CEO’s are passionate about their companies — week 4

“In my family, it was a norm to compete. In the firm I joined, it became a norm to promote the advancement and retention of women. My eventual appointment as CEO was the outcome of that inclusive culture.” — Cathy Engelbert

I was first introduced to and excited by business during the spring of my sophomore year at Georgetown. To fulfill a requirement for my Entrepreneurship certificate, I took a class called “Foundation of Entrepreneurship.” Our professor assigned us the task of brainstorming ideas for start-ups that we would actually pursue during the course of the semester and pitch to a panel of investors at the end of the year.

The homework for our very first week into the class was to come up with 20 or more ideas for companies, then to narrow down that list to two or three options that were million-dollar ideas. It was expected that after the semester ended we would continue to process our idea and make it a reality. Our professor advised us to simply follow our passions. We were told to figure out what it was that we did better than anyone else — something that we could only do — then base a company off that. It may seem simple enough, but when put into practice it proved to be a difficult task. It seemed impossible to turn the things I enjoy — waterskiing and hiking, eating at food trucks, and learning new languages — into a company.

Our group discussed and debated for hours which idea to pursue, and we ended up coming up with an app idea. The idea for this app was based on exploring new countries. This app would allow users to log the places they have traveled and what they did in each of those new cities or countries. The user is able to upload pictures, comments, ratings, and reviews. I pitched this idea to the group, as I had begun to think about studying abroad and traveling to new countries the following year. The app was intended to target the confusion I faced when I thought about traveling to Budapest and not knowing a single thing to do.

I became very excited about this idea, because it was something I actually wanted to use in the future. Initially, we were all just happy that we came up with something to present to the class. We met very often as a group to put in hours of hard work and develop a prototype, marketing strategies, tests, and a pitch that we would use at the end of the semester. It was after this devotion to the app and an enormous amount of time that we spent together that we became very attached to the product and the project itself. Our passion for the app made us closer as a group as time passed. In fact, once we found this dedication within ourselves, the project became less like classwork and more of personal interest to each of us. I found through this experience that it is dedication that is incredibly important to creating valuable outcomes and experiences. If employees are personally invested in their work, they will work harder and less so to be noticed for doing so.

“Develop resilience and be brave. There are days when it is very discouraging. You have to develop personal resilience to environmental things that come along. If you let every single environmental challenge knock you off your game, it’s going to be very, very hard.” — Renee J. James

It is easy to tell someone to find their passion. But actually determining what that unique talent or ability is could take an entire lifetime. As I explore the pathways of more female CEOs, I am finding that it is dedication in general that is more important than having an intense dedication to your specific passion. Three women in particular speak to the point that personal dedication is far more important than anything else when it comes to running a company or being a leader in your field.

Nona Lee and Amber Cox each hold top management positions in the sports and media world, and they all contend that passion is the key to their leadership. Maria Duardado analyzed and recapped the convention with The Association for Women in Sports Medicine, writing, “all three women emphasized that finding their passion proved to be one of the most important elements that helped propel them to the top of their fields.” Nona Lee, senior vice president and general counsel of the Arizona Diamondbacks, explains that leaders work hard when they are passionate about something. She believes it is when they are good at that one thing that they are able to teach others. Lee worked in entertainment and then attended law school before interviewing with the NBA. She says that passion is important to her, but it seems as though she developed that passion after she worked hard and succeeded. It was her general dedication and drive that propelled her to succeed, and her success grew her passion for women’s basketball.
 
 All three of the women stressed the importance of a strong work ethic as critical to their success. Amber Cox, president and chief operating officer of the Phoenix Mercury, says, “Make no mistake about it: you still have to outwork everyone. You have to prove that you know what you’re talking about. I’m the head of a basketball team, and I still get looks like I don’t know what I’m talking about. You do have to prove yourself, and you do have to work a little bit harder than the guys. It’s not fair, but you can’t get hung up on that.” Cox played basketball in college, and despite her initial passion for basketball she actually wanted to be a journalist after graduation. She switched career paths, which shows that it is possible that her passion was similarly motivated by success and hard work as well.

Renee J. James, former president of Intel and current operating executive with The Carlyle Group, also demonstrates the dedication that is necessary for executives to have. She also serves as the vice chair of the National Security Telecommunications Advisory Committee to the President of the Unites States. Fortune.com explains how she obtained degrees in international business and a MBA, both from the University of Oregon. From the very beginning, like other successful women CEOs we have seen, she dedicated herself to one place, the University of Oregon.


Another little side note and something I found very interesting liked here!!

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