Sometimes leaning in can lead you down unexpected paths.
When I returned from maternity leave in 2010, I encountered an entirely changed work environment. In the midst of the recession a major reorganization had taken place, and my new team barely knew me or my work managing complex technology projects. I was very worried. I was essentially back on square one even though I had spent more than 11 years as an executive at the payments services company where I worked. And, like many other new mothers I wanted to make sure that the time I spent at work and away from my new baby really counted and moved my career in the right direction.
So I leaned in. The payments services industry was (and is) undergoing major changes due to the growing impact of new applications based on mobile devices, and I took charge of forging relationships with the new players in the field to help my company innovate. I was galvanized and excited, but after a couple of years it felt like I wanted to move faster than the corporate environment would ever allow me to do. Embracing partnerships with potentially disruptive partners was very challenging for the senior executives, and so I turned in a different direction.
It has been two months since I left my previous employer and I am leaning in more than ever. My family and friends have all said that this is what they always thought I would be doing: making a real difference. I co-founded New York's first affordable biotech incubator, Harlem Biospace. I have traded a 14-year corporate career and 50 mile commute for one where my home, my office and my children's school are all just a short walk from each other. Not only am I helping biotech start-ups thrive in New York City, I will also be creating programming and mentorship to girls so that they can see how science, technology, engineering and math skills can be applied to solve some of the world's pressing health problems, and hopefully inspire them to enter the field.
Leaning in helped me focus and ultimately guided me towards a new career path, one that brings me greater satisfaction and where I can have a greater impact.