I try to keep this blog page objective, and avoid talking about myself personally. However, I feel like this experience extends beyond me, so I thought that I would share a piece of my life.
If you asked me five years ago where I would be today, my answer may have included something involving scrubs, being stressfully submerged in medical school, or researching the BRCA1 gene in a lab somewhere. At no point in my early college years would I have imagined myself where I am now. I had literally lost everything and started all over from scratch: my belongings, my friends, my studies and my career. Over the course of the past five years I have had the opportunity to work with great friends, mentors and leaders. This journey has brought me to where I stand today, including one of the biggest accomplishments of my work career so far – Florida’s Women in Energy Leadership Forum.
Roughly six months ago, my boss and personal mentor, pulled me aside and handed me a bunch of stapled papers and said, “Read it and let me know what you think.” So I did. What I read was an opportunity to create a conference highlighting women leaders in the energy industry and opportunities at these major companies, many of which are clients of the firm I am working for. Typical stuff for someone in my line of work. “Sounds great! Let’s do it!” was my reply. It was the kind of reply where at the moment I just knew I had to say yes, for a number of reasons. Primarily, I am a young woman and the youngest person in my office, so naturally I felt the need to “prove myself.” Secondly, I always work best when stepping up to a challenge, and I honestly had no real idea what exactly I was signing myself up for. I had worked and coordinated several events, but nothing of this magnitude. Lastly, because my boss was trusting me with her vision, and that is the biggest compliment someone in my position could receive.
Fast forward six months. Six months of tedious administrative tasks, late nights, creative and strategic planning, endless emails and endless spreadsheets. Those six months led up to opening day of the 2016 Florida’s Women in Energy Leadership Forum. An inaugural forum which is truly one of its kind. Panel speakers ranging from political leaders, federal and state regulatory commissioners, C-level executives, students and true “game changers.” This forum focused on a critical conversation: where are the opportunities for women in an industry that serves as a true economic driver of our state? There was no better time, no better place to have that conversation. The energy in the room was electrifying! (Pun completely intended) The attendees, and those of us involved in the creation, could not get enough of what was taking place. The networking opportunity was unlike any other. The content provided in the panel discussions was truly enlightening. Overall, it was an incredibly humbling experience.
I say all of this for one reason. That reason is to shed light that the conversations that took place at the Forum need to continue. The recognition of women and minorities in the workforce is not yet where it needs to be. My boss did the most by giving me a ridiculous amount of recognition for the execution of the two day event. Most people would think that would lead to “feeding the ego of the millennial”, but on the contrary, it was the most humbling thing I have ever experienced. I do not work hard for recognition from others. I work hard to help others. With my roots being in Public Relations and Marketing, I am completely comfortable with being behind the scenes. But in those moments I realized something kind of scary. I had become complacent with how others perceived my role and my job, because I knew I didn’t need any type of external validation to understand the true value of my work. As a young professional in the work place, I accepted the fact that most male leaders that I worked for would only see me as “help.” They would overlook me as an office assistant, one who grabs coffee, follows the boss around, and takes notes and orders simultaneously. I am confident in saying that I am more than that. This conference showed me how important it is for me, and others like me, to not become complacent in our temporary titles. I am proud to pay my dues while working my way up, but I cannot ignore the value of my worth. If I do that, everyone else will be inclined to do the same.
That picture of me is candid, believe it or not. Sweaty face and all, completely submerged in my work, phone in one hand, clipboard in the other, running around like crazy but happy as can be watching a dream come true right before my eyes. That’s the face of feeling, “everything is worth it.” All the changes I had experienced, all the losses, brought me to this moment. A moment of complete happiness, clarity and satisfaction with not just my work, but the collaborative work of every one who was involved in making it happen.
If you are a young professional, or even starting over in life, it’s never too late to truly realize your worth. You do that by giving it all you’ve got, and surrounding yourself with people who understand the importance of helping one another grow and creating opportunities not only for ourselves, but for each other. Find a mentor, and work with people who want you to use your gifts and talents to grow. Find a balance between what you love and the work you do. The women I met last week found ways to create big opportunities for themselves. They found ways to move up and grow with huge energy providers and innovative industries. Most importantly, they created opportunities for the “ME’s” in the audience. When you feel like you have no idea where your life is going, envision where you want it to be! Help yourself by helping others. I hope you all can find your version of the Florida’s Women in Energy Leadership Forum, or something along those lines, that will surround you with the leadership and encouragement to follow your dreams. If you already have, I’d love for you to share it for others to see.
We need more women encouraging women.