Last year in November, I went to the Women of Influence event, presented by the Puget Sound Business Journal. The women selected for the award are not only professionally successful in their own right, but also contribute significantly to bettering the community around them. Every woman was inspiring and amazing, but there were a few things I thought were definitely worth sharing:
- Amazon’s head of HR (can you imagine what a big job that would be?) is the only woman on Amazon’s S-team. There are 12 people on the team. Because she heads up HR, she is intimately familiar with the Amazon leadership principles and the one she spoke to the most was failure. She said they adamantly adore people who have failed in a big way and have learned from their mistakes, making them better able to handle professional challenges. You can read more about Beth here. I still find it interesting that at a company as innovative and forward looking as Amazon, there is only one woman in the highest 12 at the company.
- After 8 or 9 of these women got up on stage and spoke about their inspirations and their successes in life, I turned to my friend Meredith and made a comment that I thought it was interesting that 1) every single one of these women had children, and 2) of the 5-10 minutes they had on stage, they all spoke about their children. I thought it was interesting because it’s not something I would expect to hear from most men when being honored. When Heather Redman got up on stage, she noticed the same thing. Heather talked a lot about leaning in, which to her meant not necessarily including conversations about her family at work. From my perspective, she appeared to be the most outwardly confident of the women. At the end, she spoke of the same observation I had, that all of these amazingly accomplished women spoke about their kids consistently. She said that was something she was going to take away from the night: that bringing that kind of empathy and kindness to the conversation in a professional environment should be embraced and done more frequently, rather than covered up or suppressed.
- Dr. Rhonda Medows said “the third grade I knew I wanted to be a doctor” in the article here, but in person at the event she also talked about how people often discover their dream later in life and the important thing is to pursue it with balance. Rhonda was particularly memorable to me because she came from a poverty-stricken environment and turned that experience into her drive and passion to pursue medicine. In her article, I really liked this advice:
- Question: What advice would you give to your 18-year-old self?
- Answer: My sons are 16, 18, and 26. I would share with my 18-year-old self the same lessons I have learned and now share with my sons:
- Learn about yourself, your interests, your passions, your strengths and weaknesses.
- Find your balance. Spend more time on the things that are important to you, view life as a marathon not a sprint, seek a positive work – life mix and the right mix of setting goals and seizing unexpected opportunity.
- Don’t spend too much time trying to achieve other people’s expectations. Sometimes they are too low. Sometimes they reflect their own issues and not your own potential.
- Respect people.
- Put family first.
- Embrace change and ambiguity, don’t wait for the perfect and miss what’s good. When you learn something new or have different experiences, it’s ok to change or adjust your priorities.
- Define your own success by achieving what’s important to you after evaluating the options and the work you’ll have to invest.
- Be true to and never betray your own core principles. You can change a job, change friends and partners but you will always have to live with yourself and your own decisions.
You can see all of the women who were honored here.