Last month RISE, Coalfire’s association of women in cybersecurity and leadership, welcomed our inaugural guest speaker, Amanda Mesler, General Manager of Microsoft Central and Eastern Europe. I had the great fortune to interview her and lead a discussion with our members.
Amanda talked about the things that define who she is and what she calls her four pillars: family, career, sports, and giving back.
Family: “If it wasn’t for my family there is no way I could do what I do . . . they make me a better business person. They travel with me in support of the craziness that is my international career. I never slowed down my career to have my family.”
Business: “I have been in all parts of the world. I don’t just talk about my career being what I do in technology or leadership, but also the cultures that I have been fortunate and able to meet. I don’t see the barriers that the world sees in working with different cultures. That is a big part of who I am.”
Sports: “I am fiercely competitive in everything that I do. Being part of a team helps you in your career. In order to be able to travel to 33 countries and come back to the U.S., and raise three daughters, and have a husband, I need sports. It helps build not just the stamina, but stress relief to be able to do my best in everything in my career.”
Giving Back: “I have been very fortunate: I’ve had many mentors, a great network, great support . . . it is my time to give back.”
Get any group of professional women together and there is usually a discussion about work-life balance. Mesler addressed “having it all” head on. “When you are younger in your career, you think ‘do I have to slow myself down to have a family?’ or ‘can I go for it?’ For me, I never have all those completely in balance. If I don’t see my family for a while or need that injection of laughter with my kids, I purposely schedule time to see my family. Same thing with sports – I go out and run when I am overly stressed. When I am asked about balance, it all goes back to my four pillars. When I feel out of balance, I know I need to inch in one of these things to make me whole.”
At a first board meeting with a European company, she was the first woman and first American on the board. She would talk and no one would listen, or they would talk over her. “Quite frankly, I lost my voice. I started thinking maybe I am a fake; they are not listening to me.” She reached out to her network, speaking to another female in a board position, and was advised, “Remember what got you here: you are just as experienced as any one of these individuals. You are not adding impact if you are silenced.” And so she went to work, meeting people one on one behind the scenes. It turned into one of the best experiences of her career, despite starting as a confidence-testing low point.
What drives her now? “It is about positive impact. I wanted to be part of an impactful company.” And that is what led her to her current role at Microsoft.
Her main advice to women early in their technology careers boiled down to this: Have confidence and go for it. To remember balance: “You can have a family and an executive career. Be yourself, remember what got you there. Continue to learn, never give up. And finally, have a positive impact, inspire.”
Links on Amanda Mesler:
Coalfire’s association of women in cybersecurity and leadership is called RISE (which stands for Recruit, Influence, Support, and Educate). RISE was developed in the fall of 2016. At RISE, we endeavor to buoy you no matter where you are in your career, to provide a place to get to know others who care about your success, to help you grow and learn. All of us have a story. These stories are laced with all the various reasons we are in this field and ways in which we have been supported or discouraged in this career. Are you willing to share your own story? We invite you to speak to our team of extraordinary women and men. We’d love to hear from you – please contact Anne.Bayerkohler@Coalfire.com.