Originally posted on Crain’s Silicon Valley

The Mistake:

My mistake was I wasn’t fully showing up for work. I was not allowing myself to do that and I was working in a place that didn’t allow me to do that.

The first 10 years of my career I spent at a company that was a large mainframe designer that competed against IBM. I started right out of college as a software engineer there. It was a really good company.

I was climbing the corporate ladder. I started off as a software engineer and I became a software development manager and then a director. I was doing all the things that look good on paper and represent what you are “supposed” to be doing in your career.

But one day I had this clear vision as I was walking across the parking lot into a company building, I had this mental picture that I was taking parts of me out and putting them into little Ziploc bags. So, I took a little piece of me out and put it into a Ziploc bag, and then another piece and then another piece. 

So, walking into this building, there were just parts of me that weren’t showing up.

Then, after working and leaving the building I would start opening up the Ziploc bags and start putting parts of me back in. And then the next morning, I had the same mental picture.

And what that said to me was my whole self wasn’t showing up. It was only parts of me that were showing up, the parts that had a place at the company. So, my whole being, who I am, didn’t really have a place there. There were pieces of me that didn’t really agree with everything that was done or said.

Did I go against the grain and fight the good fight against it?  No, I did not. I went along because I felt like I needed to do that in order to push my career forward and be a good employee.

Here’s an example of what happened: On Sundays, I would watch football and remember all the scores and all that stuff so on Monday morning I could walk into meetings and keep up with all the talk about what had happened the day before. I didn’t care about football. But I did it to fit in.

The Lesson:

Fast forward to now, working at the Miller Center, and all of me is showing up.

And I am so deliciously happy with my work and the people I get to work with. I wake up in the morning so full of gratitude. This is the way you really should be. You spend so much of your life at work and you should be able to show up complete.

Certainly, this comes out of me being a woman, but I don’t think that this is just a woman’s experience. When you try to follow this image of what you are supposed to do, when you follow the path you think you’re supposed to follow, you give up things that represent who you truly are.

Now I am very conscious about showing up as who I am. I’m happy doing what I’m doing. I’m not trying to follow the next path and I’m not trying to figure out the next thing I should be doing.

I’ve given up on what success is supposed to look like and instead am focusing on what  success feels like. I’m focused on just being happy and working with people I want to work with and doing what I want to do.

It’s not about chasing after the Joneses. It’s not about chasing after something that society says you are supposed to do. Instead it’s about asking, “Am I happy being where I am right now?” And the answer is, “Yes. Okay. I’m good!”