Leadership

The Best Mistake I Ever Made

Asked by a journalist the other day “what is the best mistake you ever made” I had to think for a moment. There are so many – where to begin!

But as I pondered the question, there is one decision I look back on and think “What was I thinking?”

I became CEO of a raw software startup at 36
when my children were 2 and 4 years old. My husband was working long hours
running a small consulting business and I thought I had no limits. I could do
anything, and I wanted to run my own company. I wanted to show that a woman
could run a very technical software company in the semiconductor industry – where
there were no women at the top at all. And I wanted to lead.

Six months in I felt I had made a terrible
mistake. I was totally exhausted every single day. I barely had time to see my
kids in the week and I had bronchitis month after month. I had 2 nannies
working shifts, I gained weight and I would lie in bed awake every night
wondering how I was going to survive, never mind win. I think my marriage only
survived because we had already been married 15 years at that point and my
husband is truly, authentically supportive of my career.

And yet… it was one of the best things I could
have done, and I loved it. I loved being CEO, I loved building a company, a
team and working with customers. I became fast friends with our nannies and my
kids turned out just fine. They are confident, independent and have endless
very funny stories about their crazy mother and the experiences they had
because of my job. They traveled with me all over the world, they went into the
office with me at a young age learning by watching and they have a strong work
ethic as a result of the exposure they had. And we are close, very close.

So was it a mistake? Some days I think I took
a huge risk assuming I could do it all and have it all. But when young women ask me about that decision as they think through their own I’m encouraging. Children are resilient, good men are supportive and while you can’t have it all you can certainly have your fair share.

Image: Alamy