Women of ABC News 'Lean In,' Share the Best Career Advice Ever Received

VIDEO: The Facebook COO and Disney director says women should be more assertive to advance their careers.
ABCNEWS.com

Sheryl Sandberg is the female force behind the largest social networking site in the world. As Facebook's chief operating officer, Sandberg has broken down barriers in Silicon Valley, but has noticed far fewer women rising the ranks along with her.

That's the impetus behind her new book, "Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead," which hits stores today and has already opened up a dialogue on women in the workplace. Sandberg, also a director of the Walt Disney Company, parent of ABC News, encourages women to "lean in" and to take action to reach their potential and the top of their professions.

In the spirit of Sandberg's "Lean In" campaign, we asked the female journalists of ABC News to "lean in," too, and to share the best career advice they have received. Click through to see what our ABC News anchors, correspondents, and producers behind the scenes have to say.

PHOTO: Robin Roberts
Ida Mae Astute/ABC
Robin Roberts

"I remember coming home from career day in junior high. I told my mom that I was going to be a physical ed teacher and basketball coach. My mom was a longtime educator, so I thought she'd be happy with my decision. She asked me why I had chosen this career path. My response: Because at career day I was told that's the only job for a girl wanting to stay involved in sports. Thankfully, my mom told me never to let someone else decide what I could or could not do ... period. I went on to realize my dream and became the first black woman sports journalist/broadcaster at ESPN."

PHOTO: Barbara Walters poses for a portrait for the ABC NEWS studio.
Virginia Sherwood/ABC
Barbara Walters

"Don't be afraid; most of us don't find our bliss. Never fear, your bliss will find you. I faced failure when I became the first female news co-anchor on a major network. I was a total flop, but my lack of success in that venture inspired me to work all the harder in my other endeavors. If you have a failure, you will rise; you will be fine; you will work your way back. Instead of sinking, stay afloat even if it means treading water for a bit. You will reach shore."

PHOTO: Martha Raddatz
ABC
Martha Raddatz

"When I started my career as a television reporter eons ago, I was determined to get the same opportunities that my 'brother' reporters were getting. No flower shows for me. If they were covering police raids, I was too. If they were covering City Hall, I was too.

"This was not merely to prove a point. This is what I found interesting and challenging, so of course I could do it!

"But one very wise fellow reporter gave me very good advice as I tried to foot stomp my way to success: 'You must have a sense of humor.' The truth is I always had made fun of myself and laughed at some situations in which I found myself as a woman, but I was convinced if I did that in a professional environment I wouldn't be taken seriously. Quite the opposite.

"If you can relate to your colleagues and those you cover as a successful but very real human being, I think it is far easier to be part of a work environment and excel."

--Martha Raddatz, ABC News Chief Global Affairs Correspondent

PHOTO: Bianna Golodryga
ABC
Bianna Golodryga

"One of the best pieces of advice I've received relating to my career came from one of my first mentors, Maria Bartiromo. Maria is a true pioneer in the field of financial journalism. She was the first woman to report from the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, truly breaking through the glass ceiling that for years excluded females from what was considered one of the last male bastions.

"Maria once described some of the intimidating, brutish, and downright misogynistic treatment she endured on a daily basis in her early days of reporting. It was clear that many men did not want her there and were trying to send her a message through their routine harassment. However, she soon realized that her best revenge would come from a defiant response.

"'Never let them see you cry, Bianna,' she told me.

"Hold your head up high, and look past your detractors was the message. She never did let them see her cry.

"I interpreted this to mean that, while women are generally acknowledged (and embraced) for their empathy, it should never be confused for weakness."

