Unveiling Your Authenticity: Being Seen, Valued and Heard at Northwestern Mutual

May 10, 2024 9:15 AM ET

Originally Published by Northwestern Mutual on May, 2, 2024

Feeling like you’re valued for who you are and what you contribute is important at work. But it doesn’t always come easily. There isn’t a magical point in time where a lightbulb goes off and you feel heard and accepted. It’s a constant journey.

We recently heard from several employees at Northwestern Mutual's internal WISE Women’s Summit – attended by over 2,400 employees live and virtually -- on how to stay true to yourself, how to take advantage of the people around you who are willing to invest in you, and how to use the resources in front of you to build your career over time. All to ensure you are seen, valued, and heard.


Sheila Jackson, Lead Product Manager 

It's so important to make your presence known. When you’re at the table, ask questions, have conversations with people outside of meetings, set up coffees, let people around you know what your interests are and what your aspirations are. That’s how you build those relationships that are critical to helping you in your career. 


Kindle Robison, Assistant Director Systems Engineering 

This was a very hard lesson for me to learn, and I’m still working on it, but you are responsible for actively participating in creating the environment that you need to succeed. You have to be authentic in order to do that. What I mean by that, is when you’re in a meeting and someone talks over you, or someone makes you feel like an “other,” you have to speak up. It’s your responsibility to advocate for yourself and to have those hard conversations. And slowly but surely it becomes a little bit easier, it’s not as uncomfortable, and you’ll have the environment you need to succeed because the stuff that makes you pause, the stuff that makes you feel bad, isn’t going to be there as much anymore.


Monali Mardikar, Assistant Director Software Engineering 

I was born and brought up in India. And when I was a 7th grader, I encountered computers for the first time. I was so fascinated by them, that then and there I decided I wanted a career in computers. But when I was starting out I was the only girl. Then later, after moving to London and then United States after that, I still remained different. I was from India, I was a different color, a different ethnicity, a woman. And coming to work was frightening for me. But I had a leader who recognized I wasn’t being myself, that I was afraid, and he told me “you’re doing well, you can’t doubt yourself.” And having that mentor gave me the courage to keep going and overcome that fear. I knew I was there for a reason and the relationships I built around me at work helped me find courage. 


Jessica Janz-McKnight, Standards & Governance Senior Specialist 

In my first “real job” I worked in a white, male-dominated industry, and at the time I was the youngest, and only black female research analyst. I often found myself in spaces where people didn’t think I had a lot of credibility. I felt like my coworkers were wondering what could I bring to the table, and what could I do for them that they didn’t already know how to do. So I took advantage of mentorship opportunities. I was paired with the longest-serving research analyst at the organization. He was brilliant, he knew everything about everything, and he knew that he had indispensable skills. What he taught me was the importance of having a skill that nobody can take from you and nobody can replicate. You can find allies in unexpected places. Take as much as you can in those moments until you’re the expert. I no longer feel like an “other,” I feel like I have something unique to bring. 


Margaret Lusiba, Senior Director Investment Operations 

I was working in Investment Operations when my young son was in daycare, and it was really difficult for me. Kids get sick, kids need you, and I couldn’t be available for him and for my job 8 hours out of the day. I spoke to my boss – you have to have a good relationship with your leader – and I said “why can’t you give me the option to work from home?” This was before Covid, so obviously he said no to that. But then I suggested taking a computer home for short stints while I was picking up my son, or when he was sick. And because I could demonstrate that my quality of work wasn’t suffering, this option worked out for everybody. You have to be bold, step up and ask for help. 

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