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Karen Catlin

Advocate for Technical Women

San Mateo, CA

I allowed myself to envision succeeding in the new position, and I got really excited. I found the confidence to say yes.

I had it all: a great marriage, two thriving kids and a part-time job as a vice president at a software company. Life was good. Then, when Adobe Systems acquired my company, I feared that things would change.

During the acquisition, I was offered a significantly larger role running a new group at the combined company. This great opportunity required that I work full time. My new boss didn’t believe I could be successful leading such a large team on a part-time schedule, so he also offered me the option of assuming a different, smaller part-time position. The choice was mine.

Over the next few days, I considered the new role and the long list of reasons why I shouldn’t go for it: I’d have less time with my children. I‘d never managed a group of that size. I’d have a longer commute and would get less exercise. I’d have to lay off some people. I lacked experience in some of the technical areas I would be managing, including a specialty that was an integral part of Adobe’s heritage. I questioned why the company would ask me to lead such a vital part of its business.

My husband often believes in me more than I do in myself. He helped me recognize that I could and should seize the opportunity. He convinced me we could handle the logistics of us both working full time. He reminded me that I had the foundational skills to learn new technologies and I was a talented leader. Thanks to his support and encouragement, I was able to set aside my fears. I allowed myself to envision succeeding in the new position, and I got really excited. I found the confidence to say yes.

As I settled into my new job, I developed strategies for keeping our family life on track. Every Sunday, I transformed into a planning ninja as I prepared the schedule for the week ahead. I organized carpools and hounded my kids to do their laundry. I planned dinners, shopped and even snuck in some exercise.

This was both the busiest and the most professionally fulfilling period of my life. I led the team at Adobe for six years and was promoted to vice president. I sought opportunities to have a broader impact beyond my day-to-day job responsibilities. I co-founded the Women’s Affinity Group at Adobe. I sponsored creation of a cross-company, pro bono project team that matched skilled employees with charitable projects. I was able to make a difference, and I feel proud of my accomplishments.

I’m so happy that I leaned in to my career at that point. The position I held at Adobe continues to open doors for me today, as I shift my career to consulting and blogging. The next time I have to choose between leaning back and leaning in, the next time I list reasons why I shouldn’t do something, I’ll remind myself of my rewarding experience at Adobe.

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