Women In Action is a series dedicated to telling stories of how women have faced and overcome challenges throughout their career. I’ll be interviewing different women across different career paths, generations and industries to showcase how they’ve achieved their success.
Being a female engineer is a pretty challenging job. It’s a male dominated field that not only lacks women in leadership positions, but also mentors to provide guidance to young female engineers. It’s also a field that forces you to continually prove yourself – to your professors, peers, bosses and the clients that you work with – that you’re the right person for the job.
Six years ago, Sarah Gregg, a young female engineer,worked for a global engineering company. The Partner in her office had just announced he was asked to open a new office in Canada and would need to find someone to take his place in their Cleveland office. There were many senior individuals above her that were “next in line” for this role, but Sarah knew none of them wanted the responsibility. But she did.
Sarah decided to talk to the “next in line” crew to verify her assumptions and tell them she wanted the job. The team supported her decision, and she decided to go for it.
Sarah knew she wanted to have a candid conversation in a natural setting with her boss so she did so, but she knew she needed to be prepared before having it. She prepped an answer for every possible push back her boss could possible throw at her
The next Friday at 5pm, Sarah walked into her boss’ office with a bottle of whiskey and made her intentions known. Apparently, she brought in the wrong kind of whiskey but she knows now that he appreciated the thought and intention.
She explained that she had talked with other team members and they weren’t interested (that he was surprised about and later confirmed on his own) but that she really wanted this promotion and could do the job.While he didn’t make any promises, Sarah was confident that she had been heard and was now a serious candidate.
In the next few weeks her boss talked with his boss about Sarah being his potential replacement. After much internal discussion it was decided that Sarah could take the position provided she attend immediate leadership training. In 2 weeks time, she flew to Chicago for training and the keys to the office were hers. She just turned 29 years old and the position was made permanent.
Looking back on it now, if Sarah had not gone into his office like that, she’s sure that she would not have been considered. This experience Sarah had is a lesson for us all. If you don’t ask, you don’t get.
To advance in your career, you have to be willing to believe in yourself and your capabilities, and to have the courage to ask for what you want.
Believe enough in yourself to ask for the promotion.
In short five years, Sarah Gregg went from being the most junior employee in the office to running it; all thanks to perseverance and a bottle of whiskey.