It all started when...
A couple months before I graduated from college, a book empowering women to overcome the challenges they face in the workplace went viral and sparked a national movement - Lean In.
Before you knew it, 'Lean In' became a catchphrase, and women all over the country were starting to implement Sheryl Sandberg's advice on taking a seat at the table, not leaving before you have to leave, and eliminating your self-limiting beliefs.
I didn’t realize it then, but I was soon going to be able to relate to her narrative.
I was 22 years old, bright-eyed, and about to start my exciting career in management and technology consulting, an incredibly demanding industry that is predominantly male, especially at the executive level. I also chose to start my journey in Seattle, a city where the pace of career progression is about as fast as the time it takes a barista to brew the perfect latte.
To say that I was overwhelmed is the understatement of the century.
I found myself asking a million questions:
How do I make a good first impression at work? How do I dress for work? How do I make time for my friends? How does the relationship with my parents change now that I have a career? Will investing in my career prevent me from finding my life partner? How do I find my passion? How do I manage my finances? What do I do to stay healthy? How do I re-energize after a long day? Who can I turn to for help?
Over the past few years, I’ve found answers to many of these questions. Don’t get me wrong - it took a lot of rookie mistakes, trial and error, and growing pains (and trust me, they were painful) to discover those answers. However, I am a stronger, more capable woman and professional because of those experiences.
As I’ve progressed in my career, I’ve received opportunities to mentor young women at my alma mater as well as my company. And to be honest, that has been one of my favorite parts of my job! I’ve come to realize that the lessons, the ‘ah ha’ moments, and milestones do not mean as much if I’m not able to leverage them to help others achieve their goals more quickly, passionately, and without as many stumbles as I’ve had.
Thus, I went on a mission to figure out how I could continue mentoring but on a larger scale.
In the summer of 2016, I conducted a market research study. I interviewed my girlfriends and female colleagues and asked them a myriad of questions about what fundamentally motivates them, what role their jobs play in their lives, what concerns keep them up at night, and every question in between. I found two main themes:
Our job is more than just a paycheck. It empowers us in a profound way. Even though we’re all motivated by different factors, our careers play a huge role in shaping our identities as women.
No matter how different we are from each other, we all have the same questions. Even though we all experience the same sets of challenges, we don’t always voice them and rarely know who to go to for help. So we sit there alone, suffering in silence and wondering if anyone else feels the same way.
These findings truly moved me and became the impetus for this website and my program, Executives on the Rise. Not only will I provide my own perspective on career and life but also the perspectives from accomplished executives, many of whom I am grateful to call my mentors.
Now I understand that, especially lately, you can’t go a day without hearing the words feminist, work-life balance, and gender pay disparity. My intent is not to add noise to the conversation or to magnify the injustices that exist. My intent is to provide authentic, tactical advice that I’ve implemented in my own personal and professional life for the person I identify with and care about most - YOU!
With all that being said, I want to invite you to a place where you can come to feel heard, understood, and supported.
Julia Ko is a Senior Consultant in the Digital Strategy practice at West Monroe Partners, a business and technology consulting firm recently voted one of Fortune Magazine’s 100 Best Places to Work. She received a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Marketing from the Foster School of Business at the University of Washington and is an alum of the Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority. Julia currently lives in Seattle, and in her free time enjoys cooking (she even cooked with the famous chef Tom Douglas!), attending the ballet, and spending time with her friends and family in Seattle and Chicago.