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Building a Personal Board of Directors (of Influential Women)

Someone once told me that as you build your life and career, it’s good to build up your own personal board of directors (a group invested in your success and future). Whether faced with a big decision or stuck in a rut, your board of directors is there to answer the call and push you […]

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Someone once told me that as you build your life and career, it’s good to build up your own personal board of directors (a group invested in your success and future). Whether faced with a big decision or stuck in a rut, your board of directors is there to answer the call and push you towards continued growth.

Over the years, I’ve built up a board of directors who know enough about my personal brand, history and balance sheet (all the gains and losses) to steer me on track. On this International Women’s Day, I thank these women and encourage others to think about who they have in their corner – and to consider how we as women can pay it forward.

“Whether faced with a big decision or stuck in a rut, this board of directors is there to answer the call and push you towards continued growth.“

My mentor. After joining a new team at work right as the world shut down with the pandemic, I started working with a woman who fearlessly guided me and our team through uncertainties as the pandemic upended a year’s worth of plans. I admired her continued hustle and strategic counsel, in equal parts to her investment in the team’s wellbeing and ability to motivate through her contagious energy. After changing roles and no longer working together day-to-day, she’s someone who continues to take stock in my career and ambitions by reaching out and offering advice. When setting goals and building a five-year plan, it’s great to look at someone whose career you admire and to have them in your corner with a map for how to get there.

My peers at work. Equally important to having someone further down the road than you is having someone on the path beside you. Work friends are great people to add to your board of directors. Your peers at work are uniquely positioned to be in the trenches with you, be a confidant you can turn to and give you that healthy dose of motivation to reach higher. I have two work peers, without whom I wouldn’t be where I am now. One was my counterpart at my first job who has helped me navigate countless decisions and who I convinced to come work with me again. Another was a coworker when I started a new job who kept me sane and hustling as we both navigated some of the busiest and most exciting times of our careers. They both still hold coveted spaces on my board and are always there to remind me certain challenges are not unique to just me, and to jump back in the trenches when I need it.

My first boss. I was lucky to find one of my most respected mentors in my first job right out of college. Now, when I see interns and associates starting off, I think back to how my first boss treated me when I was starting out, when I knew next to nothing. She took chances on me, gave me opportunities and was patient when I had questions and needed help. It’s easy to forget what it’s like breaking out into the real world and working alongside people who’ve been in the industry for years (even decades). She made me want to pay it forward, and I think of her when an intern asks a question about Outlook or shyly asks what an acronym the whole team reiterates means. She’s still someone who I lean on for decisions and advice, and she’s offered that same patience and understanding throughout my career.

My therapist. I don’t care how great your life looks on Instagram, I’m convinced everyone can benefit from talking to a therapist. When I hit that mark a few years after graduation where I wondered what I was doing with my life, talking to a therapist set me back on track. My therapist doesn’t give me advice per se, but she’s helped me establish my values and lean on those when faced with struggles or lack of direction. Having an unbiased person and dedicated time to open up to someone whose job it is to listen, can make all the difference.  

My best friend. My best friend has been on my board of directors for over 20 years. She’s acutely familiar with my profits and losses, and is one of the first people I call for life’s celebrations and setbacks. You need someone with whom you can unabashedly share what’s really on your mind — and also share a few late-night mistakes and belly laughs.

My sisters. I am especially grateful for my three younger sisters who hold important spots on my personal board. As the oldest of four girls, I should be the one passing on learnings, which hopefully I do, but I learn just as much if not more from them. Having sisters means having people who know the real you. They know what I’m thinking when I don’t say it. They tell me what I might not want to but need to hear. They’re the ones I know will always be in my corner.

My mom. My longest standing board member and the person who has taught me most about life is my mom. My mom has taught me what it means to be grateful, to reflect and to live in the moment. She loves unconditionally and lights up with any achievement, big or small. She teaches me what it means to be committed to growth and to never stop learning. I am forever grateful to have been raised by a thoughtful, strong and free-thinking woman. I hope I can help pass along a portion of what she’s taught me to a new generation to come.

These women, and so many others, have invested in my future and empowered me to reach higher. International Women’s Day is a reminder to me, and hopefully to many others, to not take these women for granted and to thank them by seeking opportunities to join boards for other young women. We all have people who have impacted different parts of our lives and who can provide advice for different scenarios life throws.

I’ve seen so many women, especially in more recent years, break through barriers and pave the way for a new generation. Behind each of these trailblazers, I imagine there’s a strong board of directors keeping them on track and listening to them when setbacks strike. May we all find ways to build up these boards – for ourselves and for other women.

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