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Elma Placeres Dieppa


Chicago, IL

Leaning in to that intimidating situation and having a great outcome gave me the confidence to face other similar challenges.

I was a 20-something high school dropout when I found myself face-to-face with a boardroom full of high-level executives who expected to see someone besides me seated across the table. I was working as a product manager for a travel wholesaler, and the executives had planned to meet with several people above my level, like a group of sales managers.

I felt small seated at the conference table in my khakis and company polo shirt. At that moment, the sun felt too bright, every sound was a little louder, my heart was beating faster and even the stunning view of the Caribbean Sea was too much to bear.

But faced with the decision to lean in or lean out, I thought about what I've been doing since I was a child, and I didn't let my doubt and insecurities get the better of me.

Growing up I was the only female child, and I remember feeling that my father didn't value me because of my gender. I now know he was trying to protect me, but from a young age, I decided I had to make myself heard. There have been occasions where I've leaned back, and those are the times that I find myself wondering what would have happened if I had leaned in. There, in that spectacular boardroom, I flashed forward and knew that I would regret leaning back.

I remember making a joke about the fact that I was a one-person team, which was well received (thankfully!) and put everyone at ease. When it came to the actual meeting, I excelled because I knew my numbers and my end of the business really well.

That meeting was only my second of its kind since I had been with the company for only a few months. I was so relieved to finish it, and to have done so successfully! Leaning in to that intimidating situation and having a great outcome gave me the confidence to face other similar challenges and allowed me to feel comfortable addressing bigger groups of people. Soon I was giving regular presentations and now I'm perfectly comfortable speaking at seminars, events, on panels, giving interviews—things that most people fear more than death! Today I'm a successful marketer and blogger, as well as mom and wife.