By Angela Carter, Principal, Ernst & Young LLP
I’ve been fortunate in my career—I’ve worked with leading technology companies during an incredibly exciting time in the global technology revolution while being able to bring professional services to my clients that have helped them achieve their business goals. My trajectory hasn’t followed a straight path and it didn’t come about as the result of a calculated five-year plan either. When I look back at my career, among the factors that truly helped me flourish was a mix of genuine curiosity, great mentors and a love for creating connections and solving problems. Along the way, I’ve benefitted from many lessons (some of them mistakes) that might help other women in their professional journeys.
Walking the Walk
As the sponsor of Ernst & Young LLP’s (EY) Professional Women’s Network, I’m particularly passionate about the importance of diversity and inclusiveness in the workplace and connecting this to what we do in the marketplace. It’s truly impressive how committed EY is to diversity, gender balance and the advancement of women leaders at all levels. It’s critical for all leaders to proactively drive diversity and inclusiveness in their organizations. Essentially, it’s the only way we move the needle.
According to EY’s recent report, “Women. Fast Forward,” more equality in the workplace leads to higher gross domestic product and increased productivity. It’s not surprising that better gender balance on corporate boards leads to better share prices and financial performance. There is a lot of positive movement globally in terms of investing in gender parity, but we still have a long way to go. We’re ahead of the curve here in the Bay Area to have women at the helm of major technology companies, but we need more examples like these and we need to make sure that there are more women leaders at every level throughout the organization so there is a pipeline of upward mobility for women.
My Winding Path to Success
I never had a five-year plan or a very strict idea of where my career would take me. However, certain factors definitely contributed to my successes. I’ve lived during an incredible time and had the opportunity to work in the technology sector as it was booming and strengthening the global economy. Also, my outlook has always been geared toward solving problems and finding better ways of doing things at work. I’ve always been eager to optimize the status quo. What’s key is that I didn’t keep this to myself—I took these ideas to people who could do something about them. Fortunately, a lot of those conversations turned into opportunities that afforded me more robust experiences and leadership positions.
I’m also a born connector and this has served me really well in my career. I absolutely believe that the more people you know and the more people you introduce to each other, the more potent your network. I don’t think of “networking” in terms of a means to an end or an exercise in collecting business cards. If you really want to expand your circle, be curious, be generous and bring people together when there’s an opportunity to do so just because it’s the right thing to do.
The Power of a Strong Network
I’ve had a variety of mentors throughout my career—all with different benefits. My first mentor at my previous firm was a male boss who really believed in me, wanted to see me thrive and invested in my growth. I also have a peer mentor who’s my age and who inspires me with her courage, gives me feedback, validates my thoughts and challenges my doubts.
Sometimes, as high performing women, we get so used to successes that it’s very difficult for us to handle adversity. The first time I didn’t get a role, it was jolting and I felt like a failure. I immediately reached out to my mentors, who reminded me of my value and the great contributions I could make in that existing role. I think it’s important that successful people fail once in a while. Learn what you can from it, put things in perspective, then pick yourself up and move on. Some of the most accomplished people I know have failed, but they are also incredibly resilient. Don’t let your failures define you.
I’m grateful to have had such a rich, textured professional life and an incredible support system to help me along the way. I encourage all those navigating today’s corporate landscape to think about how they can build a better working world by injecting more curiosity into what they do, developing more potent relationships and providing mentorship and opportunities for others to thrive on their path.