Where did I come from? I grew up watching my single, divorced mother balance our house budget. It gave me a sense of urgency to never be dependent on someone else for survival. That's why I've always been driven to lead and succeed in business.
Where am I now? Today, I'm using my finance and mathematical skills honed at school in the world of technology and communications, which I believe have always powered creativity in business and social networking.
How did I get here? My field is often labeled as "male" or "geeky." And, if that's the case, then go ahead and call me a geek. I got where I am by believing that women have just as much to offer as men, especially in fields that are driving the new economy.
This geek in particular was the captain of her cheerleading squad in high school, with six prom invitations between junior and senior year. Later, this geek was president of her sorority at Rutgers University. Today, this geek is an avid collector of high-end, Parisian vintage fashion.
I recently answered these questions to the crowd of young women advocates of the "Girl Up" campaign at the second annual Girl Up Leadership Summit in Washington, D.C. "Girl Up," a campaign of the United Nations Foundation, envisions a world where all girls, no matter where they live, have the opportunity to become educated, healthy, safe, counted and positioned to be the next generation of leaders.
The objective of my keynote was that I share my journey and the advice I've gleaned along the way.
Here is what I had to say:
- Manifest your destiny. If you are sitting waiting for your "Prince Charming" to turn up on your Twitter or Facebook page, stop right there, s'il vous plaît. You are the only one who can grab the wheel and drive your future. Be strong, confident and reach far - this is how opportunity will come.
- Expect the unexpected. Change is inevitable so embrace it and look for ways it can make you stronger. It took me way too long to get this one but now I apply it to my life, both personally and professionally.
- Value diversity, give back and be generous. Actually, this was a theme repeated with the amazing girl advocates and all of the fantastic speakers throughout the Summit (including Tina Tchen, chief of staff to Michelle Obama, and Omnilife and Angelissima CEO Angelica Tellez-Fuentes).
- Figure out your passion and go for it. Whatever passion means to you, find yours and run. What do I mean by "your passion?" It's simple, passion equals whatever you love and are committed to. When you have it, invest yourself fully. I'm sure this will result in professional and personal fulfillment. I think Anne Bradstreet's poem captures this sentiment, "so whilst we live, in love let's so persevere...so that when we live no more, we may live ever."
- Don't let the bad guys get you down. I took this away as the most powerful piece of advice at my commencement ceremony from Rutgers University School of Business in 1996. Today, I look and find the good guys who stand side by side with women leaders.