We all have career-defining experiences. A mentor who validates the road less traveled. Speaking up, even if it takes courage. Getting feedback that lands like a brick. Each moment–even the comment that is hard to hear–adds up over time to shape who we become in the workplace.
In light of International Women’s Day (IWD), I’ve been reflecting on the people and moments that have molded my career. This year, Autodesk’s IWD theme is “Authentic Leadership & Personal Resilience.” I’m struck by how salient that theme is to my path.
Here are four pivotal moments that continue to influence how I lead and grow at Autodesk.
Hear from Autodesk Women’s Network members about what this year’s theme means to them.
Find and foster enabling environments
About two hours after stepping onto the Mills College campus, I called my parents and told them my choice was made. I was 18 years old and had visited countless colleges. Feeling anxious that there were weeks left to decide where I’d spend the next four years, I had hopped on a flight by myself to visit Mills – a women’s college and the last place I thought I’d end up.
By attending Mills, I learned first-hand about the value of a supportive environment. A place where it’s normal to challenge yourself and to have your peers cheer you on as you go. Where it’s okay to not be perfect because that’s how you learn from yourself and others.
Here, as a member of the Autodesk Foundation team and as the global lead for the Autodesk Women’s Network (AWN) employee resource group (ERG), I’m fortunate to have found that space again– and to be able to help shape it for others. I get to live out my purpose and passion while being inspired by colleagues demonstrating Authentic Leadership every single day.
Stretch to grow
Public speaking used to make me incredibly nervous. Now, it’s just part of my job.
This year’s IWD theme was borne out of an AWN event on Authentic Leadership & Resilience that took place a year ago. What stuck with me is how Authentic Leadership isn’t a rigid concept.
As leaders, we bring new things to the table as we grow. But to grow, we must stretch outside our comfort zone. Maybe even fail. And rather than see failure as an endpoint, look for the lessons that we can carry forward into leadership. That’s Authentic Leadership. But to do so successfully, time and again, requires Personal Resilience.
I’ve experienced this trajectory through my work with AWN. Years ago, I spoke to an audience of 100 people in the Autodesk Gallery. I was so nervous I couldn’t sleep the night before.
I’ve now spoken to groups as large as 500 people. And even as I write this, I’m headed to speak at an internal conference – and I couldn’t be more excited.
These public speaking skills translate to my work with the Autodesk Foundation team, where I’ve had an increasing number of opportunities to present to our team and customers.
Because I’ve had the chance to take on new and challenging experiences in such an enabling and supportive environment, I can step into opportunities with that much more confidence.
Go ahead, take the afternoon off
Five years ago, I had just moved into a new role with the Autodesk Foundation when I left early on a Friday to go camping. While at the campsite, I recognized a woman in front of me, and my body went cold. Here was my skip-level manager and Autodesk Foundation executive, and I thought I had been caught skipping out, two weeks into my new job.
Instead, she came over to greet me and shared that she sometimes leaves early on Fridays to spend time in nature. She talked about the importance of finding time for herself, to refill her cup.
Our work on the Autodesk Foundation is important but heavy work. I’ll never forget her message that day: it’s okay to take the time you need. Little did I know, that message would continue to shape me as a leader to this day.
Seeking help as a way back from burnout
That talk to 500 people for AWN was a high point for me. But to be an Authentic Leader, I have to share that it was also the start of a low point. Like so many this past year, I burned out for a while. The journey to regaining my energy was a long one.
Through the Employee Assistance Program, Autodesk offers resources like career coaching through Bravely and access to therapists through services like Lyra Health. Tapping into these resources gave me access to the mental health services and coaching I needed to work through the burnout I was experiencing.
Community was also important. Writing this now, telling a close colleague or friend about your burnout seems like an obvious step. But in the thick of it, I worried about how I would be perceived.
As I started to talk about what I was experiencing, I realized that I wasn’t alone. My vulnerability was the opening to start an outpouring of sharing stories, experiences, and ideas within my circle on how to move through the burn-out.
These candid conversations gave me the space and support I needed. Mentorship and connection aren’t just for moving forward in your career, it’s also about having someplace to go when things are tough.
Today, I’m recharged and refocused. I’m passionate about this topic because we’re seeing women burn out at higher rates than ever. Personal resilience is about more than merely pushing through. It’s about stepping back, recognizing the causes, and asking for help.
As we celebrate and raise up women during International Women’s Day, I hope you also take some time to reflect on the moments and people who have shaped your careers. And may those reflections foster your own Authentic Leadership & Personal Resilience journey.
Learn more about ERG’s at Autodesk