I’ve had the privilege of working for several different strong women throughout my career, and I can honestly say they’ve all helped make me more confident, in work and in life, and they have each given me the drive to land a role at all of the amazing places I’ve had the opportunity to work. The other day I was thinking about how much I’ve been able to learn from these strong women, some of them moms and some of them not, with a common theme of strength and confidence. I wanted to share how some of these women have impacted my life, my key takeaway from each of these badass boss babes, and how you can apply them to your life and be one, too!
Don’t Ask, Tell
The first direct report that I came across in my professional career was a badass brand marketer with years of experience and confidence to boot. When she entered a room, she commanded attention and people listened. Her opinion was both respected and cherished, and those who had to answer to her or those who challenged her knew they better have their sh*t together. Her reputation preceded her and I actually worked cross-functionally with her before switching departments and joining her team.
Right away she pushed me to do more than I thought I was capable of DAILY. And she also taught me to go for what I wanted, no holds barred. If I wanted to take the lead on a project, she encouraged me. And if I needed a day off, she asked me on the spot to reword my sentence and TELL HER I needed the day off, rather than ask. She was a mom of two boys who took time off when she needed it and let people know she was “unavailable that day” without blinking an eye. She taught me by example to work hard when you are in the office but also take time off when you need it because we all deserve days off. And to tell, not ask. She taught me to be tenacious and unapologetically me. I can still hear her voice in my head when I need to muster up the courage to ask for anything in the workplace or in life.
Support One Another
The next big boss babe influencer in my work life was not much different than the last when it came to poise and confidence. I still to this day have not met a more professional, charismatic, and successful woman that also has a personality to boot. She had a strong marketing CPG (consumer packaged goods) background, and I interviewed to be on her team at a local grocery retail headquarters. I was currently in the Merchandising department, but I set a goal for myself to get into marketing within one year of being hired. Not wanting to let my last boss down, I was thrilled to learn that I landed an interview in Marketing within nine months. I remember having to run to Stein Mart on my lunch break to grab heels for a last-minute interview because it was Friday and I was in jeans and flip-flops! She greeted me with a handshake and warm smile and we hit it off immediately. She and I connected at a level I could not explain. I think she respected that I had a strong work ethic (#Midweststrong) and knew I wouldn’t let her down.
I was also terrified to be switching departments yet again because I was pregnant but hadn’t told anyone at work yet. As a lot of people know, it’s the woman’s prerogative when she notifies her employer of her intended leave of absence, but I was nearing the end of the first trimester and starting to show. Just the thought of telling my brand new boss, “Hey, I’m going to be out for a few months,” right after I started, terrified me. I still remember shaking when I walked to her office to tell her. I spilled my news and before I knew it she was walking around her desk to give me a congratulatory hug. She kept my news private as long as I wished, but the rest of the department had the same reaction. They showered me with gifts and tons of advice. When I went on maternity leave, they hired a temp to cover my work and shut off my email account so I literally could not work. I could not have asked for a better boss to report to during maternity leave, and I truly wish all future working moms out there an experience like I had.
Put Others First
The next woman I cannot go without mentioning was not a boss or even a coworker of mine. But she did something for me that I will never be able to fully thank her for. She watched my firstborn son for me in her home for two years while I pursued my career. She did this with all the love that she has for her own children and opened up her home to my family. And she did it with a smile on her face every day. Her refusal to let things get her down and her strong faith have influenced me to this day, and I’m so glad we have kept in touch.
Hard Work Pays Off
After working on my first boss’ team at the grocery store headquarters, I didn’t think it could possibly get any better. But soon I was transitioned to the team responsible for store remodels and grand openings. This was quite possibly the most I’ve grown in my career, and I have my next boss to thank for it. Much like her predecessor, our relationship was built on trust because she had seen my work cross-functionally and had no doubts about my performance. She was the exact opposite of a micro-manager. She empowered her team to make informed decisions on their own and to present recommendations to her and others. Not only that, she gave credit where credit was due; never once claiming my successes as her own. In fact, she probably gave me more credit than I deserved. I had enormous success planning over 30 grand openings with her in less than one calendar year. I had exposure to District Directors and C-level managers from other teams within our organization. And I learned how to walk confidently into a room and answer questions with ease. On the same note, this boss also encouraged me to take time off and not check emails in the evenings but to spend time with my kids. She truly believed in working hard to be able to enjoy life. She went on to co-found a tech start-up, and it’s been an honor and privilege to work alongside her again and watch her work her magic!
