Contributed by Kathy Oakes
Eleven years ago this fall I got a new boss. In one of our first one on ones, she suggested I join WICT. I told her that I didn’t think I had the time. As a single mom of a nine-year-old daughter, I was already working 40+ hours a week. She played on a travel soccer team, so all my free time was spent at her practice or tournaments. My new boss very gently turned the suggestion that I join WICT into a line item on my Individual Development Plan. Anyone who knows me knows that I like to check things off my IDP like a NASCAR driver likes to go fast. I thought fine, I’ll join, but it will be a waste of money. I don’t have the time or energy to juggle anything else right now.
It’s funny how things turn out sometimes. I look back now and almost find it hard to remember a time that I wasn’t actively involved in WICT. I attended my first WICT event a few months after that initial conversation with my boss. It was a lunch that included a panel of brilliant and successful ladies. I very quickly realized that my stubbornness was not going to win this time. I wanted to learn more. My local chapter sponsored an essay contest for the chance to attend Cable Boot Camp in Denver. I entered and won!! Long gone was my resistance. I jumped in with both feet. A few years later I joined the WICT Southwest board as the Programming Director. I enjoyed planning events and seeing them come to fruition. Two years later I was elected President. Me! The girl who swore there weren’t enough hours in the day. Through WICT I learned about the Touchstones of Leadership. Leigh Woisard showed me how to know myself, what I stand for and where I am headed. Maria Brennan taught me how to communicate with passion and poise. Fran Mallace showed me how to connect to my peers, my industry and everything around me. Nancy Murphy showed me the beauty of being a catalyst and how to set the wheels of change in motion. I’ve attended the most amazing leadership conferences in NYC. Being selected to participate in Rising Leaders in 2017 literally changed my life.
Just over a year ago I got an awesome promotion at work. I relocated from Phoenix to Atlanta and joined WICT Southeast. Immediately, I had an amazing, brand-new network of fellow leaders and friends. I joined the board as the Director of Social Media. I settled into my new role and life was good. Better than good. Queue the dramatic music…
I connected with a friend back in Arizona who was recently divorced. We had been friends for years but had lost touch. As we rekindled our friendship, a wonderful and unexpected thing happened. We fell in love! He asked me to marry him, and I said YES. We navigated a long-distance relationship with monthly visits. He shares custody of his two small boys with his ex-wife, so moving to Atlanta was out of the question. I had been in my new role for less than nine months. I wasn’t ready to pack up and move back to Arizona. So, we decided to wait it out.
My entire career I’ve coached my direct reports about the importance of having a work-life balance. But candidly, I never felt like that applied to me. I was a single mom. I needed to work harder. I had something to prove. It sounds silly to say those words out loud. But that is the tape that’s played in my head for almost twenty years. A few months ago, I had my thyroid removed. Dave flew to Atlanta to help me recover. When it was time for him to return to Arizona, I asked myself what I was doing. Here was the love of my life, living 1800 miles away from me. When would I be brave enough to put myself first? It turns out the answer is now.
I’m moving back to Arizona. We’re getting married. I’m leaving a job I LOVE to start a life with the man of my dreams. My boss is graciously allowing me to work remotely through the end of April. After that, it’s up to me. I have a few leads, but it’s scary!! Being fearless and confident in your convictions as you take risks is no joke. I have zero doubt that WICT helped me get here. It will continue to help me as I discover what’s next.
That nine-year-old girl I told you about before is now a sophomore in college. It will be nice to be a two-hour drive away from her once again. Telling my story is scary. But just maybe I can inspire someone in the way others have inspired me.
Kathy Oakes is the former Director of Social WICT Southeast. Chuniq Power, Brand Manager at Aspire TV, will assume the role.