Veronica. Experiences, Milestones, Roadblocks, Obstacles, Difficulties and Learning

posted March 4th, 2011 by Janet Graham - Leave a Comment

I asked Veronica to tell me about the experiences in her early life which she believes had the greatest impact on her work life and career. She said: “When I was eight my mother was diagnosed with a condition that required hospitalization and probably six years of recovery afterwards.  To tell the truth, I never knew exactly what it was she had. I was the oldest girl of a family of five children.  We had some neighbours who helped us but for the most part in terms of getting the kids to school and looking after them when they came home from school that became my responsibility.  I think that it was life changing to the extent that when you are given that kind of authority and responsibility at such a young age, you develop your own patterns of problem solving and while my siblings might say that the experiment was painful on all sides, it did give me the confidence to go into a situation and say, okay, I can handle this.”


I asked Veronica in terms of her career to talk about the milestones that stand out and what she learned from them. She said: “Well, of course, the longest period of my career was in the bank, although my career since leaving the bank has been entertaining too. I think the first milestone was having been hired six months previously as the junior and because the branch was in a state of change, finding myself the youngest Current Account Supervisor in British Columbia without really knowing too much about any of the positions I held but being able to assimilate them quickly and move on.  I left the bank to have my child and came back three years later and again, was fortunate that the bank was in a learning mode at the time and I was hired as a Training Officer which, again, put me in positions where you had to make it up as you went along.  We wrote manuals.  I personally wrote the procedure to close the books manually, and that went out all over Canada as a little cheat sheet for everybody and was said to have saved the bank millions. Who knew?  For me the bank was a place I went, had fun, worked with people I liked, and for the longest time just progressed.  I liked the business, I liked the customers.”


“I think the next, big, shocking milestone to me was when they made me AGM of Special Loans in Vancouver and less than a year later rewarded the fact that I took the bad loans from over $100 million to something like $3 million (with the help of a very good team) with the offer of a VP position in Toronto.  That was stunning to me.  Those are milestones that I never looked for, they just happened.  Still to this day, I look at those years and think, wow, what did I do and why did I do it and I honestly don’t think that I was doing anything more than anybody else with the same capabilities should have been doing in the position, whatever it was.”


I asked Veronica why she used the words “should have been doing” and she said: “They give you a job, right, you look around and you see what needs to be done, you just do it, it’s your domain.  Obviously, when you work in a large organization you have to be sure that you are living within the norms of the rules of the organization but there was a lot of autonomy back in those days which I don’t believe exists in the corporate world today.  It was the 80’s when things were crazy everywhere in the sense that there wasn’t so much policy.  There weren’t so many procedures, so if you were inclined to be innovative and creative, the field was wide open.  I don’t think it’s necessarily because I was better in those things.  I think it was that it was my nature to take something… it still is… to take something and improve it.”


I asked Veronica to think about the major obstacles, difficulties and road blocks she faced, what she did when she faced those, where she turned for support, and what she learned from facing them.  She replied: “The first major roadblock I ran into, I would say, was when I moved away from being in what I’ll call a true operational role into a head office consulting role.  It was a bad fit for everybody because I’m not that personality even though I now make my living consulting. It’s taken me a long time to understand that you can give advice but you don’t have the tools or the authority or the responsibility to action it.  That was a very frustrating experience for the organization and a very frustrating experience for myself and a huge learning opportunity which, quite frankly, at the time I did not take advantage of.  In terms of support… because this was happening in my Toronto years… I was blessed with the company of women like myself, who were good friends, who were experiencing some of the issues that I was experiencing and I think we all gathered a lot of strength from each other.”


In terms of what she learned from facing this roadblock, Veronica said: “It was an important learning experience for me to learn what my role actually was in those types of situations because everything else I had ever done in my career was to actually do it and in the let’s call it administrative role your job is to plan it and not to do it and to get everybody else to sign onto the plan. I really can plan quite well but it’s not that interesting to me. So the learning experience that came out of that was, okay, if this is what they want you to do, this is really a bad fit because I just could not get really excited about getting up in the morning and planning out something and then not being able to execute it or not being able to be part of the execution or implementation.  And I think that’s something that’s really important to know about one’s self. And, you know, because I had never been in that position before I really didn’t get it.  So the whole fiasco was a clear demonstration that I crossed the line as far as the bank was concerned because not only did I plan it and get sign-off but I actually tried to implement the plan in a pilot project which frustrated everybody .”


What Strikes Me?

Things we learn in our childhood can be applied later in life and give us confidence in our ability to tackle any situation

It is important to understand our strengths and weaknesses

Doing what we enjoy is so much more satisfying than doing something we don’t enjoy, regardless of how well we might do either

We can be our own harshest critics

Hindsight brings great insight

Some people are planners and some people are doers and a few are both


What Strikes You?

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