Fight For It
This next boss babe actively sought me out to handle marketing for her growing real estate team. She was a woman who knew what she wanted and went after it. We knew her because she helped my husband and I build our first home in St. Augustine, sell it a few years later, and buy another home at the beach. She was such a successful realtor that she started coaching other realtors on how to be more successful. It was so amazing to work for her because she is such a driven person she just exudes purpose and motivation. She pushed me to always have my goals top of mind in every action and every thought as I went about my entire day.
She is currently still a real estate agent coach and also now a life coach and inspires people to be the best person they can be by using accountability to motivate them. I have also seen her battle and beat breast cancer and become stronger for it. She is literally one of the strongest women I’ve ever met and am so proud to know.
Be Tenacious AND Kind
I simply cannot imagine where I would be in my career without this next badass woman. Life is so serendipitous, and if you’re sensing a theme I’m about to tell you that I worked cross-functionally with her at my previous job in grocery retail before working for her at her brand-new company. She, along with two other amazing women, founded her own marketing firm right here in Jacksonville.
She and I had kept in touch throughout our job changes because I took portraits of her growing family. She has six beautiful children, and I’ve had the opportunity to capture them at various life stages and even do a fun shoot at Everbank Stadium since they were diehard Jaguars fans before it was cool! I’ve always admired her ability to juggle life and work and she hired me on a very part-time basis and allowed me to ease back into the workforce when my youngest was nearing 2 years old. (I was incredibly blessed to stay home with him from day one.) It was the perfect transition for me, and I was able to juggle a healthy mix of working from home, coming into the office and bringing the baby, and working late hours while the kids slept. The kid-friendly office was my favorite! She brought her baby, too, and they often played together in the octagon. It never worked out perfectly, but that didn’t matter and she was as understanding as ever. She reminded me to not forget about myself and what I enjoy doing, but that nothing was more important than my family. Her kindness as a boss and just as a person was such a stark contrast to how tenacious and successful she was as a businesswoman. My only regret is that we were not able to work together for longer.
Stepping foot into a new environment can be nerve-wracking and overwhelming, but from my very first interview at this next company and still to this day, this special woman was nothing but kind and approachable. She was a fellow mother of two boys (plus throw a girl in the mix, too!), so we had a lot in common from the get-go. This particular workplace I would say was primarily staffed with younger people without kids, so it was refreshing to have someone on my side who literally understood what it took to show up at work each day, not looking like a train wreck for bonus points. This new job was my official transition from part-time to full-time after having my second baby, and although it was two years after he was born, it was still difficult. I can’t stress enough how important it is to find gainful employment that is flexible when it comes to life and children and doesn’t count your hours. My husband always says employment is a mutually beneficial relationship, and if at any point it no longer benefits one side, then it ceases to exist. An employer wouldn’t think twice about firing you if you didn’t uphold your end of the bargain, right? He has encouraged me at all my aforementioned jobs to fight for my rights as an employee — the right to come in late if I have a doctor’s appointment, the right to maternity leave, the right to a MF-ing lunch break, etc. This is not something I had to fight for at this company and this woman, and co-founder of the company stood behind that fact. I felt that they truly honored your personal time and it was a give-and-take situation with flexibility. And as it should be, especially since 2020. I encourage every woman and working mother to search for this until you find it and not settle for anything less.
Navigate the Waters
The last woman I want to talk about who has impacted my career was my direct report but was actually younger than me. You would think it would be awkward or a power struggle, but from day one she was nothing but gracious, and I’ve learned so much from her. My first impression of her is of course at my first interview with the company. She carried herself in a confident but not cocky way and definitely knew her way around. After starting work there, I quickly learned that this company was all about navigating the waters and since she had been there for several years she definitely had a knack for this. My dad has always said there are just some things you cannot teach (poise, confidence, empathy, etc.), and she possesses a lot of those qualities. I’ve always been a hard worker but not much of a “natural” at anything. What she’s taught me is not to force things that I’m not as strong at, but always be willing to try something new and adapt and grow. I think true leadership is encouraging your team to grow in their role but also never not be true to oneself.
In conclusion, I’d like to think that I am who I am regardless of the influence of others. What I mean by this is oftentimes I lack confidence in myself and who I am, like many of us, and I’d like to think I’m very clear on “me.” But I honestly cannot see myself where I am in life without any of these amazing women who’ve impacted my career, and I don’t care to.
If you’re a boss babe, which one of these things hit home for you that you’d like to try and incorporate into your work life?