In my experience, a rewarding career comes from hard work, perseverance, and timing, more than from talent. It takes discipline to perform mundane tasks, but practice makes perfect, and focus on the fundamentals pays off in the long run.
My career has been in operations and support functions in global aerospace and industrial equipment industries, both public and private. Some roles have been traditional, some unique, and one that I took on the advice of a well-respected mentor turned out to be a game changer for me. In most of my roles, I have been the only woman in the department. The knowledge I gained by working harder to win people over benefits me every day. Repeated success leads to credibility, trust, and future opportunities of greater responsibility.
A study mission to Toyota in 2000 exposed me to lean manufacturing. As it becomes more widely accepted, I see the application of “lean” to any process as a tool to help remove waste, reduce cost and increase productivity. In my current role, I use lean principles to make our team members’ jobs faster and easier.
Key learnings for me have been:
Ask a lot of questions, and always thank people for sharing their knowledge. When you are new to a situation or task, it’s a fast way to learn specific information and company culture, and it’s a great way to build a network.
Growth comes from pushing beyond your comfort zone. Difficult challenges are the most rewarding. We learn far more from failure than success. Admit when you’re wrong, and move on; everyone makes mistakes. Learn from them and focus on quick recovery. It sets a great example and leads to a culture of teamwork and trust.
Look for the potential in people. Values can’t be taught, but skills can be developed. People are the lifeblood of the business. Say “thanks,” and recognize suggestions and improvement frequently and publicly.
Seeking input from a diverse group always results in a more optimal solution. Capitalize on diversity as a competitive weapon.
Never stop learning. If you reach a senior position, make time to teach others.
Prevent, prevent, prevent – my mother must have said this to me a million times, and she is right. It’s so much more enjoyable and cost effective to do things right the first time.
Communicate beyond the obvious audience. Be an active listener.
Have the courage to admit you don’t know everything, and surround yourself with people who complement each others’ strengths.