On September 28th, I hosted the latest meeting of the Aite-Novarica Group Women’s Network, titled A View from the Top: Experiences of Women CEOs. We were joined by guest panelists Meryl Golden (President, Kingstone Insurance), Michele Streton (President and CEO, Providence Mutual), and Cynthia Tidwell (former President and CEO, Royal Neighbors of America) who shared their experiences and perspectives as women who are CEOs.
Be Willing to Take Risks
Our panelists mentioned their willingness to take on high-profile projects as being one of the best things that prepared them for their CEO roles. Taking on high-profile projects can help you gain visibility within your organization, which can open you up to future opportunities. Our panelists credited these projects with allowing them to learn more about the different business functions of their organizations and how those units work together.
When discussing their experiences, our panelists stressed the importance of taking risks when choosing projects. The key to this is to make sure that the risk is calculated when taking on a new project. One panelist noted that you should “be patient enough to learn, but impatient enough to take risks.”
Find Key Opportunities
Our panelists advised not focusing on looking for opportunities that are promotional, but taking on new opportunities that will teach you new skills or help you grow. Even taking new roles or opportunities that are lateral moves can help you gain critical skills that will benefit you in the future. One panelist described how her experience taking on new roles taught her how to ask good questions and rely on the expertise of her team, which helped prepare her for future opportunities.
Learn the Business
According to our panelists, learning how the business side of your organization works and, in particular, how your organization makes money is key to being a valuable contributor. Gaining an understanding of the various functional areas within your organization—and taking on roles within those areas—can prepare you for management roles that encompass a variety of business units. Our panelists also noted that people in IT roles can have great success because the nature of their work is to understand business needs and develop solutions that work for the company.
Cultivate a Network of Mentors
All three of our panelists credited part of their success to having a network of mentors. The mentorship relationships they found to be most effective were ones that grew organically and allowed them to ask questions in a nonjudgmental environment. If possible, our panelists recommended that you should seek out mentors from both within and outside of your organization to give you more perspectives as you navigate your career.
The next virtual meeting of the Aite-Novarica Women’s Network, “Perspectives From Developing Leaders,” will take place on October 26, 2022, led by Aite-Novarica Group Senior Principal Deb Zawisza. More information is available at https://aite-novarica.com/womens-network.