Reflecting on episode 7 of the Empowering Women Podcast

You_got_this photo with podcast
I really enjoyed the last two episodes because they opened my eyes to additional career paths that are meaningful and have an element of responsibility to our communities.
Drena’s story makes me feel like I am getting something right in terms of leadership. Fascinated that STEM careers can include things like makeup counters which I do spend time at from time to time.  So many areas to talk about, but I’ll focus on these areas: Mentoring, Leadership, Belief.
One reason Drena was successful in her career was because she actively seeks mentors and sponsors strategically along her path. As she looked to grow in an area or skill, she would look to a leader in that space to sponsor or educate her in the skills she needed.
I loved how she discussed how her career was mostly influencing others’ behaviors. She discussed how influencing is basically done through storytelling and listening for pain points or problems that can be solved.  Communication is key to the success of a business.  The better we can communicate with others, the better our workforce becomes.
I believe her leadership style aligns with mine. I am also very focused on continuous learning.  I call it continuous improvement, but I see the only way to improve is to learn from our failures and successes.  She also asks people to stretch.  I am always pushing my team outside their comfort zone while focusing on building strengths.
“Tackling today’s challenges” – I make sure my team is involved in the strategy of our company and consistently check in with them to make sure they are working on something they are passionate about.  I believe we are all more driven when we feel we are making an impact on something we care about in our core being.
This was probably my favorite quote Drena stated:  “As a leader, we must trust our own voice and opinion and stop undervaluing it or playing small.”  I still struggle with this, but I am improving.  I am thankful to Drena for sharing her challenges so I feel less alone in those feelings.  Thank you, Drena!
I also wanted to highlight the importance of being bold and having the courage to (like Drena says) “Make the Ask.”  Whether you are trying to climb the ladder, obtain hands-on experience, just get an Ally! Go ahead and ask for it.

Reflecting on Episode 6 of the Empowering Women Podcast

You_got_this photo with podcast

This episode features Sepi Saidi, Civil Engineer & Entrepreneur, Founding Owner of SEPI, Inc. Sepi is a visionary leader who founded SEPI Engineering & Construction in 2001 and has led the company to become a premier full service civil, environmental planning, and construction management engineering firm in the Southeast. One insight Sepi shares in this podcast is: “It’s about choosing… making decisions that create happiness and balance for your family, your particular lifestyle, and what’s important to you. [You can] craft that. Craft your life.” This really resonated with me because, like Sepi, I too decided to “craft my life” as an entrepreneur. In fact, this month, I am celebrating my 8th year in business!

Entrepreneurs face various obstacles and find the courage to overcome barriers. Sepi has conquered her own set of challenges. I can’t imagine what it was like for her moving to a different country and the culture shock that had to follow. I can relate to building a business through hard work and believing in the vision. There is so much truth in success being tied to your belief in yourself and your dream. Sepi talks about entrepreneurship taking persistence. We both started our companies not knowing anything about starting a business and that comes with learning by doing!  It is about being curious, asking questions, and doing the research to gain the knowledge you need to accomplish the tasks.

I love how Sepi talks about building her team.  Building a team that believes in your mission and also has the skills to execute. She discusses how a leader should be able to step out and the team effectively run without her, as well as the leader stepping back in to collaborate on ideas and making sure all voices and perspectives are being heard. Growing a productive team is necessary to the health of a startup. I remember when I was at my limit, and the only way I would be able to continue to grow is to invest in personnel to help take my business to the next level.  Ensuring our team is working well together in a collaborative and supportive environment is my primary focus now. I loved when Sepi discusses bringing your “whole self” into the office.  Openly talking about what is happening with us personally is important to an enjoyable work life. I also hope that I have built a company that allows everyone on the team the flexibility to “craft their own life!”

Sepi’s take on life is so refreshing, and I absolutely see why she is successful. She understand the reality of bias in the workplace and faces those challenges head-on.  Beginning her career as an engineer in a male-dominated industry, she knows that bias is present. She uses a curiosity mindset instead of judgement to gain a better understanding of the situation.  Most good people discriminate unconsciously, and so if we talk about and highlight these things, people who do these things without knowing will see their own bias and will adjust. These steps will lead us in the right direction to having a more inclusive workforce.

I want to encourage you that if you feel overwhelmed by bias in the workplace, don’t give up on your dream. If you need to remove yourself and take a break to be sure the company still aligns with your goals, do that.  But then, make sure you identify the problem and focus on bringing solutions to the table. Sepi inspires us to “focus not only on the results but offer solutions.”

In the end, she reminded me of a Ted Talk that has been my mindset for years now…

  1. Face Your Fears.
  2. Ask yourself “So What!”   What is the worst that can happen?
  3. Think… If they don’t like me, they just don’t know me yet!

Sepi calls us as Leaders to be visible and show our passion for our work. In her case, for engineering and entrepreneurship!  What is your passion?  Start your journey in being visible by commenting below!

On to the next podcast…