Denise Pickett

EVP & CEO, US Loyalty

Location: New York, NY

"Rather than thinking about the many reasons you could say ‘no’ to opportunities, you should always start with what would it take to get to 'yes'."

I have been with American Express for more than 20 years. About three years ago, after 17 years with American Express in Canada, I received a phone call for a job opportunity in the New York headquarters that caught my attention. The job itself was fantastic, and I would be working with a leader I truly admired. Yet, the move would be a significant undertaking for my family: I had a daughter who was just about to enter high school and who would likely be horrified by the idea; two younger boys who were entrenched in hockey clubs and school activities; and a husband who built his career in Toronto. The position would take us a long plane ride from our comfortable Toronto home and the family and friends who supported us for years.

Knowing I could not make this decision alone, I called a family meeting and we had a vote; it was a family decision and everyone needed to be in. Surprisingly, my husband and three children were all almost immediately on board. Instead of creating a pros and cons list, the focus was on coming up with all the things we needed to get to "yes."

Our list contained several priorities. Personally, we wanted our children to attend great schools and we wanted my husband to be able to work. We also wanted access to a good neighborhood with outdoor activities in proximity. Professionally, I wanted to ensure the position had growth potential and, at least for the first few years, I wouldn't need to travel extensively so I could support my family's transition to the US. We had a fairly extensive and optimistic list. By defining what we wanted as a family, we were taking an active part in our future.

I made sure we prioritized what we needed as part of the agreement to take the new position. And before we knew it we were on our way.

Transitioning from Toronto to a suburb of New Jersey was challenging. While Canada and the US are close, there are cultural differences that come with moving to another country even if it seems close. My husband worked through career options, our children adjusted to new schools, friends and activities. I dove into my new position, adjusted to a new office, a longer commute and began to build relationships with my NY colleagues.

And in the end it was all incredibly worthwhile. My kids now have the experience of living in two countries. They have learned to be adaptable and flexible; traits that will no doubt serve them well into their adult lives.  And the role proved to be a pivotal step in my own career development.

This experience has taught me that rather than thinking about the many reasons you could say "no" to opportunities, you should always start with what would it take to get to “yes.” Finding a way to "yes" is putting what you want out on the table; you'll never have the life you desire if you're always making concessions or expecting others to read your mind.