Sara Watkins

As eager as I was to tackle my first-ever story assignments for The Gleam, I never could have imagined the imprint they would leave on me personally. The stories I wrote for this edition’s Women in Business section left me with a fresh dose of inspiration and a clear understanding that these women are who I want to be when I grow up.

I have always known, of course, that our community is filled with intelligent, creative, fascinating people. And the women here… well, they’re in a league of their own. What I didn’t fully grasp before I started interviewing and then writing about these particular women, though, is just how truly inspired I would be by them. Not just by what they do or by how hard they work, but more by the passion they have for their work. They are in very different fields, have very different careers, yet they all have this one thing in common: They love their jobs.

Over and over again, I was hit anew with inspiration. You know that heady feeling you get with that first sip of coffee in the morning, when the caffeine rushes straight to your brain? Or the pressure that builds up in the back of your throat when you have something really important to say right then, and not a moment later? That’s what I kept feeling again and again as I listened to, and then tried to tell, each of their stories. I was continually inspired in ways I never thought possible.

Many of these women I know on a personal, and even friendly, level. I see them at church or in the carpool line or at the grocery store. Our kids play sports together or we occasionally socialize on the weekends. I talk to some of them on a very regular basis. I knew what all of these women did for a living before I interviewed them, which is why I chose to write about them in the first place. What I didn’t realize, though, is what they actually do at work, day in and day out.

I didn’t know how they started out, or how they got to be where they are now in their careers. And I certainly didn’t understand why they do what they do professionally.

As I began to find answers to those questions and more, I started collecting what I learned from each interview; little nuggets of inspiration, pieces of advice, along with just good information that can be applied to life in general. Here is what I learned from these incredible women:

● Do a job you’re passionate about. If you love what you do, you’ll naturally excel at it.

● Don’t take a ‘no’ from someone who can give you a ‘yes.’

● Sometimes you have to get in over your head to figure things out on your own. And then you’ll realize you were never really in over your head in the first place.

● Take the chance. Always.

● If you consistently notice a problem, find a solution for it. Turn that solution into your job or your business.

● Make a difference and impact people with your work, in large and small ways.

● Don’t write off something you love to do as a hobby. Keep at it and find a way to turn it into your career.

● Lead by example. If you want your kids to understand the value of hard work, show them.

● Get outside the confines of your own little bubble. Learn about the world in order to become an effective communicator.

● View a major challenge as an opportunity to grow. Do whatever it takes to survive: Reimagine, retrain, rebuild.

● Don’t be afraid to change the plan.

I could go on and on with this list and the invaluable lessons I have learned from these remarkable women. I hope you all have learned something from them, too. In the end, I found the details of their stories varied, their journeys each unique, but they somehow managed to end up in the same professional spot; right where they want to be.

I am in complete awe of the women in our community. They are talented and innovative and exceptionally hard-working. I am proud to know them and I am honored they let me tell their stories.

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