-- Bianna Golodryga, co-anchor of "Good Morning America's" weekend edition, ABC News' Business Correspondent

PHOTO: Juju Chang
ABC
Juju Chang

"When I was a young, single girl at ABC News, I spent a summer producing a few political pieces with one of the greats, Cokie Roberts. As journalists traveling on the road often do, we started sharing stories about our personal lives. She told me of her days canning peaches and being a stay-at-home mom while her husband worked. And I told her my boyfriend wasn't asking me to get married and that I dreamed of being a mom someday. I hesitated with the 'working mom' title. She told me something that I've told countless women over the years. She said, 'Juju, you CAN have it all, but you can't necessarily have it all at the same time.' Sometimes one has to give.

"Some days, I think my head is going to explode. The struggle is omnipresent and the advice I'd layer on top of what Cokie said is that only YOU can define what 'having it all' looks like. And only YOU can draw that line between give and take."

-- Juju Chang, ABC News Correspondent

PHOTO: Lara Spencer
Ida Mae Astute/ABC
Lara Spencer

"Take chances and don't be afraid to try something new. If you aren't scared, you aren't growing."

-- Lara Spencer, "Good Morning America" anchor

PHOTO: Christiane Amanpour
Martin H. Simon/ABC
Christiane Amanpour

"Growing up in Iran, I attended a riding school run by a former Iranian army cavalry officer. ... This became my sport. ... Beginning when I was just five years old, I would be put on a large horse, not a small pony, which immediately set the bar high for what I was expected to do, how I was expected to deal with a big challenge. ... I used to fall off the horse regularly, but there was no question of walking away, or giving in to fear or stopping the exercise midway. My instructor would walk over, pat my cheek, and lift me straight back on. Even though, at the time, I probably didn't understand courage, it was a very early lesson in staying the course. Every time you fall, pick yourself up, dust yourself off and keep going. As it turned out, the lessons I learned riding formed a strong foundation for the extreme profession of living and working in war zones and other disasters that I've taken on."

-- Christiane Amanpour, Global Affairs Anchor for ABC News, excerpted from "The Person Who Changed My Life"

PHOTO: Elizabeth Vargas
ABC
Elizabeth Vargas

"The best career advice I ever got was from a colleague and it was deceptively simple. I was feeling frustrated and a little hurt to be honest about a flurry of publicity and fanfare that surrounded another colleague who had just been hired. I had never received that much attention myself, and it was hard not to take it personally and not to wonder why I seemed to be working so hard unnoticed.

"When I confessed my insecurities to a friend, he stopped me, and said, 'Slow and steady wins the race.' He went on to counsel me to focus on my work, and said that all that hullaballoo around that new hire would soon fade. He was right. It did. I have never forgotten how simple or how important that advice was, or what the value of doing your very best when all else fails, is at the end, the only thing we own."

-- Elizabeth Vargas, "20/20" co-anchor

Click here to watch Vargas' interview with Sandberg on why women need to "lean in."

PHOTO: Paula Faris
ABC
Paula Faris

"Do what you love, but don't allow your career to define you. Too many people are defined by their careers and, when their run ends, they have no idea who they are. Work hard and passionately, but always maintain a healthy perspective. As one person told me: 'Live on your front porch,' meaning, imagine yourself later in life, sitting on your front porch, sipping a lemonade. Would that older, wiser version of yourself do anything differently? Live with a conscience -- with that wisdom of foresight. Live on your front porch."

-- Paula Faris, ABC News Correspondent

PHOTO: Cynthia McFadden
ABC
Cynthia McFadden

"I received two pieces of advice in my twenties which still resonate: I was the first person in my family to have the opportunity to go to college. On the day I graduated from law school, my father -- a wonderful, wise man who worked for the phone company for fifty years, said, 'Just remember one thing little girl, anyone can have a job they don't like. Now it's up to you to find work that interests and inspires you.'

"And so after law school I got a job I loved as a television producer for a public affairs program on PBS. Five years later the founder of Court TV, Steve Brill, offered me a job as an anchor for his new venture. I'd never been on television before. That night I happened to be having dinner with Katharine Hepburn (OK, that's a longer story). I told her I was thrilled that he'd offered me a three-year contract.

