice that there is massive attrition among your ranks, this is a sign that advancement will likely be quite hard to come by. If you find that your efforts to “arrive early and stay late,” or otherwise excel are not greeted with enthusiasm by your superiors, you are likely in one of these dead-end positions. Staying there too long will certainly harm your chances to command a higher salary in your field.
Keep An Ear To The Ground
Consider the rumor mill. I would never encourage harmful gossip, but certainly that doesn’t mean that you should ignore rumors of pay inequity. If you hear that someone in a position equivalent (or perhaps, junior) to your own received a generous raise or promotion that dwarfs your current salary, this is certainly noteworthy. Either their increase was substantial, in which case, you should consider whether your performance also justifies such an increase; or their base salary was considerably higher to begin with.
Establish A Relationship With A Recruiter
If appropriate, reach out to a recruiter. I have a recruiter that I’ve formed a nice relationship with over the years, and I wouldn’t hesitate to engage him in a discussion about salary if needed. A great way to bond with a recruiter if you are not actually hired through one is to simply give referrals and recommendations. Recruiters devote considerable time to discussions with potential employers, as well as candidates, and often have their finger on the pulse of how people are paid within certain localities. It is not a faux pas to inquire generally about the recruiter’s success with equivalent positions in the recent past, such as the types of compensation packages that were approved and how they were justified. If you speak to recruiters in your area and find that equivalently positioned employees at either your employer or comparable ones in your area have been granting compensation packages in excess of the one your currently have, you may need to consider campaigning for a salary correction or raise.
Note Relationships Between Company Performance and Your Pay
Note disconnections between your company’s performance and your salary. If your company has been growing gangbusters for the last three years, but you haven’t seen a single increase to your salary, you could possibly be underpaid for your position. During periods of growth, employees often experience “seep” of job duties, meaning that the employees take on additional duties just because things need to be done, not necessarily in relation to an increase in position or fancier job title. After a couple of years of “seep,” the position you are in could be a far cry (and much more complex) than the one you were in at your date of hire (i.e. the day your base salary was determined). In addition, when companies are growing, they may feel that they can offer more competitive salaries to new employees. This is fantastic, as long as they also work to ensure competitive salaries for those employees that have been with the company for a long time, and likely joined at a time when such packages were unavailable. You may need to have a substantial raise to make up for the fact that you started at a lower salary than people newly hired into a more profitable environment.
Personally, I believe that seeping of job duties is one of the most common reasons that women remain underpaid in the workforce. As women, many of us are conditioned to be "helpers" and we often allow ourselves to be taken advantage of over time by permitting an increase of responsibility without a correlating increase in pay.
Formal Performance Appraisals
If you have not had a formal performance evaluation in some time, you may want to push for one. Most companies tie pay increases to either personal performance, company performance or a combination of both. If you have not had a formal performance review, this may represent a lagging inclination of the management team to dole out financial rewards for your achievements. Taking an assertive step to request such a meeting generally sends a clear message that you care about how your performance is viewed, and that you are paying attention to your compensation level.
If you did not negotiate your salary upon hire, chances are that your base pay is lower than it needs to be, and you should consider whether your raises have properly compensated for the difference. Sometimes, the simple reason that we do not command a higher salary is that we did not ask for one.
Asking for a salary increase should be relatively straightforward. Don't plan a monologue. Chances are that your immediate supervisor is going to have to make the case for increasing your salary to others on the executive team, such as the CFO or Controller. Salary increases don't exist in a vacuum. Salaries are often behind only rent in terms of company expenses, so leadership watches these carefully. Keep this in mind as you craft your approach: "What quick bullet points can I provide my boss so that she can make a strong case for increasing my salary to someone else?" It is not uncommon for people to think that asking their boss in the end of this process, when in reality it is often the beginning.
It should be obvious that objective, measurable bullet points make a strong and quick case for increase. The easiest salary negotiations contain language like this: "My efforts have led to a thirty percent decrease in the processing time for customer service requests, which translates into happier customers and greases the wheels for more sales." The worst salary negotiations contain no objective support, and rest on something like "I haven't had an increase since I started working here two years ago." Unless the original salary was way off base, the latter approach will likely be greeted with "Well, what have you done in the last two years to merit an adjustment?"
I do not have to accept any external evaluation of my worth that does not resonate with my heart, soul and mind. I do not have to accept any limitations on my ability to create and experience abundance, in all its forms. I have been created with a wholly unique symphony of gifts, experiences, talents, affinities, and interests, and trust Spirit completely to ensure that I receive in turn what I put out into the world. I am willing to let go of any preconceived notions that I may have about how much I should be earning, how often opportunities to increase my abundance arrive in my life, and any other parameters which place limitations on my ability to receive the abundance that Spirit wants to bless me with in this lifetime. I am a grateful recipient of all abundance that comes my way, and humbly remember that the Universe has its own measures of net worth.
