Sara, the 4th grade daughter of one of my lifelong friends, and her Girl Scout troop are exploring the roles women play in the world around them. After watching the Today show interview with General Motors CEO Mary Barra, the first female CEO in the auto industry, their latest assignment was to interview an “extraordinary” woman who might be breaking stereotypes. I was honored that Sara and her mom thought of me. What follows is an excerpt of Sara’s questions and my answers, which I’m sharing in case they’re useful to other girls and women of any age.

What is your profession?

I’m the CEO of the digital strategy company Content Science. We specialize in products and services to plan awesome content for websites, applications, and really anything digital.

What did you study in school to prepare you for this profession?

I earned my M.A. in technical communication, which brought together my interests in communication and technology.

Is there a dress code?

Yes, but it isn’t strict. Don’t wear pajamas, overly revealing clothes, or anything that supports Virginia Tech sports. 😉

What is the stress factor of your job on a scale from 1 to 10?

10!

What did you want to do when you were a teenage girl?

I had no idea. 🙂 I wish I had tried more jobs and work skills and talked to more people about their work when I was that age. You are smart to interview people.

What do you tell yourself that helps you be successful?

Most often, I tell myself three things.

  • When I start to feel overwhelmed, I repeat like a mantra that I am grateful to have so many opportunities.
  • When I have an especially busy or hard time, I tell myself if you can get through this, you can get through anything.
  • When I make a mistake or have a setback, I tell myself to get my grit on.

What was your inspiration to do this job?

Before I started Content Science in 2010, I noticed that a lot of companies struggled with planning, creating, and delivering content that helped their customers. And companies needed more content than ever. Smartphones, tablets, and widespread internet access were still fairly new then, so companies were not ready for their customers to be online looking for content to answer questions or help them get things done. Constantly!

How has your career changed your life?

Because of my career, I have traveled and spoken at events around the world, from Atlanta to Silicon Valley to London to Copenhagen to Sydney. I also have met some really cool, talented people such as the content strategy team at Facebook.

Did you have any struggles along the way?

Many! One struggle was what psychologists call imposter syndrome. That’s feeling like you don’t deserve the success you experience, which can undermine your confidence.

Did you have any doubts about your career after you started it?

Yes, because I think many different areas of technology, communication, and business are exciting. Early in my career, I would have thoughts such as “There is no way I can do this job forever,” and get frustrated with my job. But, I learned that a career is a series of jobs or even projects. You make what you want out of each opportunity and then move on. You are never stuck. If you want variety, you can have variety. And that’s even easier now than it was early in my career.

What advice do you have for a girl that may want to do what you do?

If you want to be a business leader, consider going to business school. That gives you a lot of flexibility. And, in the short term, learn everything you can from the Girl Scouts cookie drive! It’s a great example of business in action.

If you like communication or technology, you can go into all kinds of interesting areas such as data science and artificial intelligence. Netflix, for example, uses both. And something you can do right now is to learn how to use digital technology. Learn how to create a website, for example.

Did you have any problems being a woman in your career? (vs. a man)

Yes. Most often, I experienced men acting condescending toward me—not taking me or my ideas seriously. At times in the past, I let that undermine my confidence. Success is the best revenge for that.

Problems like that are not gone, but I see them decreasing. More and more research shows that the most successful companies have women included in executive and board positions. Companies perform best when men and women share ideas and lead companies together. It is hard to argue with performance numbers.

What does being successful mean to you?

Great question, because being successful means different things to different people. For me right now, being professionally successful means growing Content Science by building a team of curious, hardworking people who love what they’re doing and make our customers happy.

What is the most rewarding aspect of your career?

Creating and evolving a business, Content Science, has been both the hardest and most rewarding effort of my career.

Finally, were you ever a Girl Scout?

No, but my dad was an Eagle Scout—and very proud of that fact!

The Author

Colleen Jones is the founder and CEO of Content Science, a growing content intelligence and strategy company based in Atlanta GA. Content Science owns Content Science Review, Content Science Academy, and the content effectiveness software ContentWRX.  Colleen regularly consults with executives and practitioners to improve their strategy and processes for content. She shares insights and guidance from her experience regularly on Content Science Review, at events around the world, and in highly rated books such as Clout: The Art and Science of Influential Web Content.

Follow Colleen on Twitter at @leenjones or on LinkedIn.

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