This is the third post in the Be Your Own Best Blog’s Inspirational Women series. This series highlights exceptional women across a diverse spectrum of occupations and industries, and allows them to share some of their insights with an equally diverse audience.
Meet Kristen Pressner
Human Resources, Europe, Middle East, Africa and Latin America,
Kristen earned her B.A. in Communication from Purdue University and her MBA in International Human Resource Management from the University of Dallas. She spent nine years at Texas Instruments in Dallas, Texas, in various HR roles. Kristen moved to Roche Diagnostics in 2005 as an HR business partner before becoming Director of Talent Management. She was offered the opportunity to move to Switzerland in 2007 for a Group HR Learning and Development role and has been Switzerland-based ever since. In 2012 she took on her current role as Head of Human Resources, Europe, Middle East, Africa and Latin America.
How would you define a “successful” career and what needs to happen for more women to achieve that level of success?
I would describe a successful career as one that makes you happy and fulfilled, and that leverages your special gifts and talents. I love what I do so much and I can’t fathom when people don’t feel the same way about their work. There is only one you! We all have certain gifts and talents that the world needs. I think a successful career is when each of us is bringing that to the world, in what we do.
I see a lot of untapped potential being left on the table when it comes to women. Somehow, we’ve all gotten these subtle (or not so subtle) messages that we don’t belong in leadership or we can’t have both a meaningful career and a meaningful life outside of work. It’s simply not true. I wish more women would reframe the “can we have it all?” question to “can I have what’s important to me?” – because the answer to that is “yes.”
What is your proudest career accomplishment and why?
My proudest career accomplishment to date is probably taking my current role. It scared me to death. I had never done a job like this before. I was to be responsible for about half the world, geographically (Europe, Middle East, Africa and Latin America), and I didn’t know the first thing about those markets. In addition, the role was going to require a long 1.5 hour commute (each way) and a big increase in travel (over 50% of my time). I was convinced that, as a mother of four, it simply couldn’t work. I had to overcome my first reaction, which would have been to just decide it can’t work and turn it down.
Accepting the job was hard. I was scared nearly every day for months. But I learned that I could figure it out, I could be good at this role, and I could sort myself and my family in a way where the most important things fit.
Honestly, I am so happy and inspired by the work that I do, that I can tell, I am a much better mother than I would have been if I’d sacrificed the role “for the ‘benefit’ of the kids.”
Please describe a challenging problem that you had to overcome in your career and the steps you took to do so.
When our first child was born, my husband and I decided that he’d stay home and raise our children and I’d be the one who works. I probably underestimated, at the time, the pressure of being the ‘sole breadwinner’ for what ultimately became a family of six. Sometimes I think it kept me from really ‘going for it’ and I had to overcome that.
In addition, we kind of turned ‘traditional’ roles on their heads, with him staying home and running the household and me working. I learned I had to rearrange my view of what ‘good mothers’ do in my own head…I said to myself “good mothers” are at school plays and parent/teacher conferences and soccer matches and dinner every night. But I came to realize that having both of us at all of those things wasn’t realistic or even reasonable (both parents of other families don’t show up for everything) and one of us was there, it was the good father. For a long time I held myself to an unreasonably high standard that wasn’t really necessary, and it took me looking at the situation through a new lens to overcome it.
If you could be mentored by anyone, who would it be and why?
Sheryl Sandberg. She’s an amazing businesswoman, an inspirational advocate of women in leadership, and like me, a mother. I have a feeling she’d give great advice as a mentor and I know she’s someone I know I could learn a lot from.
What advice would you give to your younger self?
To not be so hard on myself – provided I do my best, my best really is the most I can do.
What words do you live by?
One of my favorite quotes is: “If you aren’t in over your head, how do you know how tall you are?” T.S. Elliot. I’d tell myself to stop being so afraid and just go for it. It all works out great!
If you would like to suggest an inspirational woman for consideration, please e-mail Lisa Mueller at firstname.lastname@example.org.