Women Deliver Board member and WomanCare Global CEO Saundra Pelletier recently spoke with Adam Bryant at The New York Times on leadership, management and career advice. When asked about leadership roles growing up, Pelletier noted that "...in high school, I was passionate about creating a different mind-set around women and the worth of women and girls because there was a sense that there were only domestic choices: who you married and how many kids you would have. So I tried to encourage girls to create the life that they want. That’s something I still carry with me. I have a big invisible chip on my shoulder around deciding what balance is for you and what success is. Don’t apologize for it, and you can have more than just one good aspect of life."
Pelletier described her career path, from working with G.D. Searle, the company that launched the first birth control pill in the United States. Over the course of the next fifteen years, she had worked her way up to running a leading international franchise for women's health. With such significant experience, Pelletier has valuable insight on what she looks for in a potential employee:
I also want to see how somebody will embrace change. So I’ll give them an example of some opportunity for innovation, and I’ll ask, “What are your thoughts?” Then I’ll watch their body language. We’re a start-up. I love organized chaos. We’re willing to roll and turn and twist and evolve, but some people don’t like that. Bureaucracy makes sense to them. Those people are going to be unhappy if they come here and they need “Groundhog Days,” where they come in every day and they do the same thing. I want people who don’t want to get comfortable.
In closing, she offers this advice to new college graduates:
This might be unpopular. But it’s O.K. to play it safe. I think we get very caught up these days in the idea of following your heart and your dreams and don’t settle for less. But thinking you can bring your wildest dreams to life without paying dues is “cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs.” It’s great that you want to start an organic farm in Guatemala. It’s wonderful to have those aspirations, and it’s great to deliberately work toward whatever it is you want. But there’s value in pragmatism.
It’s O.K. to be safe out of the gate, to start building a foundation to get where you eventually want to be. Don’t worry that it doesn’t make your heart sing. Don’t worry that you don’t get up every day and think, “Wow.” You’ve got to learn things and make mistakes and pay your dues and do different jobs. Sometimes those steppingstones teach us the best lessons. I’m not trying to squash anyone’s dreams. The point is that you have to be practical and reasonable. I think more kids need to hear that.
Read the full interview here.