For the next several months, e-VentExe will be spotlighting one “Super-Career” woman every month, allowing her to tell her story about how she entered the corporate work world. Read about the struggles, sacrifices, highlights, and rewards these women faced while climbing the ladder towards success. We continue our series with “Super-Career” woman, Georgene Waterman, who is currently the Chief Operations Officer (COO) at Life Med ID, an Information Technology company specializing in medical software.
25 years ago, a successful career woman had to figure out how to compete in a male-dominated world. Women could not show any signs of weakness; they were constantly putting on their “game face” to show men they could do anything as good, if not better. They dressed the part to be at the boardroom (i.e., suits and ties).
The “Super-Career” woman had to balance her personal life with her work life—at the workplace, dresses were replaced with slacks, femininity replaced with sternness all in order to strive to the top. The strenuous struggle to move up the corporate ladder may have seemed daunting, but to these “Super-Career” women, who lived double lives, it was the norm. Now, as young females are entering the workplace, what advice can these “Super-Career” women give to the younger generation? The world for women today is different; however mistakes can still be made as a woman advances in a competitive workplace.
Georgene has always been the type of individual that can multitask and work in a proficient manner. She recalls being in charge of fundraisers in high school and stated that if anything needed to be done, she would be the first point of contact in completing the project or task. Georgene’s go-getter attitude started at a young age and continued into her adult life: she was the mother of a disabled child as well as a professional working her way up in her career.
Following in her Mother’s footsteps, Georgene became a registered nurse by receiving a nursing diploma. She later pursued her bachelors, masters, and PhD after she already had her first child. Busy as she was being a great mother and career woman, Georgene did not recall any major struggles or challenges as she climbed up the ladder of success, only wishing she would have asked for help in terms of childcare. She found a way to balance both her family and career by simply making it work; devoting time to each. She was 40 years old when she received the coveted title of CEO at a hospital and had been working professionally since she was 21 years old. Georgene began her career path as a registered nurse, switched into hospital administration, and then made her greatest leap of all by becoming a CEO. In the midst of all this, Georgene also started her own side business where she trained nurses to help orient new nurses.
Georgene has always been an outspoken individual in a professional way allowing her to stand out from the rest of the crowd: she always voiced her opinion and was a part of the solution, not the problem. She believes a large reason as to how she moved up the ladder was by allowing others to hear what she thought and the implementations she would put forth.
Georgene felt she never reached a glass ceiling because of the way she perceived herself. She never thought of herself as a woman, which benefited her career goals. Georgene believes women who see themselves as women, rather than professional individuals do reach a glass ceiling, which may be due to the stigma behind women in senior positions.
Based on Georgene’s past experiences, she has some advice for females who are about to, or recently entered the workforce. She stresses to ask and receive help in terms of childcare for mothers. In a business standpoint, Georgene encourages newcomers to speak up, bring solutions, do not complain, and to ask for help to implement ideas. She believes finding out where one fits in is important stating that people cannot find their true calling unless they try many different things and stay in a job for more than a couple of months.
Although Georgene has taken a step back from the top position, she has had many accomplishments in her life and feels she does not have to prove herself to anyone anymore. She states it can be challenging having to report to someone, but she does not care, especially since she still works in a medical-related industry and that is where her heart belongs.
Georgene thinks of her life as a spiritual journey recalling the hardships and joyous times, but overall believes everything she has encountered has either been a learning experience or a giving experience.
To learn more about Georgene’s career path, read below for a detailed Q and A:
1) Upon entering the workforce what was your initial career choice? Did that career path change? If so, why did you decide to pursue a different path?
In my day, you could become a nurse by living in a hospital and studying right there at the hospital and becoming a diploma nurse but it didn’t give you a college education. Or you could get a college education. We [diploma nurses] were the nurses that everyone wanted because we knew what we were doing—we lived and worked at the hospital for three solid years, summers included…so about the same amount as going to a four-year college, but we didn’t have a college degree, we got a diploma. I did that of course because my mother did it. Two months out of nursing training they needed an Assistant Head Nurse and I got the Ella Sweep Award, which was the person out of 69 girls who was the most excellent nurse. And then they asked me to be the Assistant Head Nurse. So I’ve never been in anything other than management. I’ve been working for 45 years and I’ve always been in management because of that [Assistant Head Nurse position].
2) Did you find it difficult to compete for jobs in a male-dominated world?
I was lucky because nursing is female dominated, so I started with that and then made my switch from nursing into hospital administration; I was just part of a group. After, I made the biggest leap of all in my time [by becoming a CEO]. I became a CEO of a network of hospitals that included 28 hospitals and there were 27 men and then me. I was never in that traditional business where women have to compete because all nurses were women in my day.
3) Why did you pursue the hospital CEO position?
