Lessons from My C-Suite Mom

What I learned about building relationships & navigating corporate America.

by Sydney Melin
Marketing Manager, ForbesLive at Forbes

Lessons from My C-Suite Mom Growing up in the San Francisco Bay Area, near Silicon Valley, I was always surrounded by the hustle of the tech world. Having a mom in the C-Suite gave me a front-row seat to what female leadership looks like.

The combination of the two quickly shaped my view of the corporate world and taught me how to navigate my professional career as a woman. Here’s what I learned.

The Social Norm Doesn’t Have to Be Your Norm

My mom has a seat in the boardroom and my dad has a seat on a parents’ committee. For many, this is not the standard definition of a family structure. It still comes as a surprise to people when they find out my mom is the breadwinner and my dad splits his time between football team dad and cheerleading carpool. I only learned later in life that this wasn’t the social norm. However, watching my mom succeed in her career with my dad showing nothing but support showed me everything I needed to understand about gender roles in a family. You define them.

A Good Attitude Will Take You Far

In leadership, it’s important to be tough, but kind. I have learned that no one will go out of their way for someone they haven’t had a great encounter with. Every good leader needs to start with a good attitude. My mom used to tell me, “There is a fine line between demanding and leadership.” She coined this phrase during my teenage years, which I know is a difficult time for all moms. This was her way of telling me to take it down a notch. Later in life, this phrase meant something different to me. Smile more, laugh often and don’t forget to lead with your sunshine.

Your Network is Everything

As someone who made the move cross country from San Francisco to New York City, I know first-hand how important your network can be. Watching my mom over the years, I have seen colleagues come and go. However, many have grown into long-lasting friendships with individuals who will drop everything to help one another. Your network goes beyond your next job. You never know when you will need someone’s advice or help to make a connection. Continue to build your network and pay it forward when someone else reaches out for advice. Who knows, they could be the one that helps your future child land their dream job.

Always Put Your Family First

Balancing your career and your family is one of the biggest challenges one can face in the corporate world. My mom missed my first day of kindergarten (which also happened to be my birthday) for a user conference. But do I remember that first day? No, I was four. My memories are full of her being there for every game, competition, and talent show. I learned family comes first, and I have seen it time and time again within my own company at Forbes. I am beyond grateful for the women in my life that show me daily what it is like to be a mom first and an executive second.

As I continue to navigate what the corporate world has to offer, I will always remember the lessons I learned from my childhood and those that I continue to learn from my female colleagues. I have been told many times that I remind people of my mom; I now realize that truly is one of the best compliments I can receive.


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