Q: What have been the hallmarks of your success?
Stelli: Fostering meaningful relationships, being a thoughtful and caring person, doing work that aligns with my values, surrounding myself with positive people. These are the things that truly matter to me, and by aligning my work with my purpose, I keep being led to people and situations that are essential to my growth as a human being.
Q: What is one piece of advice about navigating your career that you wish you knew earlier?
Stelli: I wish someone had told me that doing good, or even great work does not equate to success in your career. It can, but it’s not a given. I was naive early on and assumed that doing the “right” things (being efficient, effective, competent, positive, likeable, a team player); handling a large work load; and focusing on business results would lead to advancement. For years, I kept my head down and worked hard, scored high on 360-degree feedback, and I waited for promotions. None came. I asked for the path to be revealed to me, and accomplished the stated requirements. Again, promotions never came. I finally started to pay close attention to what those being recognized were doing differently, and they had one thing in common: they were highly skilled at “managing up.” They talked often and with pride about their work, connecting the outcome of their projects to business results. They spent time meeting with senior-ranked employees. I also noticed that many of them were extroverts. As an introvert, I had to make a conscious effort to step out of my comfort zone and discover ways to manage up while remaining true to myself. I still feel awkward being in the spotlight, but it gets easier over time. I just had to get used to it.
Q: What is your career focus now and how has that differed from the past?
Stelli: I now understand my own worth. I made the difficult decision to leave a company and people I admired because I didn’t feel like they recognized my true worth. They said they valued me. They respected my work. They leaned on me for advice. But when you’ve been in a place for a long time and haven’t received the recognition you deserve, you have to be willing to move on. Because of that understanding, I was able to confidently step into a larger role at another company. One of my favorite things is to be of help and service to other people. I love managing people and helping them discover meaningful work. By focusing on people first, whether it’s with my employees, colleagues, vendors, or customers, by getting to know them and treating them well, I go home each day feeling satisfied and fulfilled. Earlier in my career I was too self-centered to recognize what really mattered. Now I am at peace with my decisions. Life is more fun and rewarding now.
Q: What role has mentorship played in your career?
Stelli: I’ve had several mentors in my career, but I don’t think mentorship is the answer to help propel women forward. Maybe I didn’t have the right mentors, but none of the women I worked with helped me get to the place in my career that I wanted to go. Part of it is my fault for not being able to articulate what I wanted. Nonetheless, I think that women need sponsorship more than mentorship. A sponsor will pick up the phone and call someone he or she knows and say, “I know this amazing woman who can raise the productivity level of your team. She has an uncanny ability to spot bottlenecks and mobilize the troops to remove barriers to success. She’s the kind of person you’ve been looking for.” How powerful is that? That’s much better than spending one hour a month with the woman, and letting her fight her way to the top on her own. As women, we must learn to more boldly and brazenly tap into our networks to create pathways for other women to succeed. There are so many strong, powerful and amazing women out there, so let’s get moving!
Q: What does leadership mean to you?
Stelli: Leadership means a great deal to me because I believe that we are all leaders. We lead at work, in our communities, at home with friends and family. There is always someone we influence or who looks up to us and is affected by our actions. So, for me, I value doing everything I can to become a better leader. For me, this means:
Q: What are ways that you have balanced career, personal, and other interests?
Stelli: I am very clear about what matters to me and I have a hierarchy of priorities that helps me make decisions. For example, my number one priority is spending time with my husband. We have a deep bond and nurturing our relationship comes before everything else. Second, is my work. Third is taking care of myself and doing things to renew my energy and nourish my spirit, and fourth is spending time with friends and family. I don’t have children, but if I did, I’m sure they’d rank toward the top. Being clear about this makes life so much easier. I give myself to my work during the week, then I come home to spend time with my husband. If that’s all I have time and energy for, I don’t accept an invitation to do something with a friend because even though that’s important, it can’t come before number one and two. Other times, I have plenty of energy and bandwidth to do it all, but the balance of what I do shifts from week to week. This helps me to stay sane in this very busy world that we live in.
Q: Fun fact: What do you like to do to unwind?
Stelli: I enjoy traveling, practicing photography, hiking, spending time with friends and family, eating nice meals out, enjoying a glass of wine or a local craft beer, and watching shows on Netflix.