A colleague recently shared with me this quote from American astronaut and physicist Sally Ride:
“I would like to be remembered as someone who was not afraid to do what she wanted to do, and as someone who took risks along the way in order to achieve her goals.” – Sally Ride
When I read that quote, I thought to myself, “Yes!” It sounds simple, but why is it so hard to take risks? Why does it feel so scary to fail? How can I be more like Sally?
In recognition of Women’s History Month, I asked some of the most intelligent women I know (who happen to be my co-workers) a few questions about careers, motherhood and what it means to be an inspiring leader. Their thoughtful responses stem from their professional experiences at NASA, CNN, The White House, Microsoft, Phillips 66, The Dian Fossey Fund, and supporting major aerospace and engineering companies. I work with women I admire, who do good work, and above all else, are excellent humans leaving a legacy to the next generation of women.
Their advice is good. I hope you read it, share it, and most of all, use it.
What lesson(s) have you learned in your career that are unique to being a leader, a woman and/or a working mom?
Tia Over, Executive Vice President and Chief Operations Officer
Believe you belong and claim your space. That’s what I tell my daughter. I’ve worked in and consulted for male-dominated companies throughout my career. Countless times, I was the only woman in the room, or one of few. Sometimes it bums me out when I stop to consider how a project would have evolved differently if more diverse voices were at the table. But I’ve been fortunate that, with few exceptions, male colleagues and clients have respected me and my point of view. I think that’s because I carry myself as worthy of their respect.
Donna Gorman, Communications Consultant
My best advice for a successful career? Teach your kids to cook. The work will always be there. The kids will always be there. The kids will always come home from school starving. But if they can pull together simple snacks and meals for themselves — and maybe even for the rest of the family as they get older — it will take some of the pressure off you. It’ll also give them a sense of pride in their own abilities. Which will, in turn, remind you that you’ve done something right as a mother.
What’s some of the best advice you’ve received in your career?
Nellie Betzen, Director of Client Accounts
I think many women suffer from imposter syndrome, meaning we often doubt our abilities. The best advice I ever received was to take advantage of every opportunity available to me, even if it felt out of my comfort zone. If someone thinks you are the best person for the job, that means something. You don’t need all the answers to be successful, you just need to be smart enough to ask the right questions. New opportunities and challenges can feel scary, but if we believe in ourselves as much as others believe in us, the possibilities are limitless.
Katherine Brennecke, Vice President
The most empowering advice I got when I was in college, and it set the tone for my entire working life. I wanted to keep my job in a restaurant, be editor of the college newspaper and do an internship at the local TV station along with my full load of classes. I thought I needed permission, so I asked my academic advisor if I could do all those things. He said, “All that matters is what you want to do. If you want it, you’ll find a way to make it work.” He was right. I’ve gotten to do amazing things by finding opportunities and going for it.
Is there a woman you admire who has influenced you personally or professionally?
Melissa Mathews, President & Founder
It’s no surprise to people who know me that my answer is Dian Fossey. From a young age, I dreamed of going into the forest like she did to spend time with gorillas – a dream I was able to fulfill with a visit to Rwanda in 2016. Although Dian is no longer with us, I love that the organization that bears her name is still woman-led, and by moms who manage their work and family lives beautifully. From Dian to today, they’re showing us how women can make a huge impact on the world.
Melissa Price, Director of Client Accounts
For a third-grade school play on America’s heroes, I was assigned to research and share about Sally Ride, the first American female astronaut. From her story, I learned about exploration and adventure. I learned about being a pioneer and striving to be at the top of your field. And my fire for space and technology was ignited. From that moment, I wanted, and still want, to be an astronaut when I grow up. That amateur acting gig led to Space Academy in the sixth grade and eventually to a role as Strategic Communications Specialist as NASA Headquarters in Washington, DC. And now I get to support aerospace clients at Spring Green as we see the commercial space industry skyrocket!
By Emily Pappas