Soar with the Eagles: My Perspective on Accountability and Career Development

August 14, 2018 | Pamela Hennard, Dell

Several weeks ago I had the opportunity to share my perspective on accountability and career development at the Women of Silicon Valley event in Santa Clara. I met so many amazing women at various stages of their career, education level, and roles. Several of the lessons I shared on the topic of career development resonated with some women resulting in my first series of blogs on the content. My parents played a significant role in shaping my path and throughout this series you’ll get to know more about my dad.

Soar With Eagles

I grew up in a military family – my dad was in the Air Force for 27 years. He enlisted in the military to break out of the small town in which he was raised, where there were limited opportunities. The US Air Force opened the world to him and our family. My dad’s career in the military was during the civil rights movement which presented its own set of challenges and limitations. Even though there were times he was discouraged because of the limited opportunities, he continued improving himself. He was an avid reader, learner, and always developing new capabilities for himself. At the beginning of my career, he told me that as an African American woman I was going to have to work twice as hard to be seen as average and that my success hinged on my ability to continue to develop myself. He warned that I might feel overwhelmed, disappointed, and upset, but to never let it discourage me – this was my path. He referred to this as being an eagle; more on eagles shortly.

Years after being in the workforce I understood what my dad meant through my own experiences in talent acquisition. One of my first observations was that the most underused tool in development of new capabilities was our current job. Many people believe they have to move up to the next career level or even to a new company to seek development; however, there are times when an opportunity to build our own capabilities is right in front of us. The ability to take advantage of these opportunities starts with a recognition that we are accountable for our own development. Our Chief Human Resources Officer at Dell refers to this as “being a thumb pointer.” My dad would have loved this and described this is being an eagle. Eagles fly above the drama, review their circumstances from a broad perspective, and aren’t complacent.

My dad also had a term for the opposite of eagles, which are buzzards. Take no offense to this when thinking about the birds of prey as I know there are great qualities of buzzards. In my analogy of buzzards think about the following behavioral attributes:

  • Blaming others for a lack of results or progress;

  • Reacting defensively to suggestions for improvement;

  • Ignoring feedback that has been provided and/or not taking opportunities to provide it to others if it may help;

  • Expecting an easy path for development and growth

My dad passed away ten years ago but the advice he gave me early in my career is never forgotten. He was very clear with me and my brothers that we have a choice in what we do in our life and in our career. He would always say, “Why fly with the buzzards when you can soar with the eagles?” In my upcoming articles I will share six actions that will allow you to soar with the eagles while in your current role. I hope you stay tuned and feel free to share your comments and experiences throughout.

Women of Silicon Valley returns to San Francisco 2-3 May 2019. To download a brochure, click here.