Updated: Mar 23, 2021
#ChooseToChallenge without being combative, that has been the motto for one woman. She took up technology when her cohorts were choosing more traditional routes and found herself on a career path that took her around the world. On this journey, she stressed that change, no matter how distressing, could pave the way for a more rewarding future.
This year’s theme for International Women’s Day, Choose To Challenge, speaks volumes to Susan Jain, a former chief marketing officer in a global technology company. “The thing that I appreciate about ‘Choose to Change’ is the intentionality of it, because not only you choose, you choose to challenge and commit to the unpredictability and potential risk as well as reward, of change.”
“Yes, challenge happens naturally in life, no matter what you're doing. But choosing to challenge is different than just happening upon challenges, which we all do in life. It is purposeful and international, and that’s very important and certainly relevant in today's day and age.”
Susan goes on to elaborate using one of her life’s experiences. While some other women in her cohort saw no option other than going to secretarial school after college, Susan chose to attend graduate school at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).
“Back then, MIT was heavily male, to the extent where I remember that they had to put in more bathrooms for the female students. There were so many reasons why I chose MIT -- technology, in general, was an interesting environment, and it was the best, and the hardest to enrol into. Also, it was one of the last bastions for women and so I really took it as an explicit challenge for myself.”
Today, having worked around the world, Susan has settled back in the United States. “Women have made huge progress, but it varies by industry, by profession and by location in the world, and there's always more to do.”
If she had to give a word of advice to her soon-to-be-born granddaughter, what would it be? “Don't settle for less than you deserve. And, very importantly, don’t wait it out past the point where you can tell that it's never going to change.”
“The average person is probably going to have five careers before they're done. For each tenure, they give it their best shots but, well, sometimes we do reach a point where we see diminishing returns. But do we leave the job? Not always --at least in my generation.”
“Sometimes, it’s much easier to throw yourself into a risk than it is to remove yourself from a risk that you've gotten very used to. By choosing to challenge that status quo, and to instigate change, I found new doors being open. In the end, it can be the most rewarding.”
For Susan, that piece of advice came in handy in 1998 when she put a deteriorating situation behind and found a new career with the global technology giant, IBM.
For 21 years, Susan led and drove marketing for the technology giant in a variety of worldwide and regional capacities, living and working in China, Singapore, India and the Middle East.
“I’m an eternal optimist, and that’s a positive aspect of my character that I cherish. In any given situation, if you listen to yourself and others around you, you can usually figure out what you should do. The hardest part is the timing -- but just taking the first step out, that is when you choose to challenge.”
Connect with Susan: www.linkedin.com/in/susanjain/
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