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Success Is a Collection of “One Thing”s

Jess Hines, Chief Blogger

One Thing - sign

When it comes to success, there’s not a true one-size-fits-all formula.

There's no standard recipe:
2 cups determination
1 cup courage
4 tablespoons humility
Beat until smooth
Wear as a cream

(Because who really follows recipes step-by-step anyway?)

What works for some may not work for others, and where some have found a path, others may find a dead end.

The beauty of success is that, while it has a proper definition, we all define it differently based on our own goals and life experiences. Success isn’t just one thing—it’s a collection of “one thing”s. And by looking at these collections from different people and perspectives, perhaps we begin to craft what success looks like to us.

In honor of Women’s History Month, we asked a few of our female leaders about the "one thing"s they attribute to their success, and advice for any woman starting a career and looking to dream big.

Mary Oleksiuk

Mary Oleksiuk – EVP, Chief Human Resources Officer

What’s the one thing you credit with your success?

Taking risks. I began my career in my degree field, computer science and genetics. Over time I learned that what I’m best at is supporting and empowering the people I work with. I wouldn’t be where I am today had I not had the courage to take a risk and change my career path.

What’s the one thing you would do over if you could?

Early in my career, working in a male dominated industry, I thought asking for help would be seen as a weakness. I’ve learned that admitting you don’t have all the answers or that you need an extra hand with a project is in fact a strength and will lead to greater success for all involved.

What’s the one thing you wish you had more of (besides time)?

Sleep! For a long time I didn’t prioritize sleep. I’m lucky to be in good health but we know so much more now about the positive impact sleep has on your health, reducing stress, cognition…everything.

What’s the one thing that helps you keep going when the going gets tough?

My hero, DR. MARY L. GOOD. Early in my career I was a young scientist surrounded by so many bright minds–almost all male minds. Dr. Good stood out to me. She was full of excitement, sparkle, grit and support–implicitly saying “you can do this” without uttering a word. Dr. Good led the Engineered Materials Research Division of 400 scientists at Allied Signal. She has since gone on to work for four different presidents: Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton. She was President Clinton’s Undersecretary for Technology where she led the Clean Car Initiative to develop a hybrid gas-electric car. She’s a true inspiration if there ever was one.

What’s the one thing women just getting started in their careers should do?

Become an expert at what you do. Study, do research, and ask for help when you don’t know something so you can learn from others. Don’t assume luck is going to create the next opportunity for you, become an expert and you’ll create opportunities for yourself.

Karen Knutson – SVP, Global Government Affairs

What’s the one thing you credit with your success?

Hard work–willing to just do the work until the job gets done.

What’s the one thing you would do over if you could?

I would have taken more risks earlier in my career and not been afraid to fail. I think when you are new to your career, everyone should practice honest failure (try something you believe in and watch what happens when it doesn’t work out). See what it feels like and see how you recover from it. When I worked in the White House, we practiced that a lot. We would come up with 20 new ideas a week–that were well-researched, significant time and energy invested in developing those ideas, and maybe 2% of those ideas were ever adopted–the other 98% were rejected. However, the 2% that were adopted changed the country.

What’s the one thing you wish you had more of (besides time)?

More organizational insight. I am relatively new to Tyson Foods still, and am learning every day about all the things this company does and all the tools at our disposal. This will take time but I will get there!

What’s the one thing that helps you keep going when the going gets tough?

Develop resilience–and find a peer group you trust to bounce ideas off of. Build your team of trusted advisors and foster that group.

What’s the one thing women just getting started in their careers should do?

Keep volunteering for the hard work. Put in the time and do the work. Write the memo, do the analysis, make the recommendation, etc. That is a great reputation to have.

Onika Williams - one thing

Onika Williams – VP Chief of Staff, Office of the CEO

What’s the one thing you credit with your success?

From a professional perspective: Networking. Networking is really critical for women as the ability to establish relationships may not always occur organically. During my years at Tyson, I’ve been very fortunate to have leaders who saw potential in me and were able to help me navigate the corporate world and become an extension of my family.

