I kicked things off by sharing some of the barriers I hit along my own career path. Growing up, I didn’t know a lot of women who worked outside the home, so most of my ideas about the kind of career I wanted came from my dad. He was an engineer at an aerospace company that contracted with NASA. I still remember how it felt to see a rocket shoot into the sky, knowing that he helped make it happen—and hoping I would get a chance to make my own contributions to the world, too.
A few years, a computer science degree, and an MBA later, I landed a job at Microsoft. It was everything I’d been working for, and everything I’d been dreaming of since I was a kid. But it was just a few months before I started thinking about quitting.
I was the only woman in my hiring class of MBAs—10 of us total. But that’s not exactly what bothered me. It started during orientation, when one of my fellow hires immediately picked a fight with a VP. I thought it was a bizarre way to behave at a new job—but he’d been advised that he needed to be more assertive, and he decided he was going to start right then
It wasn’t just him. Several of my colleagues were aggressive, sometimes even combative. I worried about fitting in.