Throughout my career, I've made a number of decisions that came with many risks. I carefully evaluated each opportunity and stand by every calculated risk I've taken. In the end, the payoff turns out to be development and growth as an individual, and as a leader too.
The assignment where I learned the most and grew as a leader was when I was appointed to lead global operations. I interfaced with CEOs of every major phone company around the world and constantly had to prove myself negotiating contracts across diverse cultures. Prior to that, I led a sales organization supporting our multinational clients as they expanded globally and was responsible for a $4 billion business with P&L responsibility. In between, I was a Sloan Fellow at MIT earning a master's degree alongside other global executives.
When I was afforded an opportunity to become part of a joint venture and establish the company outside the U.S., I decided to take a risk. Ultimately, this global venture shifted strategy and that was a major disappointment. However, it was a lesson for me in leading my team through challenging times and becoming unflappable in times of stress. This assignment ended up being a catalyst in my career; it may have not been a success in the traditional sense, but the experience enhanced my skills in resiliency and change management.
There are five lessons that I've learned over my career that have shaped and influenced my decisions (risky or not):
1. Embrace change-- Our ability to grow is limited if we don't accept and welcome change. We are in a technological cycle of innovation all the time, so we have to be ready to make adjustments at moment's notice. In doing so, we may not always have a clear vision, but we have to seize opportunities.
2. Anticipate the next move-- My father taught me to play chess and coached me on anticipating two steps ahead while always having a plan B or contingency plan.
3. Trust your instincts-- My first boss at AT&T shared this advice, and I value it to this day. Sometimes you have to trust your intuition on things that are less clear and concrete. It's a great asset to develop -- and one that you don't learn in college or graduate school.
4. Don't be afraid of failure-- It's an inevitable factor everyone experiences. Studies have shown that a huge barrier for women entering the world of technology entrepreneurship is the fear of failure and risk aversion. Guess what? You're going to fail sometimes. So, take everything you can out of failure, turn it into something positive and view it is as a learning opportunity!
5. Rewards have many different faces-- Instead of being focused on possible outcomes, enjoy your ride along the way. Take a step back to appreciate an opportunity for what is. While every job assignment is critical, it is what you learn and who you meet that make the experience rewarding and contribute to our personal growth.