Perspective on Major Career Advancements
Genuine Desire to Contribute
Trust that when you expend your efforts out of a genuine desire to help and contribute to a worthy goal, even if done without the expectation or demand for reward, the Universe will find a way to acknowledge your efforts. This will not always take the form of material reward. Sometimes it will be in the form of new experiences or new responsibilities.
Embrace the Menial and Trivial - To A Point
All opportunities that are presented to you, no matter how menial or trivial they may seem to others, provide a place to learn, grow and share your talents and light with the world. There is no duty so modest that it can't be done with an industrious spirit and positive attitude. Many successful women recall learning extremely valuable skills doing "humble" work. For me personally, I've worked dishwasher, waitress, assistant and sketch artist. All of these roles prepared me for the more senior positions I've achieved, especially those that require that I manage or lead other people. Moreover, it instilled a sense of empathy where entitlement could have easily crept in. One note of caution: If you feel trapped in menial and trivial tasks, this may speak to how you view yourself and what you deserve. More specifically, it can speak to a willingness to settle for less because you fear asking for more, from yourself or your life. I never minded these mundane tasks because I always viewed them as temporary stepping stones to better things - and they always were.
Life Can Be Really Good
...But it pays to remind yourself that it may not stay that way forever. The only constant in life is change. A couple of years after I accepted the promotion? We were the top performing stock in our class on our applicable exchange and dropping $10,000 on tickets to events to woo customers. Flash forward and I ended up leaving the company under distressing circumstances - just before it entered sale and bankruptcy.
Many of these changes within our company had little to do with me or my performance. This is why it can be very dangerous to let yourself identify strongly with any definition of success that rests with the outside world or circumstances beyond your reasonable control. I took such pride in my work, I suffered from a profound feeling of loss when everything came crashing down. Since then, I've taken greater care to ensure that my professional identity occupies a smaller component of who I am.
Bank That Bonus
Whether you own your own business or work for someone else, a significant promotion is a wonderful (and often relatively rare) opportunity to make true financial headway toward your dearest dreams, whether owning a home or retiring to a leaky houseboat before you buy your first anti-wrinkle cream. The decisions I made about investing and saving the additional income available to me ended up saving my ass during more challenging times up ahead (i.e. when I cut down my hours to spend time with our children). Your future self might admire your fancy new purse, but she will LOVE a sense of security and freedom even more.
Embrace The Emotions Behind Success
All careers include both successes and failures. When you experience a major success, truly take time to dwell in and on the emotions, thoughts and actions that brought it into your life. Be aware of any feelings of not being worthy or feeling like a "fraud." Ask yourself where these feelings come from. Try to let them go, along with any other thoughts that may lead to you to self-sabotage. Allow yourself to spend time envisioning yourself as a successful person, in whatever form that takes for you. Make sure that this success feels good not because you are "winning" or getting singled out for praise, but because you are moving closer to meaningful goals and dreams. Truly embrace the feeling of success, because there will likely come a time when you will struggle again, and you will want to be able to pull this feeling out of your back pocket.
I'm lucky to do work that can be done remotely. With that said, there is absolutely no replacement for face-to-face interactions. Although I've had periods within my career where I worked remotely more than 50% of the time, I actually appreciate being in the office, especially as a working mother. Frankly, when I'm working at home, I find it challenging to ignore daily household tasks. In addition, there is something about the ritual of getting ready to go to the office that helps to put me into a focused and productive mindset. With all of this said, I'm not going to defend a long commute. They are bad for your health, finances and relationships - period.
I've commuted approximately forty-three miles twice per day since 2003 (when not working remotely.) Since I live in Michigan, weather can often increase my regular two hour commute per day to more like four hours. My longest commutes have been up to six hours per day, or the amount of time you would need to move from Metro-Detroit to somewhere warmer, like Kentucky. I average approximately seven hundred hours of driving in relation to employment each year. I used to brag about being a really good commuter (i.e. it didn't really bother me that much) until I had children. It became challenging to spend the time commuting without feeling that I was "stealing it" from my family. This motivated us to move in the middle of the pandemic! Ironically, I expect to stay on as a fully virtual employee for the indefinite future, so my commute is now the length of a staircase. Go figure! Still...
Here are the ways I've found to turn work-related travel from something onerous to something enjoyable, peaceful and even productive.
