considering changing positions it’s important to know what others think of you, says Greist. "If people don’t like you in your current position they won’t give you a shot at another."
Company CEO David Drury recognized Riddle’s ability to instill trust, persuade and influence others and soon promoted her to vice president of government relations. Riddle has been working as a Washington representative on behalf of her company, occupying a seat usually reserved for lawyers and ex-staffers from Capitol Hill or the State Department. Her days are filled with writing policy papers, galvanizing grassroots efforts and stumping for or against policies that affect everything from healthcare to Y2K liability.
Like James, Riddle’s success did not come without some sacrifice. "My greatest challenge has been finding time for myself and loved ones," says Riddle, who is divorced and splits her time between Washington, D.C., and Des Moines. "I’ve also had to contend with people unaccustomed to seeing an African American woman in authority." All in all, says Riddle, "When presented with opportunity, be careful about turning it down. Some lateral moves can make the best transitions." Greist agrees, "Forward is whatever direction you’re facing. Don’t be as concerned with moving up as with moving toward your goal."
LIVE YOUR DREAM ON THE SIDE
Years ago, Shirley Hailstock wanted to follow one career path to the U.S. space program. Instead, she followed four, becoming an accountant, sales manager, college professor and author.
While a chemistry major at Howard University, she joined the ROTC to help open the doors to NASA. But when she graduated in 1971, no jobs in space were to be had. A national wage freeze had dried up government jobs, and not even chemical companies were recruiting. "People with Ph.D.s were driving cabs and there was nowhere to go, so I got a job in accounting," says the Plainsboro, New Jersey, resident. With an associate’s degree in accounting from Benjamin Franklin University in Washington, D.C., she crunched numbers at an insurance broker. In 1975, she joined the pharmaceutical company Johnson & Johnson in New Brunswick, New Jersey.
While there, Hailstock really got to work. Within five years, she had earned an M.B.A. in chemical marketing from Fairleigh Dickinson University in Teaneck, New Jersey, was teaching accounting at Rutgers University in the evenings and had switched jobs to Squibb (which later merged with Bristol Myers). She stayed in accounting until the 1980s, all the while continuing to broaden her skills. "I learned financial systems and as much as I could about computer programs, so instead of having others write in COBOL for me, I wrote it myself. Since it was new and no one was saying I couldn’t do it, I just did it." When her company wanted people with knowledge of both systems and accounting experience for a new financial project, they tapped Hailstock.
By 1991, she’d given birth to her children Ashleigh and Christopher Coles, now ages 16 and 15,