Executive Powers

  • By Amy Barth
  • January 30, 2013

You want to make that executive leap, you’re chomping at the bit. What do you need to get there? The 20-20 hindsight of these three power women, who seized the reins at the right moment.

Jane Prokop Chief Operating Officer, Principis Capital  

“When I left my job at a big overseas investment firm to work at a growing technology startup, I knew I had to take risks and face challenges." Some of her biggest:

Learning new skills: "I really wanted to do business development. So I went out to organizations, pitched, and proved I could put a large corporate deal together—even though I’d never done that before."  

Taking credit where credit is due. "Women often get the message to be modest. Don’t have any qualms about saying ‘I took on this project, it’s going fantastic, and I expect a promotion and raise for what I achieved.’ People will respect you for it.”  

Mary Bobel
Executive Director, Department of Radiology at University of Chicago Medicine  

Find a mentor. “Get the guidance of smart people above you," says Bobel. "I had a mentor many years ago who suggested I switch from director of strategic planning to director of accounting. Managing people when you’re not the domain expert is a real challenge, and sometimes, I wondered if my mentor had been right. But I eventually left that company for a job as VP and corporate controller at Adobe—and from there I was able to land a position as CFO, in part because I’d made that switch to accounting years before. I had the nitty-gritty operational experience they wanted on top of my management experience."

AnnaMaria DeSalva VP of Medical and R&D Communications, Pfizer  

“I always had aspirations to reach an executive level, but I didn’t have a specific plan for how to accomplish it. I was doing mid-level corporate affairs at a major pharmaceutical company in Europe. I was really happy and satisfied with what I was doing, so when another firm asked me to run their North American healthcare practice I said no.

Be willing to take an unexpected turn. "Sometimes, you have to recognize the path that's emerging in front of you, even when it's not what you've planned. I eventually took the job, and that experience launched me into several worldwide director roles in healthcare, and now a VP position at Pfizer."

Don't be afraid of your ambition.
  You may not always feel clear, but don’t be afraid of what you ultimately want. In my case, moving in a new direction wasn't an obvious choice, but it ended up being key to getting me where I wanted to go."