Staying On Top

A seasoned professional offers strategies for sharpening your game-on and off the job

Name Gail Morales
Title Senior Vice President, Global Supply Chain
Management, Initiative Governance Executive,
Bank of America
Location Atlanta
Power Play Successfully rejoined corporate America after taking a seven-year break
Several years ago, you decided to take a break from corporate America. After you left, what did you do to stay current with what was going on in your company?
I maintained some relationships with folks I was quite fond of and, of course, followed the bank in the popular press. I spent a lot of time networking with alumni from Harvard Business School, which is my graduate school. I also attended community-based events. I did some pro bono consulting work, which allowed me to continue to sharpen my skills; I read books; and I’m married to a businessperson, so conversations regarding business were typical in my household.

Before you off-ramped, did you design a plan or think about preparing for your return?
I wish I could say I had been that prescriptive about it. I never set about to leave the corporate environment; things just sort of happened. My husband and I were relocated to Europe because of his job, and that changed some of the dynamics, in terms of working, for me. During the time I was in London, I did some consulting for a not-for-profit and things like that to stay current.

Would you say you reinvented yourself during that period, particularly since the skills you had in 1996 might not have been the same ones needed seven years later?
It’s not necessarily reinventing yourself; I think it is a journey to know more about yourself. When you choose to change your life in such a dramatic way-when you choose to leave work and have a family, if you have not had a family before-that is a huge life moment. Once you bring children into the world, things do change, and I think you need to understand how that’s going to impact your ability to be successful. You do need to learn more about who you are and how you can balance, because it’s not just balancing you anymore; it’s balancing you and your needs and your family’s needs as well. So “know yourself” is the key message.

Is that what helped you create a better position for yourself when you decided to return?
I maintained relationships with some folks here at the bank, so I was still known by many people in the organization. I think I had a great career when I was here. It was important that I did the things that I wanted to do coming back into the workforce; it’s very important that you know yourself. In order to do that I went to a coach and had that person help with questions such as, “What skills do you really have? What are your strengths and weaknesses? What do you like doing?” That helped me communicate back to the organization what I was looking for.

Having off-ramped and on-ramped, what advice do you have for professionals who want to do the same?
In the off-ramping process,

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