It pursued me: I went from nursing and then I worked 7,8,9 years and then I had a baby. I thought “I’m not missing Christmas morning.” My family was very traditional. Christmas morning was important so I needed a job that gave me weekends off. After I had my first baby, (I was almost 30) I went to the Director of Nurses and I said “I want to come back. I really only want to work part-time and no weekends,” and she said, “Well, let’s see what you can do.” She asked me what I liked to do and I said “I really enjoy the teaching part of nursing.” She made a job for me—they needed something done, and they needed someone to take care of all of the orientation of the new nurses. They oriented about 250 new nurses a year, so she gave me that project and I took it and went with it; I made it my own! I did that while my children were very young and then I was asked by another hospital to run their education department.
4) If you could do it all over again, would you do the same thing?
I ask myself that and I ask my children that—“Did you suffer because I was on my own journey?” and they said they didn’t in terms of working. I think it was good for my daughter to see that I was more than a Mother.
5) What were some of your mistakes along the way to your ideal career goal?
Not asking for help soon enough, taking jobs along the way that I probably didn’t strategically think about. I had to work with some big corporations along the way that I didn’t agree with, like I had one corporation that wanted me to do some illegal things and when I refused to do them, they fired me, so I had to file a whistleblower lawsuit against them. You can’t work that many years and not have things happen. I’ve always worked long-term, but I took a job once in between jobs to run a 350-bed assisted living facility that was in the middle of new ownership. I kept coming in earlier and earlier and started coming in at 3:00am and left at 8:00pm and my husband said, “What are you doing?” Obviously it wasn’t for me—I couldn’t get my arms around it, they didn’t have any professional people there; it was a disaster. It was just a different model than I was used to working with, so I’ve had many experiences. I took the job because I wasn’t working and I felt I could do anything—I ran a hospital so I figured I could run an assisted living place, but it was very different. We all take jobs that we don’t think through.
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Our guest blogger is Tina R. Shaw. Tina is a Coach and Consultant specializing in leadership development, supporting change, and facilitating learning. Contact Tina at email@example.com.
Most of us have heard of the Peter Principle, but in case you haven’t, it is commonly phrased as “Employees tend to rise to their level of incompetence.” Why does this happen? Consider the super-star sales person, Mary. She’s consistently a top producer, does everything expected of her, and is seen as a rising star. So of course she earns a promotion to Sales Manager! A few months later the shine on Mary’s star is tarnishing. What went wrong?
Like many people who are promoted, the skills and behaviors that made Mary successful in her former role are not the same skills and behaviors necessary for success in her new role. Not only is it important to develop new competencies to succeed in the new role, it is equally important to understand which competencies should be de-emphasized. For example, as a super-star salesperson personal expertise and efforts are a significant factor in success. As a sales manager, success comes from getting results through the efforts and expertise of others. In Mary’s new role leadership becomes more important than individual contribution. Because Mary’s success came from her personal efforts it may be difficult for her to let go of doing things herself to focus instead on supporting her team to produce results.
In the book, “The Leadership Pipeline” by Ram Charan, Steve Drotter and Jim Noel, the authors outline the skill requirements, time applications and work values necessary for different levels of leadership. Moving from individual contributor to manager of people takes more than learning some new skills, it also requires adjusting values and where you focus your time. Each level of leadership requires different adjustments in these three areas. Leaders in transition can get into trouble when they fail to make the necessary adjustments in what they value, what they do, and where they focus their time.
Knowing you need to make some changes, and even learning what changes you need to make is the easy part – you can get training, read a book, get advice from a mentor or search the Internet. Actually making changes is much, much harder because most of us tend to default to what has been successful for us in the past. It takes repeated practice to make new skills and behaviors part of our default mode.
How many of us have taken a class or read a book on leadership and committed to implementing something we learned, but never practiced enough to make it stick? Probably most of us, including me. It’s not about ability, capacity or hitting the limits of our potential. All of these things expand as we gain experience, learn and grow as individuals. More likely it is because no one is checking in on us to see how we are applying what we learned. We get so absorbed in the day-to-day of our work and lives that we don’t remember to practice what we learned, and eventually we forget altogether. What we need is an accountability partner. Someone who will challenge us, support us, provide feedback, and ask us the right questions to ensure we are doing what we said we would do.
Working with a coach is a wonderful way to get the support and accountability you need. How can a coach help? A coach is trained to listen, ask powerful questions, and reflect back to create awareness to help the client take action to get where they want to go. Working with a coach provides a regular check-in that allows you to measure your progress, get past obstacles, and celebrate successes!
When I started my business I naturally choose to focus on what I love. My passion is leadership development and transferring learning into business results. I partner with clients to develop leaders, accelerate learning, and support change. If you would like to learn more about developing leaders, I invite you to contact me: firstname.lastname@example.org or http://www.linkedin.com/in/tinarshaw.
Amelya Stevenson, SPHR-CA is the owner of e-VentExe, a full service human resource consulting company located in Northern California. Earlier this year, e-VentExe created their own document detailing what it takes to be a superstar manager. Here’s the official video to the first part of the oath!