It’s incredible how while you’re becoming a more mature person you don’t realize it, but then you look back at yourself even a year before and you think — “wow, I’m so much more wise and put together than that woman on her best of days.” This feeling, despite making be blush for who I was (and specifically things I said or did then) gives me faith that I’ve got plenty of growth left in me, and one of these days I’ll be at a level of maturity required to succeed as a professional executive and even a mother.
It is very challenging to be an early employee in a fast-growing company. The culture shifts even faster than you are able to due to your own natural evolution. Suddenly, a role you were killing it at just a year ago is running away from you, and expectations are so high you’re not sure you can keep up, but you’ll huff and puff to prove you can if it’s possible. It’s scary and exhilarating all at the same time. It must feel similar to watching your child grow up, only if you were a cat, and your baby went from infant to adolescent with raging hormones in under a year and you’re constantly throwing a slumber party for her and her friends.
Although I’m not one to play the “because I’m a woman card” in real life (despite writing about it a lot), I have to admit that the recent realization that as our company grows, I am still only one of three women who hold director-or-above titles in our company makes me feel like I have a grander mission than helping us hit our sales goals, waiting for my stock to vest, and hoping to be appreciated by my fellow team members for my personal and team contributions. It’s all the more challenging as more senior leadership gets brought on when they are almost exclusively testosterone-driven males. No matter how hard I try, I’m still more on the all lets hold hands and sing Kumbaya and get terribly uncomfortable with the kind of in-your-face competition that permeates the business world, especially the world of startups. Not that it’s a bad thing — it is what helps a company become successful and keep fighting day in and day out when times are tough — but there is a level of that competition that starts to make people turn on each other. I’m no good at office politics — which is why I like the startup world to begin with — yet it’s time to start playing the game. And I need to be very very careful in maintaining proper alliances or I’ll be booted off the island.
Even though I’m highly critical of myself, I try and tend to see the best in other people. I realize some hold different world views. No matter, I’m more aware than ever that I’m just a small piece in this giant machine we’re building, and my piece can be replaced more easily today than it could have been 12 months ago. For some, this would like a fuel to their fire, but I tend to get more anxious the more itemized and compartmentalized my role becomes. I’m learning how to deal and to adapt, but I feel as if I’m falling further and further behind, and I’m running a race that my body was not built to win.
That said, the opportunities are plentiful and the excitement is well intact. The next few years are going to extremely challenging, and are going to push me to new heights and lows. I’m lucky that I’m finally starting to make some friends within the organization to share this ride with. It’s been lonely so far — not quite an executive, but higher than a junior-level employee — and now there are more people at my supposed level who I can connect with. It was wonderful to spend time with these people, even though I feel like such an outsider regardless of situation, and to just be able to laugh at the craziness, and appreciate each other for our place in all of it.