"'Disaster!'" she said.

"'Why?' I asked. 'It's fantastic, I get paid for three years even if I am lousy at it.'

"'That is precisely my point,' replied Hepburn. "When you are young you need to bet on yourself. You must sign for only a year. If you are good you want to force him to renegotiate, if you're lousy you need to get the hell out and find something you ARE good at.' Thanks, Kate."

-- Cynthia McFadden, "Nightline" co-anchor

Barbara Fedida

There are two pieces of advice that I got as a young producer that in tandem have been priceless.

The first was from the one and only Diane Sawyer, who early on told me to be fearless. Fearless at work and fearless in life. She taught me that the fearless pursuit of the truth as a journalist is a prerequisite for the job. It made me realize once you face your fears there's nothing you can't do.

The other was from my friend and mentor Peter Jennings. We were in an edit room screening a piece and I was bummed about an assignment I didn't get. He wanted me to focus on the piece I was working on with him and needed me to get out of my funk. "Not sure why you care so much," he said to me about the assignment I wasn't chosen for, "because those stories aren't even the ones you love to do."

My answer was it was something considered prestigious in the news division and thought to be a rite of passage by some. His answer: "My dear, stop being so focused on what you think you're SUPPOSED to do because in doing so you might miss what you're MEANT to do." He was so right. It taught me to be open to opportunities, to not think there was only one way to get from here to there and to embrace where I was at each moment.

--Barbara Fedida, Senior Vice President, Talent and Business

Kate O'Brian

When I started in broadcast, there were still men saying, "Keep the broads out of broadcasting." It was daunting but also invigorating. It fueled my competitive nature. I was going to show them! My father, who was a successful newspaperman despite never having graduated from high school, instilled that competitive nature in me, but he also said over and over again, "Do what you love." He loved writing and would never have done anything else.

I love the news business and I still value his example of being ambitious and competitive, and overcoming obstacles. But it is something I was told decades ago by Carmen Wirth, a successful businesswoman in the hotel business, which has guided me most often. She said, "Always be engaged. Always be curious. If you are deeply engaged in something, then you will always be interesting to others … and to yourself. Engagement is better than a plan."

She was talking about being open to different career paths and I have followed that advice through my various "left turns" over the years. All careers have high points and low points. You will go in unexpected directions and be handed enormous challenges. If you are open to change, curious, and engaged, you will also love what you are doing. And that is success.

-- Kate O'Brian, ABC News Senior Vice President

Wendy Fisher

The best career advice I have gotten came from my family. From my mom, who calmed me down when I panicked facing my overnight shift as an assignment editor. She told me she had worked nights as a nurse-in-training at a psychiatric hospital when she was in her 20s, and it was clear to me that the hours were not a big deal for her and should not be for me. I had an opportunity and I had to take it. And from my dad, who calmed me down when I worried about going back to work after I had my first child, by telling me I really didn't have a choice and so why was I worrying about it? And from my wise sister, who always assured me my kids would be just fine while I was at work.

These words of wisdom were so helpful to me because they were practical, not philosophical. It was not "should" or "shouldn't." It was, Do what you need to do and enjoy it. I have always come to work every single day hoping to make a difference here in my own way, trying to make my voice heard, comfortable that at the same time I was doing the right thing for my children. And that is my advice for the women following me who worry about balancing work and family: Come up with a plan that works for you. It will not be the same as someone else's plan. It is not one-size-fits-all. It has to be your plan, and you have to be satisfied with it.

-- Wendy Fisher, ABC News Deputy Managing Editor, Domestic News

Santina Leuci

Do not forget to laugh, and laugh a lot, and keep your sense of humor. It is so important. You will find yourself when you find yourself. There is no race. Love your job. There is no better feeling than getting to a place you love. And take care of your colleagues who will be with you during the hardest times and the best of times. They will never replace your family, but they will come pretty darn close.

