What would you tell a woman entering a leadership position for the first time? For Women’s History Month, we asked five female leaders—executives, startup founders, and a professor—what they wish they knew at the start of their careers.
Here’s what they had to say:
Isa Watson MBA ’13, Founder of Envested
“Many opportunities to add great value don’t already exist; don’t be afraid to create them.”
Katie Burke, MBA ’09, Chief People Officer, HubSpot
“Let your sense of confidence be matched only by your sense of humor—you’re going to make mistakes, everyone does, so don’t let the pressure to be perfect interfere with your ability to learn, grow, and lead,” she said.
Christina Qi ’13, Founder of Domeyard
“I always thought that something was wrong with me because I tried to find a mentor for many years and just couldn’t find a match. But it turns out I’m not alone. There are tons of CEOs, entrepreneurs, and role models who made it through life without a formal mentor. People—and especially women—are constantly told to find mentors. And while mentorship has brought enormous value to society as a whole, life without one isn’t as bad as it seems.”
Laila Zemrani MBA ’13, Co-Founder of Fitnescity
“Over the years, I’ve learned that going against the flow often pays off much more than simply trying to fit in. I was born and raised in Morocco, a country that is unfortunately still heavily male-dominated. When I think about my journey, I remember a few moments of doubt, and I wish I had taken more risks then.”
Mary Rowe, MIT Sloan Adjunct Professor of Management
“Effectiveness in human interactions depends in large part on thinking ahead about two questions—before, during, and after—an important interaction. Whose interests are at stake in the coming discussion? What are the interests of each of the stakeholders? I think that all the mistakes (that I know I have made) come from failing to think enough about these two questions. And likely any successes, likewise, have depended on having listened respectfully and having tried to deal respectfully with the interests of the stakeholders.”