During the summer between my junior and senior years of high school, my mom got me a job at her insurance company in Livingston, NJ. It was the subrogation unit, independently run by a man whom we called Mr. Famular. The subro business was booming and Mr. Famular needed additional help, so I recommended my best friend who was home from college for the summer. We were trained by one of the other summer students who had worked there several summers before and had more knowledge and greater tenure. Mr. Famular gave us a fair amount of autonomy and so we were mostly left to our own devices. As such, the lack of an influential force allowed our personal personalities to shape our professional demeanors.
Needless to say, I, being born Type A came in like gangbusters, quickly learned the ropes, figured out an efficient system and cranked out work product. My best friend Leha however, moved at a slower pace, but she thoughtfully analyzed every piece of paper. Through her process she uncovered issues that could have potentially cost Mr. Famular money. This didn’t happen often but when it did, she would first bring it to my attention for validation. I would then give her both the encouragement and the coaxing she needed to bring it to Mr. Famular. I watched as she so gingerly approached him. She was so timid and unsure of herself and seemed rather scared to approach him, even though he was a kind and patient man. Furthermore, the information she brought to his attention would ultimately benefit him so I couldn't understand her trepidation. Mr. Famular always appreciated Leha and commended her for her effort.
At the end of the summer Mr. Famular gave us all cash bonuses with a note. Mine was $150 and I don’t even recall what the note said – a pattern that would continue throughout the early years of my career as I never truly appreciated advice until I gained more experience. But I distinctly recall that Leha received $100 dollars and her note said “Leha, Be Bold!” From that point forward, I would echo that advice to Leha, whenever she approached situation timidly. Sometimes I even say it to myself whenever I am having a moment of self-doubt.
Now I work for a large foreign bank and have had a long standing career. Leha chose a different career path, but throughout my years in banking, I have met dozens upon dozens of Lehas; women who are smart and thorough but when it comes to speaking up they are timid little girls. Leha’s greatest value came from her ideas and if she stayed silent, she would have never been recognized for them. Careers truly only accelerate if you are willing to take risks. Speaking up is a compulsory part of that risk and without it, there will be no reward.
I do appreciate that Leha had the benefit of having me, her best friend as a colleague to provide encouragement and to push her forward. We all need that at times, which is why it is important especially for women to create a proper support system. In order to do that identify friends and colleagues who understand you and your situation while you should be discriminating about assessing their intentions. Only surround yourself with those individuals who always have your best interests at heart and will always remind you at critical times to Be Bold!