Overcoming Personal Adversity to Achieve Professional Growth

Overcoming Personal Adversity to Achieve Professional Growth

This article was written by Liliana López, Global Vice President

When it comes to breaking the glass ceiling for women in the tech industry, one big question remains. Who should hold the hammer?

When I was invited to represent Technology and Information Security on the TP Women Global Board, I was (of course) excited. I had come a long way since I started my career in Mexico all those years ago. However, I was a little conflicted. I had told my son that there is only one formula to succeed: Preparation + Hard Work = Success.

I was proud to believe that I’d always held the hammer, firmly and without hesitation – determined to always prepare, work hard, and achieve.

So, when I heard my son’s response to the news – in the form of a question – it challenged my long-held belief system.  “But with all your preparation and hard work over the years, don’t you think you’d be CIO by now if you were a man”?  His honest and simple assessment was undeniable, and my answer was very clear. “Yes, son, I think I would”.

Like anyone facing some form of adversity, whether it’s related to race, gender, or age, career advancement requires a greater level of focus and determination. There are often additional barriers and roadblocks to overcome along the way that others don’t face, whether they’re systemic, personal, or cultural.

And, as I considered my son’s words, I found myself reflecting on many experiences earlier in my career when I had loosened my grip on that hammer. The more I contemplated the barriers I had faced, the more I realized that many of my challenges had been due to a negative voice that plagued the early years of my professional career. I was in a marriage with someone who was overly competitive, negative, and discouraging. The dynamic was incredibly unhealthy, and his insecurities influenced many of my decisions at the time.

At one point, I had declined a promotion because my ex-husband (who worked for the same company) had also applied, but was passed over. I even hid salary increases and promotions for years, in an effort to avoid any hurt feelings.  Eventually, the stress of outperforming him even resulted in unbearable stomach pain and hospitalization – the physical manifestation of my struggle to balance professional aspirations with a harmonious home life.  It was the ultimate emotional and professional dilemma -- a desire to advance while feeling guilty for succeeding.

It took me a long time, and much deliberation, to realize that I had earned the recognition and deserved to enjoy and celebrate it. Even if others close to me failed to validate it.  As women, we often feel an overwhelming sense of responsibility to help those around us – often to our own detriment. And it can be incredibly difficult to accept our own successes.

In my case, I eventually realized it was this negative influence in my personal life that held me back. It was not easy (by any means), but the first step was to remove that negative voice from my inner circle. If those surrounding you aren’t supportive, both of your successes and your failures, then you may need to re-evaluate their role in your life. Once I took that step, I was able to focus more intently on my development. And I learned that surrounding myself with smart, secure, and open-minded people cultivates a much healthier environment where the sky is the limit.

So, as I evolved and grew, I underwent some key repairs of my own – trying different tools along the way. And I learned that It is our responsibility to choose the right implement at the right time.  Here are some strategies that helped me in my own transformation:

  • Define realistic professional goals
  • Never stop pursuing knowledge
  • Work hard and play harder (just not too hard!)
  • Don’t limit your professional network to your area of expertise. Diversity matters!
  • Never apologize for your success

Self-confidence and a healthy outlook provide the strength needed to endure the climb, and smart development strategies help illuminate the path. Then you just need to find an organization progressive enough to build a strong ladder (without any broken rungs to slow the ascent). But never doubt yourself -- even broken rungs can be overcome with grit and determination.

We are also (thankfully) entering a new era of enlightenment and acceptance where it’s ok to share stories like mine, and openly discuss our adversities.

The topic of equality and the critical importance of diversity in the workplace are being embraced more than ever before – and I’m very fortunate to work for such a progressive company as Teleperformance. With such a massive and globally diverse workforce of over 330,000 people in over 80 countries, different cultures and lifestyles are not only accepted here, but they are embraced and celebrated. Our differences – whether they’re personal, cultural, racial, etc. – help provide greater depth and dimension to who we are as a globally progressive organization. And we support one another both professionally and personally.

That’s why I wanted to share my personal story of adversity, and eventual triumph. Because, regardless of the type of challenge each one of us may encounter, we must be there to accept and support one another. Oppression in any form, or for any reason, is never acceptable. So, we must be that positive and healthy voice for each other, and collectively overcome the world’s negative voices. Together, we can break down those walls that divide us (and the ceilings that limit us).

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