I am not sure if everyone is like this, but I know that who I am is in great part a result of of all the experiences I've had and all people that have been in my life. It's like a snowball - you roll along through life and you pick up things that add up to who you become. I often talk about the influence my mother had in my life, and she will always remain the single greatest influence on the core of who I am.
But there have also been other people along the way who have made an impact, given me opportunities, and helped me evolve to become a better person. Like drops of water that create ripples, the big and small things people have done for me made a difference. In particular, there were three women who were so very important in my life while I was getting an early start in the working world.
There was Bonnie, my first Manager in the restaurant industry, Cheryl, the first Vice President of the first corporate department I ever worked in/for, and Kim (we used to call her Kimmie), who was the last executive boss I had before I myself became an executive. They are all incredibly powerful, kind, sophisticated, smart and talented in their own way.
Some people just automatically assume I worked for men and some even suggest the opportunities I had were because I was young and cute, and that is the only possible reason I could have had the career advancement opportunities I did at such a young age. That couldn't be farther from the truth. In fact, being young and female had more potential to present hurdles for me to be taken seriously when I was just getting started, but I was able to overcome that becuase of these women.
These three women were top among the leaders that gave me chances and developed me while I was just getting my start. They all taught me very different things, but there were common threads between them that were incredible leadership examples for me. Each of them literally trained and coached me at various points in my career, and will never forget all the opportunities they gave me.
Bonnie hired me when I was a teenager, gave me leadership opportunities at a young age, and gave me tough, honest feedback when I wasn't living up to my potential. Cheryl hired me for my first corporate job at the age of 20, set the bar for leading with grace and composure and inspiring others. Kimi taught me how to build a department, coach and mentor others, and just like the other two, how to lead with integrity and how to transition from Manager to Director to Executive.
Each of them gave me opportunities that I would not have otherwise had if they hadn't had the talent to teach and coach me and if they hadn't believed in me. Each of them cared for me personally, eventually became friends and mentors, and taught me how to lead with compassion and resilience in business. They each were respected and treated others with great respect.
I don't know if I just got lucky having these amazing women in my professional and personal life, or of we all have those people around us and some of us just take the opportunity to learn from them more than others. I looked up to them; I wanted to be like them; I wanted to do a good job for them, and I desperately feared ever letting them down.
I was so young when I worked for them, yet they gave me chances that many people my age would have never had. They always had my back, gave me honest coaching, and did the right things for the right reasons. Interestingly, they are all now founders or chief executives of their own or of other great businesses. I still marvel at their business expertise, grace and success today.
I wrote a blog post a few years back titled "How did you get where you are"? http://www.katcole.net/2011/01/how-did-you-get-where-you-are.html I try to spend time thinking about that very thing every once in a while and not miss the opportunity to be eternally grateful for those who are a part of the answer to that question. I could write a post every day for the rest of my life to name all the people who have helped or taught me along my journey, but I specifically thought of these amazing women today.
To Kimmie, Cheryl, and Bonnie, I cannot thank you enough for all you did for me. I know I was fortunate to have all of you in one company at one time and to have had the chance to work for each of you directly. I would not have the opportunities I do today if it weren't for the opportunities you gave me so long ago.
You will never know what an influence you were and are in my life, but I hope this post is a little reminder of the incredible impact you make on others.You will always have a special place in my heart, and I love each of you for the incredible human beings you are.