I was in my 12th year at a large computer company and very unhappy. I had become the director of a software group in the same division where I had started as an entry-level software engineer. I began to feel opportunities were closed to me. When I looked around and realized that no woman had ever led our division, a position I aspired to have, I felt discouraged. Even worse: I felt ignored, unwanted at the corporate table and that my opinions were disregarded. I was miserable.
I began to doubt myself, my career choice and my abilities. I feared those I worked for knew the real “truth” about me – that I was incompetent and unfit to be a successful technical executive. I was scared to stay at this company any longer, but I was even more scared to leave behind everything I had worked for over the years.
Since few people ever left this huge company with its great reputation, I would be an outlier. Maybe people would think I couldn’t cut it or, even worse, that I had been fired. What could I do? What other careers were open to me? Was I good at anything? I had the choice of staying at the company in an atmosphere I hated, but in a field I loved, or I could try to get a job elsewhere.
One day when I was alone in my office – after melting into a sea of tears – I reached a turning point. I left the office right then and decided to take the plunge: I would see if I could get a job at another company in my field.
I mustered up all the courage and confidence I could scrape together and called someone who had offered to introduce me to two CEOs of companies that made similar software. Little did I know, it was the call both CEOs had been waiting for. I was immediately asked to interview at both companies and – after a whirlwind of meetings – I got two fabulous job offers. I accepted one of the offers and never looked back.
Working for the new company was one of the highlights of my career. I determined that, from then on, I would be the one to decide how I was doing and if I was competent, not those around me. Going forward, only my opinion mattered.
The experience of leaning in and moving to a new company taught me three important things: Feeling insecure was actually better for me — it forced me out of my comfort zone, to use all of my talents, and to not settle; being in a bad situation wasn’t my fault – staying in it was; moving on was a gift I gave myself.
The primary thing that was hampering my career success was a lack of belief in myself. I will never let self-doubt cloud my decisions again.