-- Santina Leuci, Executive Editor, ABC News Division-Wide Interviews

Robin Sproul

I have been the first woman to hold each of the jobs I have had at ABC. Early career advice coming to me from predecessors and peers often seemed to be coming from another planet.

My favorites? "Sometimes you haul the kids and the puppy into the front yard, then you take out your pistol and shoot the puppy. Then the kids know who is boss." Really? The other: "Every now and then, and when it's least expected, just start screaming at people. Then they know you're the boss." Needless to say, it helps to have a sense of humor!

My advice to others is to work hard and be a great member of your team, but always be true to yourself. Authenticity is key to earning respect from your colleagues and feeling good about yourself. Also -- and most important to me -- is to be honest with your colleagues: your peers, your bosses, and your employees. That's the base line for a respectful working relationship. Finally, we are lucky enough to be doing work that is important, creative, fascinating, and often very fun. But if you don't love what you do, move along. Happiness may be just around the corner.

--Robin Sproul, Vice President and Washington Bureau Chief

Stephanie Smith

As a "Watergate baby," I was inspired by the power of the pen. I wrote for my high school newspaper, my college newspaper and after graduating, I landed a job as a copy aide at the revered Washington Post -- not because my writing had impressed them, but because I had the audacity to apply for a job. As fate would have it, there just happened to be an opening in the Style section. Same for ABC.

I was the daughter of immigrants -- my sister and I were the first to go to college -- so I was ambitious. At 22, I thought my career was set. But it took many twists and turns and I ended up in television news.

My advice: People will have preconceived notions about you -- based on your background, education, social standing and ability to communicate. For better or worse, it's the hand you've been dealt so focus on your strengths, but try to strengthen your weaknesses. Work hard and continue to educate yourself on everything. Get to know your peers and your superiors. Watch, listen and learn. And always have someone (or two) you trust to lean on when you have a bad day. There is no direct path to your goals. And your goals may change over time. But be honest with yourself about what truly makes you happy.

I have a transcript of Steve Jobs' 2005 commencement address to Stanford University taped to my office wall – one of my favorite parts:

"Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life. Don't be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people's thinking. Don't let the noise of others' opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary."

-- Stephanie Smith, ABC News Senior Producer, The White House

Jessica Velmans

Most careers are not straight paths. They're curvy roads filled with detours, but the whole journey is exciting and well worth the trip. I loved being a producer in the field. I couldn't get enough of the traveling and getting behind the scenes in all sorts of places all over the world. It was a job I never thought I would stop doing, but then in my late thirties I met a man, and he said: "If not now, when?" ... and we had a baby.

My priorities shifted, which was a complete surprise to me. There was no way I wanted to stay home full time, but there was also no way I wanted to be away from my child for long periods of time. So I explored my options within the company, and I was offered a management job. And again to my surprise, that's been as exciting in its own way, as my adventures on the road.

So my advice to women is: Stay flexible. Do your job to the fullest, and when it becomes obvious to you that a change is needed, that's the time to look around, and ask what else is out there. You can't plan each step of the way, but you can find a way to make each chapter of your work life rewarding.

-- Jessica Velmans, Senior Producer, Special Projects, "World News with Diane Sawyer"

Terri Lichstein

In the early years of my career I spent most of time trying to obtain impossible interviews for ABC News, many overseas. And quickly, I noticed that the officials in most of the foreign countries I dealt with were all men. They were much older, extremely official, and most often not really interested in what I had come to discuss and even, at times, a bit impatient with me. However, they would grant me meetings. I knew I had only seconds to capture their attention, before they would get the word "no" out of their mouths. I learned to talk fast, smile a lot and be steadfast in my arguments. I believed in every inch of my story.

And in one very lengthy negotiation, I learned the most important lesson, which I still tell young producers today. I was trying to convince the Indian government, just six months after Prime Minister Indira Gandhi died, that the new prime minister, Rajiv Gandhi -- her son -- should give his first interview exclusively to ABC News. It was in one of the last of many, many meetings that my executive producer was told, "Terri has been pleasantly persistent, and because of this, we have agreed to grant the interview."

