Challenges, Family, Reflection, Tips, Work/Life Balance, Working Women

Balancing the World: Juggling Is Not My Sport!

Early on in my career, I heard so much about work/life balance and messaging that said “you can have it all.” As a working mom of two young children with a spouse who also had a demanding career – those messages made me do some truly crazy things and drive a very hectic life. We had schedules for daycare drop-off and pickup. We had schedules for whose turn it was to stay home if one of the children was sick. We had our kids signed up for the best summer camps by February every year. Basketball, dance classes, tutors, baseball, soccer…our kids were overscheduled for every minute of free time. We had what looked like Gantt charts for our travel schedules and MBA School.
I realize now that I wasn’t living life – I was managing through the activities in the attempt to “have it all.” Then in one moment – one life changing moment, my life changed. My 16 year old daughter was in a serious car accident. She was sent to a trauma hospital in Boston. I was newly promoted into a leadership position and supposed to start my new role the next day. I knew I had to be with my daughter and felt so conflicted about this new position. I received a call from a senior leader in my company who simply said to me “Don’t say a word, just listen to me…..you need to be there for your daughter. We have this covered. You come back when she is well.

Someone actually gave me “permission to not try and balance” everything or create a plan to cover it all. I could focus on her and my family. Thank goodness my daughter recovered over a period of three months with surgeries, rehab, and hospital follow-ups. After three weeks, I returned to work and started my new position when it was right for my family.

When I returned, I had a number of interesting conversations with my boss, mentors, and senior leaders about the Art of the Juggling Act.

A couple of key concepts resonated with me then (but took me time to really embrace). I hope by sharing these with you, it will save you from managing your life and move you into living your life!

You can have it all, but probably not all at once.

Your life will never be perfectly balanced – some weeks it may be career gets more, some weeks it may be family.  Your measure of success in this space should be “did it even out at the end of a month?” Did you “live your life” or did you let “your life live you”?

Challenges, Confidence, Diversity and Inclusion, Empowering Women, STEM, Working Women

The challenges of being a business woman in a “male-dominant” field and the opportunities for excellence: Our journey, our commitment and our legacy!

“Why would a nice ‘girl’ like you want to work in a field like this?”

“You are the first woman supervisor I have ever had in my career.”

“Wow – I would never have thought you’d come down into this manhole to learn to splice.”

“Would you take the meeting notes Leslie?”

Me: “I have someone I’d like you to interview for the open manager position.”
The Director on my team: “Ok, great, what is his name?”
Me: “Why would you assume it is a ‘him’? The candidate is actually a ‘her’….”

Over the course of my career – working in the field of criminal justice as a police training coordinator and work with the US Marshall Service and the National Institute of Justice and then moving into the field of telecommunications in network, field, construction, and technical operations roles I have encountered skepticism, challenges, and years of being one of the only women on the team. None of that was ever an issue for me. My competitive spirit, my goal to excel (personally and professionally), my desire to leave a team, an organization, and a business better than it was before I arrived – all those things superseded any challenges as a woman in a male dominated field. I dove right into learning the technology, the field, the art of leadership, and the people. Learning the organization, the skill set of the work, the directional goals, and how I could best support/lead was where I spent my energy and effort.
The above quotes are comments shared with me over the years from 1990 until today. Advice from a Chief of Police as I considered a field in criminal justice, an introduction to my first switch technician, my favorite cable plant technician, a peer Director who was a man, and a Director on my team – a collection of comments from the men I worked with over the years.
All of this skepticism and doubt created a stronger work ethic and a passion to prove that a woman could not only meet the opportunity to be successful in a male dominated field but could rise to the occasion and excel. Achieving excellence has been a critical goal for me personally and professionally as I have forged my path.
What have I learned?
• People can do anything given the opportunity (with the right knowledge, skills, and ability) and with a support infrastructure, women can be equally (and often times more) successful in male dominated fields.
• Paying it forward is not simply expected – but required. In order to ensure women rise in non-traditional fields, those who have cleared the pathways (no matter how much clearing or how little clearing has to be done) must reach out to other women and support and lift their journey. We owe that to one another.
• Never ever be the one who takes notes in the meeting or gets the coffee – never!
• Be certain you sit at the table – always.
• Make sure your voice is heard – in meetings and on calls.
• Focus on your knowledge, skills, and leadership – improve them and excel at them. Do not focus on the naysayers.
• Know that every opportunity that comes your way is an opportunity to continue to clear the way for the next generation of women to rise higher and make more of an impact with fewer obstacles. That is a part of your legacy!

Confidence, Empowering Women, Family, Leadership, Working Women

Influences in my Career

As I take time to reflect during Women’s History Month and I think about the people who have had the most influence on me – I don’t simply think of the women who have been a part of my life – I think of all the people in all facets of my life who have influenced me. It is an interesting reflection to consider who has impacted and influenced you as a career professional, as a mother, as a friend – from both a positive and not-so-positive perspective.

