From the day in 1997 that I dropped out of a pre-law program at the University of Kansas to become a professional video gamer, I knew my career would be non-traditional. Playing in international videogame competitions eventually led to work in game development. From the beginning, I allowed opportunities to guide me – leaping to each new role with enthusiasm.
In 2004, I became a mom. I wasn’t sure how I’d balance a family with my accelerating career in a male-dominated field, but I dove in headfirst. In 2007, I became a full-time single parent without a co-parent. I gravitated towards roles in a specialized market segment: technology for payments in games. In 2009, I landed at a little startup in Silicon Valley. The people were fantastic, the pace was manageable and I could also handle being a single parent.
Six months into the job, I received a voicemail from the CEO of our competitor – the leader in the space. He all but offered me the VP of Sales role at his rapidly growing company. I hesitated to return his message; the competitor was on a hockey stick trajectory, but I knew joining meant a lifestyle change. I envisioned tons of travel with no local family to help with my daughter, calls around the clock with global partners, and a crazy commute between the office and my daughter’s school.
The CEO left three voicemails before reaching a friend of mine. He pitched my friend and pleaded, “Tell her to call me!” I agreed to meet and told him, “I’m happy where I am. I’m also coin-operated and worth every penny. Here’s the compensation package I’ll require.” When he made an offer that met my requirements, I thought back on past opportunities. Each time was a risk, but I was always glad I’d taken it.
I took the job.
The next several months were a blur of airplanes, creative childcare solutions (like flying in my ex-mother-in-law), and racing back and forth between the office, school and customer meetings. My concerns about taking the job were well-founded: It was challenging. In fact, beyond challenging at times.
I struck a balance by taking life task-for-task; during the day, I gave complete focus to my job, and at night, I spent quality time with my daughter. I learned quickly that being a working, single mom requires a network of trusted friends and the humility to ask for help when you when you need it.
Six months after I took the job, the company was acquired by Visa, Inc. – a huge win by all measures. Starting out as a professional gamer, I never imagined myself at a Fortune 500 company. I’ve been with Visa for two years now. This is a priceless education that I’ll carry with me throughout my career (Plus, the stock price has more than doubled since I joined!). I am grateful I was brave enough to take the journey.