From a personal perspective: My faith. I grew up in a family where religion was the center of everything. I’m very grounded in my faith, and when I think about my willingness to open up and try new things, I contribute that to my active prayer line. As life unfolds, I believe you need to have a higher being working on your behalf.

What’s the one thing you would do over if you could?

When I first became a people manager, single and in my late 20s, I was managing a team of people who were older than me, many with children, and I wasn’t always considerate of their family obligations. In retrospect, now being a mother, and a single mother and that, I wish I could go back and be a little more sensitive to that. I created an environment where I perpetuated that in-the-office-8-to-5 lifestyle. Now, we have so much technology—I have my personal cell phone, work cell phone, laptop, iPad—that it’s easier to step away from the office, and I encourage my team members: if your son or daughter has a game or a play, leave early if you have to. If you have a big family event planned, why are you staying late? Family is a bigger priority.

What’s the one thing you wish you had more of (besides time)?

Well, let me deconstruct “time.” I want more time for self-care—Onika and her happy space. I want more time where I’m reading or cooking. I want more time to take more trips with my friends. I put most of my time into taking care of my daughter. When I break down everything I spend my time on, I deprioritize me. I want to make myself more of a priority and take more opportunities to have a little zen time.

What’s the one thing that helps you keep going when the going gets tough?

Being a mom, I’m the one setting expectations for my daughter. She has to know that life will throw her curve balls, and it’s how she reacts that builds character (we’re at the stage now where there are tears when I beat her at Uno). It’s my job to show her that failure is normal. I want to set the tone for her to dream big, but also have her understand she might fall along the way. As a working mother, I have the opportunity to shape a different image for her than what I had growing up. My mom was a stay-at-home mom, and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that—the important thing to me is that she knows she has options.

What’s the one thing women just getting started in their careers should do?

Establish boundaries. I’m very big on being my authentic self. But it took me a couple years to get comfortable with that. I have firm values: integrity is a must, I want to be bold, I want to make sure people are comfortable being around me. Create an environment where people know who you are and what you stand for. Establishing boundaries up front can help you stay true to who you are.

Deb Sinta – VP Talent & Culture

What’s the one thing you credit with your success?

Can I say two things? I would say inspirational leadership and taking a risk. The first leader I worked for (my first “real job”) happened to be an amazing women entrepreneur who taught me so much about being brave, being different, taking risks and leading a team. She gave me the courage to put myself out there and showed me why doing what you love is fundamental to happiness in life. And when it comes to risk, I learned that the times when I was most terrified, I was growing the most.

What’s the one thing you would do over if you could?

Nothing. No regrets. Failure is feedback.

What’s the one thing you wish you had more of (besides time)?

You can never have enough inspiration! Diversity of ideas, perspectives, genuine curiosity, creativity—I am always looking for inspiration and new ways of doing things.

What’s the one thing that helps you keep going when the going gets tough?

My family. My kids never fail to make me laugh, and there is something about family that can bring you back to humility when you start getting a bit too full of yourself! My favorite is when I complain about calendars and “back to back” meetings and my kids will literally sit back to back and start talking, having a “meeting”—it brings me back down to earth.

What’s the one thing women just getting started in their careers should do?

Figure out your purpose—what’s your true north, what’s your “brand”—and keep that front and center. And above all, if you don’t love what you are doing, stop doing it—life is too short!

Amy Tu

Amy Tu – EVP, General Counsel

What’s the one thing you credit with your success?

My support network, which includes my husband and my family. They’ve supported me throughout my career, both in celebrating successes and learning from mistakes.

What’s the one thing you would do over if you could?

I wouldn’t do anything over. I think it is important to look ahead while learning and growing from experiences.

What’s the one thing you wish you had more of (besides time)?

Increased diversity in leadership roles.

What’s the one thing that helps you keep going when the going gets tough?

Knowing that I have a great team that works toward a purpose we believe in—like putting food on families’ tables.

What’s the one thing women just getting started in their careers should do?

Believe in yourself. Be persistent and resilient. Don’t take no for an answer and do it all with style!

Published March 11, 2019.

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