I was 33 and had nothing to complain about in either my career or my personal life. I had risen to a director-level position within the sales department at my company and ran a large team of 90 people responsible for selling the full product line to retail customers in the Midwest. I had a great husband and a wonderful daughter and a really good life.
But I had my eye on an even bigger front-line job working with some of our largest customers. So I did something I had never done before: I asked my boss for that job.
I had always been of the philosophy that if you perform well, success will come. And in my career, that’s mostly been true. But I had always waited for that success to happen to me, and this time I didn’t. When I spoke to my manager, the job wasn’t even open, but I told him unequivocally that that’s where I saw myself.
Yet, lots of time elapsed before the offer came, and when it finally did, I panicked. My daughter was two and a half years old and I was pregnant with my second child, planning to take an extended maternity leave.
I remember standing in my kitchen and crying. My husband, who is my best mentor, said, “I don't understand why you are crying. You have always wanted this job.”
I said, “But I don't know if I can do it.” I had so many fears: Would I be able to succeed in this challenging new role? Could I take the job and still be a good wife and mom? I was even worried that if I took a shorter maternity leave, I would be letting down women everywhere.
I talked to my husband and then my boss. I thought hard. Then, I leaned in.
I took the job and was relieved to find most of my fears unfounded. I was able to take a 10-week maternity leave and then gradually phase back into full time work in my new role. My husband made sure he wouldn’t be traveling while I was. I still spent lots of time with my girls, being a mom and having fun. And I figured out the new job, which ended up being critical to my promotion to vice president two years later.
I am motivated by learning and leading. So while I don’t know exactly what the future holds, I know I will always push myself to be a little bit uncomfortable. My focus these days has shifted to mentoring and coaching other women and to helping build a foundation for organizational success. As the saying goes, I want to “leave the campsite better than I found it” and give others the chance to lean in and succeed, too.