I choose to embrace my commute time as my valuable personal time, to ponder, daydream, envision and inspire myself. I have patience with myself and other travelers and forgive them for any errors that they may make, understanding that all of us are in transition between our many roles, duties and obligations. I approach my commute as time for self-care, and fill my space with music, podcasts, books, meditations, visualizations and affirmations that fuel my spirit. I am grateful for this time of transition between the activities to which I devote my energy. I express gratitude for the fact that I have safe forms of transportation available to me; and recall with love those people in the world who lack the means to reach the things and people that they need. I use my commute as an opportunity to refine my sense of patience and consideration; and take chances to offer kindness to my other travelers, whether my “letting someone in” or not rushing through a light or keeping a safe distance from the cars ahead of me.
How to have a better commute
Clean and Organize Your Vehicle
Once I became aware of how much time I truly spent in the car, I took a much more active role in making it a nice place to spend time. I purchased seat organizers, and try to keep a little trash bin to capture errant bottles or wrappers. I also like to keep a few healthy snacks in the car at all times, like a bag of trail mix or high quality protein bars. For the winter, I keep a cozy blanket in the car as well (something that isn't just for coziness, but also for safety.) Now that I shuttle my little man around, I also keep a box of "Car Toys" next to his car seat. Adding a nice, non-toxic scented air freshener can also help to create a more pleasant atmosphere.
Keep A Token Of Peace and Protection Nearby
I always keep a small pewter guardian angel (a gift from my Mom) in my car. Any "lucky charm" will work though, like a piece of rose quartz or coin. The important thing is to have a visual cue in your car to remind you to stay calm and not get too fired up if (when) another driver does something irresponsible or careless.
Avoid Eating Meals In Your Vehicle
Aside from a latte in the cupholder or small snack, I try to avoid eating in the car. It's almost inevitable that meals in the car result in crumbs, stains or even just strong, lingering smells. We rarely have the chance to air our vehicles out or clean them thoroughly, so this one tip goes a long way toward keeping the vehicle as a pleasant and clean environment. Plus, I once had to have my car professionally cleaned after unsuccessfully navigating Thai food en route.
Buy Weathermat Protection
This is not the cheapest tip, but it's a truly useful one. Knowing that you can hose off the residue of your last winter commute or hiking trip actually gives a nice peace of mind. Plus, if you have children in your car, these offer priceless protection against spilled milk or "squeezies."
Avoid Aggressive Music
I happily attended concerts for pretty hard core bands, but that music has no place in my car. Loud, aggressive music tends to inspire me to drive in the same way. I'm not saying that your commute has to turn you into a Jazz fan or worse - your car into an elevator - but consider whether you could arrive at your destination in a better state of mind if you listened to an inspiring podcast or relaxing music.
I often act our entire scenarios in the car, and then commit them to paper or attempt to realize them in real life. There is no better place in the world to practice how you would ask for that raise, better discipline your children, have that difficult chat with your partner, assert yourself in a different career, or win over that amazing client. Vehicles are one of the last vestiges of true privacy in the world. In addition, we all spend most of our time actively "taking in" information, through our laptops, phones, computers, and interactions. Vehicles allow us to be truly passive and process that information free from common distractions.
Fight The Urge For Distraction
It's unrealistic to think that people will avoid playing music, maps/navigation aids or videos on their phones during a long commute, but it's best to avoid anything that requires active participation. There is a big difference between playing a Spotify playlist and texting or playing games. It's alright to be bored or listless during a long drive. There can actually be a lot of value derived from paying attention to where your mind travels when you in that kind of state.
Everyone has made mistakes at work. The only variation is in size and severity. I've managed to create a fairly decent highlight reel of mistakes over the years. I've fired off a highly confidential e-mail to the wrong customer, completely overlooked meetings in a flurry of activity, overlooked significant legal risks until moments before an important contract was inked, and even uploaded my personal vacation photos to the company intranet by accident.
If you read this list, you would probably assume that I was flighty, unorganized, flippant or negligent. Nothing could be farther from the truth. However, I am - just as everyone else is - a human being and prone to be utterly fallible, especially when overburdened, short of sleep or steeped in a stressful or chaotic environment.
Even top performing executives give speeches that fall flat, lead sales teams that end the year hopelessly short of their goals, or under-deliver on products that they over-promised on. One senior executive I worked with once said something that stayed with me. After a rough quarter, he told a story about an athletic coach who approached him after he had followed up an amazing victory with a crushing defeat. The coach advised him: "You're probably not as good as you thought you were last week. But you're probably not as bad as you feel right now."
I've included stories, anecdotes and useful tips I've gained over my career as an Entrepreneur, Board Member, Executive and Senior Counsel. I hope you can find ways to navigate to your own dreams by learning from my experience! Don't hesitate to contact me if you have any questions or want to share your own stories. Stay inspired!