Those are the words: Be "pleasantly persistent" to get your foot in door, and then when you are in, believe in your story, believe in yourself.

-- Terri Lichstein, Senior Producer, ABC News Magazines

Angela Ellis

"A good name is worth its weight in gold." That's what my grandmother always used to tell me and that phrase is one that I have carried with me throughout my career. It's not about obsessing over every little thing other people may say or think about you, or even whether they like you. It's about earning respect for having integrity, pride, kindness and intelligence. It's about treating people well and being true to yourself. It's about having a quiet grace as you set about achieving your goals. So when you arrive at the finish line, you'll have achieved that goal with your self-respect and the respect of others intact. People will want to work with and for you, will want to cheer you on, will want to hear what you have to say. A simple thing like a good reputation is, indeed, a powerful currency, and one that can grant you entry to places you may never have thought possible.

-- Angela Ellis, Senior Producer, "Good Morning America"

Ann Reynolds

Mother Knows Best. When she realized I wasn't going to medical school, she said, "Well, then you need to find something fun. You need to want to go to work each day." I entered television news randomly, just needing to pay the rent on a Manhattan apartment. But I looked around – and everyone was having fun. They got to ask questions, tell stories, go out into the world and see what was going on. They had curiosity, a sense of humor and a kind of sparkle, and every day was different. My career has been a collision of lucky coincidences, and in each case the guiding principle has been as simple as, Hey, that job sounds like fun. Thanks, Mom.

-- Ann Reynolds, ABC News Senior Producer

Sara Just

I was raised by a working mother who set a wonderful example for how to be a loving parent and a committed professional all at the same time. But she certainly never said it was easy. And it's not. My mother is an unfailingly polite woman who never raised her voice to her children, but the advice she gave to me that I think about frequently is to SPEAK UP.

Don't hesitate to raise your hand or volunteer for an assignment. Don't always wait to be asked or to be noticed. It's the same advice I give young women and men when they start here at ABC, but the women often need the nudge a bit more. Politely waiting your turn may have served us well as little girls, but it doesn't always help in the workplace. It still pays to be polite, but be your own best advocate and speak up!

And then, after you've spoken up, let the work speak for itself. Show people what you can do and demonstrate how hard you're willing to work. After all, another piece of my mother's great advice is: It's hard to listen and learn when you're still talking.

-- Sara Just, ABC News Senior Producer

Janet Boyle

Balance, Listening, and Empathy – my guiding principles.

Balance in life. Think about those words. They are not only what defines me, but after all, isn't that what we all are trying to achieve? Balance enables me to give my all at work, to deal with the challenges of being in the "sandwich generation," to be a more patient parent and effective manager. For me, balance came through pushing that envelope to create the first job-share at ABC News. Job sharing isn't always possible, but in my case it worked!

Listening. We all do better when we listen, truly listen to others. It helps them achieve the balance they need in their lives and in the workplace.

And empathy. Never underestimate the importance of empathy. Remember where you started in this business and what it feels like to be low down on the totem pole. I've been there, and you probably have too. It takes little time or effort to acknowledge those who are there now, and to guide them up that totem pole. Empathy will help you lead, it will make you stronger and respected in the workplace, in short -- it will help you -- and others -- succeed.

-- Janet Boyle, Operations Producer, "World News with Diane Sawyer"

PHOTO: Sheryl Sandberg's book, "Lean In."
Sheryl Sandberg
'Lean In'

Click here for Sandberg's interview with ABC News' Elizabeth Vargas on why women need to "lean in."

Click here to learn more about Sandberg's "Lean In" campaign.

Join the Discussion
You are using an outdated version of Internet Explorer. Please click here to upgrade your browser in order to comment.
blog comments powered by Disqus
Share
Copy
 
You Might Also Like...