I’m new to the “real world”. I graduated from college three months ago and started working at Rackspace three weeks later. Not only am I just now embarking on my career path at Rackspace; I am really starting from square one in a world where gender oftentimes plays a significant role in the pursuit of success.
Being a young woman, sometimes I can’t avoid the feeling that I’m traveling a road that is fast approaching a major bifurcation: it seems like pretty soon I’m going to have to choose between dedicating myself to being a mom and dedicating myself to advancing in my career. Yeah, I’ve heard it’s possible to do both; many women have done it beautifully (shout out to my incredible mom, Linda), but somehow when I think about doing it for myself, it seems impossible.
I grabbed coffee with Courtney Peña this week to chat about her experience as a woman in the field of technical sales. I walked into our meeting excited to hear her story, but I didn’t expect that days later her message would still be on my mind. Hearing about Courtney’s life affected me because I saw parts of myself in her- yeah, we share the same name, but it turns out we share so much more than that as well. Courtney’s parents made major sacrifices to ensure that she left college debt-free, as did mine, and it was encouraging to talk together about how we are extremely driven to be successful in order to honor our parents’ tremendous sacrifice.
We also discussed how all too often we as women hold ourselves back because we are afraid of failure. I’ve definitely been there, and Courtney’s words about the topic have been on my mind since our chat. Here’s what stuck:
“As a woman you have to know who you are and be comfortable in your own skin and be authentic. If you stay true to who you are and have confidence in what you can bring to the table, you’ll be so much more comfortable taking risks and overcoming challenges. Remember how to eat an elephant: one bite at a time.”
Like me, Courtney graduated from college without an IT-related major, and yet she went on to be exceptionally successful both at a previous IT company and now at Rackspace. In February, Courtney was promoted to Vice President of Online Sales and Marketing here at Rackspace, the next step in an outstanding track record in the field of technology sales. How did she become so successful? One bite at a time.
Courtney distinguishes getting to know other female Rackers as having played an integral part in her success here. One Racker in particular, Laura McWilliams, has been Courtney’s mentor at Rackspace. Early in her career, Courtney had always felt different from her coworkers because she was a working mother. Connecting with Laura was special because she too experienced the intricacies of being a working mother. When they met, Courtney saw that Laura was simultaneously successful as a Racker and a mother, and seeing that gave Courtney the self-assurance to boldly balance both worlds as well.
For me, hearing this is at once comforting and compelling. At Rackspace, success isn’t correlated with gender, or race, or any other arbitrary variable; it’s about your commitment to working hard and excelling. I can’t fathom being stifled or exalted in the workplace because I’m a woman- I’m overjoyed to be at a company where I know that my success will be gauged by the work I do. Generations of women have fought to create the level of gender equality that we enjoy today, and I am endlessly grateful to have the choice to be aprofessional, a mother, or both in my life. Women like Courtney Peña manifest the fact that the divergent road I mentioned earlier only exists if I want it to- we are forging our own paths here, and so long as we work hard and walk together, the world is ours for the taking.Category: Core Values Tags: Core Values, Empowerment, Inclusion, National Women's History Month, Women in IT