Career Building Blocks:
How Each New Experience Informs Your Perspective and Adds to Your Skillset
I’m a believer that, even from a very young age, we have these formative moments that shape who we are, how we approach challenges, and the types of opportunities we choose to pursue. This was very much the case for me. When I was growing up, my father was the County Sheriff, and he had an amazing way of connecting with his constituents. I watched him interact – in small ways and in larger public settings – with so many people, and from this, I truly learned the value of building genuine connections and leading with empathy. My father’s experience informed my own leadership style, and over the years, I have worked hard to emulate his approach.
From both my parents, I internalized the importance of independence – independent thought, independent actions and financial independence. It was in pursuit of independence that I chose an undergraduate business program and decided to get my CPA. I enjoyed the sense of satisfaction that came from thinking through and solving a business problem, and I believed (and still do!) that it was a path that would provide some security and financial independence. I knew I could always hang my shingle and do tax returns. Funny story: to this day, I still do my own taxes – something many people in my life give me grief about!
Seeking Out Discomfort:
Why It’s Essential to Take Risks and How to Bet on Yourself
With each step in my career, I’ve worked hard to do two things: leverage my current skillset and learn something new. It’s an approach that is simple in theory and more challenging in practice – but I’ve found that pursuing opportunities that include both responsibilities with which I have an existing level of comfort and some that are unfamiliar or entirely new has helped push me beyond my comfort zone – to take risks that I might otherwise have turned down and, importantly, remain engaged and excited about what I’m doing.
A few examples of how this has played out: I started my professional career as a CPA at PwC. A few years in, I was doing a very large corporate return for a regional bank, and out of nowhere, our tax reporting software crashed. At the time, tax software wasn’t nearly as advanced as it is today, and I thought to myself: “There must be a better way.” I started looking for opportunities that would allow me to leverage my expertise in tax and accounting and apply it to solving the problem I recognized in the industry. That’s what led me to Thomson Reuters.
At Thomson, I held a lot of different positions. And when I look at how I moved from role to role – from product management to M&A to marketing to general management – it almost always followed that same pattern: building on my existing skillset, betting on myself and taking a new risk. I had the benefit of a long tenure at Thomson and with that came a level of trust and credibility. In each case, when I found something that needed to be done and a better way to do it, I put myself out there to try and fix it. Even in my decisions to leave Thomson and join Wolters Kluwer as CEO and, subsequently, to pursue the opportunity at Trintech, I applied this same framework. In joining Wolters Kluwer, I had confidence in my market knowledge and believed that understanding would serve me well while I learned to be a CEO. When I left Wolters Kluwer, I understood well how to be a CEO but needed to understand a different market and learn how to work within a smaller company. In each case, these new roles presented a risk and an opportunity – and in each case having the confidence to step into the role pushed me to work harder and propelled me forward.
The Best Piece of Leadership Advice You’ve Been Given and One Key Perspective You Would Offer to Others
“What would you try if you knew you could not fail?” This question has always stuck with me. I have thought about this from a personal perspective, as I weighed new opportunities in my own career, and I often think about this today when we’re contemplating bold moves in the business. The data demonstrate that women tend to wait until we’re overqualified before we’ll take a risk – an approach that often begins in grade school and can continue throughout our lives / careers. I’ve worked hard to push myself and others to act against that notion and instead to approach opportunities with the mindset that, “I can do this as well as anybody else.”
“Happiness is a choice.” This is my own daily mantra and is the perspective I’d offer to others as they pursue their own careers. I believe it’s crucial to understand our agency and recognize the importance of approaching situations with a positive outlook. You can choose to perceive something as a challenge or an opportunity, as a disagreement or a new perspective. For me, this approach has been especially helpful in my ability to balance career and family over the years. Looking at things through a positive lens allows me to understand that compromises must go in both directions. It’s not about choosing your career over your family, or vice-versa, it’s about finding a balance that works for you at the stage of life that you’re in and being comfortable with your choices.