In my career journey, one insight emerged as indelible truth: the future is malleable, shaped by those with the vision to mold it. Looking back, I see a path illuminated by obstacles and triumphs alike, fueled by an unrelenting drive to shape my destiny rather than be shaped by it. To me, leadership entails determination, passion, and the audacity to upend the status quo.
Volunteering for ‘impractical’ tasks is one way we can shine. Early on, I gravitated to responsibilities outside my job title. I saw them not as chores but as opportunities to evolve, to learn, and to gain more to offer. Embracing unconventional work wasn’t a diversion; it was a deliberate move to expand my horizons.
When you raise your hand for work that may push you outside your comfort zone, it signals your willingness to learn and adapt—qualities highly valued in business.
The notion of staying in my lane never resonated with me. I saw myself as instrumental to the whole, able to contribute beyond my defined role. When crisis hit one of my product teams, I volunteered for the recovery team despite no background in crisis management. The experience was arduous, but I came out of it having proved my mettle and versatility.
These days, I tell the women I mentor to be bold, to dive into new projects that push their limits and showcase their talents. But remember – it’s not about saying ‘yes’ to everything. Pick tasks that align with your dreams and play to your strengths.
Another lesson I’ve learned along the way is this: waiting around for your boss to hand you opportunities will get you nowhere. You’ve got to be your own cheerleader, step up to the plate, and grab the opportunities that are right for you. Not all bosses recognize the importance of providing you visibility. In fact, many try to take the spotlight for themselves.
Many women, myself included, once waited for validation or permission. This gets you nowhere. You must champion yourself, seizing opportunities rather than awaiting them. My rise to leadership demanded speaking up, stepping forward, and asserting my worth.
Let me share another story. I once led an all-male engineering team, all of whom were older than me. We flew to South Korea to visit some chipset customers. In the meetings, our customers only spoke with the men on my team. They barely made eye contact with me, though I was the lead. At one point I was asked to take notes. The men on my team stayed quiet. I felt invisible. The turning point came when I stopped waiting to be acknowledged and started asserting myself—validating my experience, background, role, and worth in every single meeting, however degrading. And it was degrading. But I did it. Again and again. I then proposed ideas, offered solutions, and highlighted problems. Eventually, I was seen and heard, my value recognized.
Here’s a crucial lesson: you can’t sit around waiting for opportunities to come knocking. If you feel overlooked and undervalued, start making your own opportunities.
Asserting ourselves at work means knowing our worth and boldly demanding to be seen and heard. As Brené Brown said, “Vulnerability sounds like truth and feels like courage. Truth and courage aren’t always comfortable, but they’re never weakness.”
My call to aspiring women leaders: Don’t just participate, take charge. Venture beyond your comfort zone, explore the unknown, and make your impact. You’re not just part of the corporate world but a force to shape it. It’s time we redefine leadership—where leaders are leaders, irrespective of gender. Step forward, be seen, be heard. You’re on a journey not just to succeed but to shape the future.
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