My first job after college was working for the county government. I worked in a building with more than 200 people, of which 95 percent were male engineers over age 45. I was not only one of few females, I was about half the age of the majority of my colleagues. Talk about awkward transitions – I went from attending the number three party school in the country to yawning through meetings on things I still don’t understand. My entire professional existence was determined by how the old men interpreted me and my work. I began to define my personal value in terms of how they treated me, which was generally like a child. I inadvertently began to embody the role they put me in, often selling myself short and keeping quiet when I should’ve shared opinions. I was intimidated by my youth, naivete and inexperience.
My eyes opened significantly when I left to work for Governor Napolitano. Talk about a powerful woman. My world was completely turned around – in a good way – by working in the presence of greatness. I worked in an office of almost all women, and soon felt completely supported and safe. I began to grow professionally and was challenged in entirely new ways. I will always be grateful for the opportunity to work under this kind of female leader.
A few years and a lot of experiences later, I’ve gained an even greater appreciation for how your surroundings, family, friends, coworkers, bosses and personal motivation, among other things, can impact your success.
Growing up and establishing a career is not an easy feat. Learning can be uncomfortable and frustrating. And it’s a humbling realization to remember that you’re never too old to have growing pains.