In honor of International Women's Day and the incredible female leaders we have at Learning Tree, we are going to showcase them through a series of blogs: The Women of Learning Tree. First up:
Title: Vice President, WW Marketing
Years at Learning Tree: 10+
Tell us about yourself. Did you set your sights on being in a leadership role when beginning your career? Did you find it hard in regard to gender to get to the position you are in now?
I have benefited from sponsors within organizations that saw my potential and intentionally (or not) propelled me forward in my career advancement. When it was intentional, there were actual sit-downs with thoughtful discussion and planning on where I wanted to go and how I could be supported to get there. When it was not intentional, I simply found myself escalating into positions and expected to continue the same high level of production, while also transforming myself into a leader. Since I happen to work for a training company, I have chosen to leverage opportunities such as formalized training around leadership to help me work on myself, while working on the business. Learning is a journey, not a destination. (I really believe it, and I use it in marketing copy regularly because it is a truth to me.)
What do you think is the biggest challenge woman are facing today?
Women in general or women in the workforce, the challenges may be similar in that we tend to worry more about how we're perceived and still feel like we have to work harder to receive the same recognition as our male counterparts. While I would not label myself a feminist, I can see the challenge of not wanting to feel like you have "to act like a man to be accepted in the male club". As an example, in a recent Learning Tree Course Transformational Leadership for Women, multiple attendees stated that they don't want to have to like male things to be accepted, that they felt women who do that aren't being authentic. I challenged back to them that their view also keeps women in a box - that they're stereotyping other women instead of allowing for different paths. I told them I authentically do like football, I'm not doing that to be accepted. But I do feel my personality has evolved to be a more direct style to "be heard". Some people might use the b-word to describe that, when in reality it's more doing what it takes to move the needle, without apology. I think that's a good leadership position to take - regardless of your race, color, religion, sex, etc.
What attributes do you take with you every day to work, and find the most important in succeeding?
What people say (and I agree) is that they appreciate my energy, my willingness to roll up my sleeves, and my transparency and my attempts at bringing lots of laughs. I try not to sugarcoat while still motivating people to do their best in challenging circumstances. (Fake it until you make it is not a bad approach.) My ultimate goal is to teach people to fish, and that is not just a platitude - I walk the talk. You will often hear me say "make good choices" as an encouragement of managed risk-taking, outside the box thinking and not expecting me to solve everything. I don't want paper-pushers, I want people to feel involved and able to make things better. Also I think I should be a meme creator, I crack myself up - regularly.
What is your biggest motivator?
Finding things to keep me motivated creatively (music, reading, piano. Destress my brain so the creativity flows and keeps me positive. I need a better outlet for physical stress management. Hitting the midlife stride tells me I better invest more in my health.)
Who has been the biggest influence of your success?
Kevin Bates, as a mentor who actively helped me progress early in my career when I worked for automotive/franchise sector with thoughtful discussions and continues to be a sounding board even though he's left the business world and was able to retire early. Also my step-father, Gene was a powerful leader at BAE during his working career, who gives me practical advice regularly. We'll call it tough love!
Who are your ideal female icons? Do you have a specific role model?
Madonna was influential to me growing up, her evolution is relatable because she's been able to leverage her success for social disruption, to make people think - and I think she's wickedly smart about using her voice. I follow her on Instagram. Also maybe silly, but I also follow Reese Witherspoon's bookclub on Instagram...I can imagine participating in an actual book review with her and having a really fun time! My mom, who earned the nickname Queen for many positive qualities that I try to emulate as just princess status ;-)
What does International Women's Day mean to you? Is it important that we have one?
I am blessed to count a number of women of different walks of life in my influence circle, who help me see world views.
What advice would you give to any young woman who strives to be in a leadership position one day?
Be intentional, find mentors who will provide thoughtful active discussion and steps to help you progress. Do not apologize, own who you are and act with kindness (these ideas can co-exist - be authentically you and be nice.)