Learn from every example (even the bad ones).
“In many ways, every boss that I had was enormously influential on me for what they did well or what they didn’t do well.
And some of the stuff was technical, like the way they could work with data. Some of it was ways not to have a conversation; some of it was ways to have a conversation.
Some of it was just observing what an enormous heart many people had or how much they had my back; how they were [willing and] not willing to be vulnerable; ways that they supported diversity and inclusion in the workplace, or didn’t.”
If you’re at the table, you’re supposed to be there.
“Never question whether or not you are supposed to be in a room or at a table in a place where you’re contributing to decision making.
There were so many times where I recognized that if I wasn’t at a table and I wasn’t representing the underserved, that the decisions made may have gone in a completely different direction. Leveraging and using your voice to represent those who may not have the opportunity to be in that room is really important.
Focus on the work, not the title.
“My aspiration in life was to be a CEO, and I had that role, and I did not like that role.
I had a target, I had a wish, I had a dream, and it was about a title. The moral of the story is, know where you can have the greatest impact.
That’s about passion, that’s about [being] who you want to be. Be confident in the place that you’re best.
JANE KAPLAN PECK
Owner and COO of Kaplan Construction
Be your own champion.
“One time [when I was just starting out], a female architect — I was at her office — said, ‘Jane, can you get coffee for everybody?’ And I looked around, and I said yes.
I was there to help with the meeting. I know nobody would have ever asked a man to do that.
I think at the age of 22, it’s hard to realize that you have the right to [advocate for yourself]. “
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Take moments to stop and give yourself credit.
“I think it’s important that we memorize happy moments. We have to give ourselves credit for things we have achieved, and [for when] we went above and beyond.
Record those memories in a way that will fuel [your] energy in down times. When times are difficult, bring yourself to those happy and encouraging moments.
Say, ‘Hey, I did that once. I can do this again.
I can do it even better.’ ”
From left: Jane Kaplan Peck, owner and COO of Kaplan Construction; Lisa Rhodes, president and chief merchant of Rue Gilt Groupe; and Christina Severin, president and CEO of Community Care Cooperative.
Kaplan peck by Robyn Ivy; Rhodes from Rue Gilt Groupe; and Severin by Nick SokoloffMINDY S. LUBBER
Don’t worry so much about making the wrong choice.
“It used to worry me that I might make the wrong decision. I’m less worried about that now.
People need to take risks in the workplace — calculated risks, thoughtful risks, or even just do your best in an imperfect information world. I don’t want anybody to think that if they make the wrong decision, they failed.
Sometimes you make the wrong decision. Own it, fix it, be honorable about it, and that’s OK, too.
DOROTHY A. SAVARESE
Chairman and CEO of Cape Cod 5
You’re not going to hurt their feelings by saying, ‘It seems like, from my perspective, it should be X. Would you consider that instead?’ ”
MORE: Massachusetts isn’t always as progressive as it seems.
Our female leaders are fighting to change that.
SHEILA LIRIO MARCELO
Founder, chairwoman, and CEO of Care.
Redefine work-life balance.
I bought into the notion that I’d be seen as less committed than other candidates, that I wouldn’t be considered for the tough assignments, that work and life were two separate ledgers in zero-sum competition with each other. But that’s not how life works.
I’m not being my authentic self if I can’t bring my whole self to work. Kids get sick at school and need to be picked up early, and clients sometimes have an urgent question that can’t wait until Monday.
Clockwise from top left: Dorothy A.
Savarese, chairman and CEO of Cape Cod 5; Lyndia Downie, president and executive director of Pine Street Inn; Christine Lin, president and CEO of Cambridge Network; and Lisa A. Brothers, chairman and CEO of Nitsch Engineering.
Savarese by Dan Cutrona; Downie by John Rich Photography; Lin from Lin; and Brothers by Frank Monkiewicz PhotographyLAURIE LESHIN
Don’t just find a mentor — build a mentorship network.
Not only did she talk to me about it, she picked up the phone and called the person who was running the program. When I was a young faculty member, one professor in our department could teach anybody anything, so every time before I would go stand up in front of my 225-student intro geology class, I would go see him.
Chairman and CEO of Nitsch Engineering
Create your own opportunities.
Go ahead and change your plans.
’ But you sometimes just have to be opportunistic about what’s in front of you and go with your heart.”
Note: Interviews have been edited and condensed.