Towards the end of one particular project, my self-esteem was nonexistent anymore, (and those who know me, it takes some real effort to bring me down), I got called into a meeting with the senior manager, who also spent some time on the project. I must say, the senior manager has a daughter, who is a little younger than me, thus you might assume that it was is fatherly instinct that brought him to this meeting, yet if you read on, this reason is not so convincing anymore.
I might say proudly, that this meeting was the most devastating meeting in my career. It was a feedback meeting on my performance on the project. The Senior Manager started to talk about how my performance was very poor. I started saying, no wonder it was poor, because I got to do talks that I do not enjoy as much, such as writing the newsletter – I am not the most eloquent person on earth, doing PM – I am not a pushy kind of person, more the relaxed type, finishing off PPTs, basically means aligning squares, and also not getting any input/information about the topic, since I was never in any meetings. When I mentioned that I wanted more spreadsheet work, he said to me: “you want to do Excel? I don’t even want to do Excel, why would you want to do it? I don’t think you are going to be good at it.”
Next he continued and said, that he does not see me in the field that I am working in now. He didn’t say that I was not smart enough to be working in consulting (which at the time didn’t lighten my mood) but he said that I should change topics – he does not see my passion for the topic, maybe I should go into communication or customer services – more girl oriented topics. Now my world started to crumble as I had studied this topic and I was always convinced that I was good at it. Well, apparently others thought otherwise. So I left the conversation even more devastated than I was already at that point, and marched directly into the bathroom, to check my makeup.
Looking back, I believed everything this senior manager told me. I did not believe in myself anymore and was therefore not strong enough to say: “If you would not have been so gender biased, and listened to me from the beginning, when I was asking for a change in your attitude towards me, we would not be having this conversation.”
Now, I switched project a couple of times and I think I have found my place. I am still working in the field of my university studies, and I am happy to have regained my self-esteem, and stayed true to myself.
So the only thing I can say is:
- Do not change your career aspirations because of someones opinion of you. And regardless of the position of the person giving you the advice: everyone puts their trousers on one leg at a time.
- Stay strong and do not ever stop believing in your abilities. If you do start to crumble, do not idle-out, prove them wrong by knowing every detail on the topic.
- Never let anyone take from you what you have been working so long to achieve.