Career lessons learned from successful women

Posted on November 30, 2010


career woman
I had the pleasure of attending the first annual The Successful You 2010 Women’s Leadership Forum at the Microsoft NERD Center. This conference brought together leading women from many industries, who shared their stories.

One of the sessions was “Lessons Learned: Women’s Career Decisions in Review.” We can always learn from others’ experiences.

The panelists:

Jennifer Tour Chayes – Distinguished Scientist and Managing Director, Microsoft Research
Lisa Desisto – Chief Advertising Officer, The Boston Globe and General Manager,
Laura Fitton – CEO/Founder,
Kiki Mills – President, MITX (moderator)
Dr. Yvonne Spicer – Vice President, Education Partnerships, Museum of Science.

1. What did you want to be when you were younger?

Jennifer (Microsoft) – I’ve always loved physics and knew I wanted to be a scientist when I grew up.

Lisa (Boston Globe) – I wanted to be a nun.

2. Thinking back to when you started your career (in your 20’s), what have you learned?

Jennifer (Microsoft) – How to change the way I think. I wasn’t very confident in my 20’s and strived to work really hard to prove myself. I’ve since learned that I don’t have to do it all on my own. If I surround myself with really smart people, it helps me tremendously.

Lisa (Boston Globe) – The older I get, the more I realize there’s a lot that I don’t know. I’ve also learned to listen more than talk.

Yvonne (Museum of Science) – I’ve learned to listen and observe. I’ve learned that defeat always means a new opportunity.

Laura ( – Stop paying attention to the allusions inside your head. Get over it and stop arguing for your limitations.

3. What’s next for you in your career?

Laura ( – I’m working on raising angel investments for my company. I’m fixated on execution.

4. What is the single best piece of career advice that you’ve received?

Jennifer (Microsoft) – My career coach told me that “it’s YOUR job to create a compelling vision of what you can bring to the company. It’s not your company’s job to recognize your capabilities.” You must make your own opportunities.

Lisa (Boston Globe) – Give people direct, honest and consistent feedback.

Laura ( – Never take the job that you are qualified for; take the one that will stretch you.

Yvonne (Museum of Science) – When people show you who they are, believe them and be gracious about it.

5. What’s your take on the state of ethics in the workplace today?

Jennifer (Microsoft) – Strong ethics will win in the long run. Trust is the key to success.

Lisa (Boston Globe) – All of us the Boston Globe have to sign a journalist ethic pledge. We have to keep a fine line between the business side and the media side.

Laura ( – Make sure you have a close circle of trusted advisors.

6. We hear a lot about work/life balance these days. What’s your home life like?

Jennifer (Microsoft) – My typical workday is 16 hours. Enough said.

Laura ( – I’m a single Mom, but I also know it’s vital for me to take time just for myself so I can be effective in all my roles.

Yvonne (Museum of Science) – My days can be crazy. I go to the ocean to soothe my spirit.

What an inspiring session. This advice can help both women and men.