Through the journey of my life – the unexpected twists and turns, the fascinating people I have met, and the amazing opportunities I have been fortunate to have been afforded……it’s difficult to think about one or two people. My life is built from a series of people interaction puzzle pieces that make me who I am today. There are pieces of that puzzle that I can identify as key influencers.

You never know who has really had a significant impact until you take the time to stop, reflect, and think – really think about those who have influenced your journey. Sometimes those impacts are not what you thought they would be nor did they come from who you normally would identify.

The Influencers:
1. My parents (discussed in an earlier blog): When I was young, my mother introduced me to the power of books and learning. My father shared with me the love, strategy, and commitment of sports and teamwork. My parents taught me the importance of a strong work ethic. Not by saying it, but by living it. Education, teamwork, and work ethic remain key strengths to this day.
2. Beth, my sister: An amazingly creative and energetic teacher, a yoga lover, a runner, and an amazing gardener. She is balanced, caring, and creative. She taught me the importance of being well-rounded and kind.
3. Tony, Margaret, and Nancy: The most amazing leaders I have ever worked for and with – they inspired me to be my best self. Demanding leaders but with an ability to lead from a place of inspiration, knowing the individual, and believing in the potential of others. These leaders taught me the power of positive thinking as well as the importance of communication and changed my whole way of looking at work. They all believed in me and afforded me the opportunity to be a true leader!
4. Sandra, my Executive and Life Coach: Her belief that of course I can and should do great things. She has always inspired me. She has a unique way of positioning my thoughts and beliefs that I am in fact amazing – at work, at home, and in life. During times in my life when I question my value, my purpose, or whether I measure up – I hear Sandra’s voice ….”you are good enough, you got this, go be awesome!”
5. My daughter: The first person who made me truly feel like a grown-up. So many lessons of life I have learned from her. Too countless to mention. Her greatest lesson for me has been all about perseverance. She has risen to the challenge so many times in her life and done so with humility and honesty. Great when you learn from your children!
6. My husband: One of the most natural leaders I have ever met. He has served to help me with my leadership throughout my career. He has supported my career in every way possible. Not to mention just a great guy and my best friend!
7. Operations Leaders: I had some leaders in my career who were bullies; mean and frankly disrespectful. I wish I had the courage back then to call out that behavior and more important to not have taken it personal. What I learned from these leaders was that I would never treat people that way. And today – I won’t tolerate being treated that way!
I am sure I could add to this list and it will likely change as I continue the journey of my life…..and pick up influencers along the way. The deep meaningful influencers will likely remain on my playbook of influence but will collect the small influence experiences throughout more of my life journey.
Such a great opportunity of important life lessons to both reflect on and to share….this is also a great mentoring moment perhaps. A way to play a role in the personal growth and success of our future leaders, wives, sisters, mothers, fathers, brothers, and children.

Challenges, Confidence, Leadership

My Break from Facebook

Social media: the “always on” connection to friends, family, trends in business, what’s happening in the world. Readily available at a moment’s notice. The always connected world is so important in business and in our personal lives. How we manage our connections socially is a lesson in life for all of us. Those social media moments can become consuming and in some regard unhealthy. Let me share my experience….

Facebook was a place to connect with my friends and family across the country. A way to watch and experience the lives of my connections and feel a part of their journey – even at thousands of miles away. Pictures of children as well as pride in academics, athletics, and life achievements all there with a click or a scroll. What was once a wonderful thing slowly manifested into a platform for anger, hate, and lack of respect.

I am clearly not opposed to freedom of speech or people’s ability to share opinions on topics such as politics, addiction, sexual orientation, religion, etc. That’s what our country was founded on and a belief system that we can all share and participate in. But what happened to being kind? To being okay with opinions and ideals that may not be aligned with yours?

Social media has fully uncovered the lack of respect for each other in a very public fashion. Family, friends, and strangers attack each other with such vitriol, disdain, and hatred. People piling on to social network pages attacking strangers for thoughts, experiences, and opinions.

What was once a source of social connection and enjoyment was turning into an obsession with the hatred and trying to understand why. It began causing me stress and a true unsettling feeling. I considered deactivating and taking a break but it didn’t happen…..that is until one morning I witnessed what I call my breaking point. Enough said – I deactivated the account.

With time to decompress and think through my action I realized the person I was punishing was me – my connections to friends and family were gone. It then dawned on me that with twitter I can choose to follow who I want…..and I could do the same with people and pages on Facebook that were becoming too toxic. I decided to take the high road (no, I did not create an alias FB account) and be true to who I am. I reactivated Facebook and blocked or unfollowed people or pages that don’t foster a positive spirit of community.

One week later, I am reconnected with a different perspective. I can check on friends and family each day and I can post my thoughts and opinions with kindness . I can share the spirit of respect, inclusion, and kindness and model those tenets on Facebook as I do in life and in my other social media venues – LinkedIn, Twitter, etc.

As my friend Jenn always says, Be kind. Always be kind.