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Hanging with the Boys

This week I got to spend some time with a fabulous woman who is killing it at her job in the very male-dominated oil and gas industry. She started with her company in a very junior role, but with her intellect, gumption, grit and confidence, she’s now VP of Accounting at that company.  The kicker? She’s 31 years old.  

At first blush I was just thinking “wow – that’s amazing!  YOU’RE amazing!” (and she is!). I asked her a ton of questions about how she got to where she did so quickly.  One big tip she shared?  “I never say no.  Ever.” When they asked her if she wanted to do accounting, she said yes.  When they asked if she wanted to help in the warehouse, she said yes.  When they asked her if she wanted to manage the trucking team, she said yes.  By being willing and open to every opportunity, she simultaneously earned a stellar reputation as a team player, got to know tons of people, and more importantly, learned nearly every aspect of the business.  Eventually, saying yes to everything got her to where she is today.  

By being willing and open to every opportunity, she simultaneously earned a stellar reputation as a team player, got to know tons of people, and more importantly, learned nearly every aspect of the business.

Sounds great, right?  It does, no doubt. And I know she’s proud of what she’s achieved (and rightly so). However, as we talked, there were some not so exciting things that she’s faced with at the same time.  Here are just a few things she shared with me: 

  • I had to say yes to everything because I was already fighting an uphill battle around perception as a woman. Saying “no” wasn’t an option, because it would have been an easy excuse for people to cast me aside for bigger opportunities.   
  • When people look at my resume, they see my age and that I’ve only been at one company for 8 years. They don’t see the work I’ve put in and the skills I have, and that I’ve earned my place at the executive table.  How do I navigate that in the future when I’m ready to move on and am trying to find a senior role that people will seriously consider me for?   
  • I’m young, and I’m female.  My experience and skill level doesn’t match my age for most people, and it doesn’t match expectations people have when they see me. I’m constantly having to explain that.  
  • When my husband and I go to big events put on in my industry, without fail when meeting other senior people they immediately turn to shake my husband’s hand and introduce themselves to him, ignoring me.  It’s always assumed that he’s the executive. And when we are invited to weekend events with other leaders and their spouses, I’m usually the only female exec.  Which means when I am spending time with my team, my husband is surrounded by the wives and not sure what to do with himself.   
  • Close friends who know me well often comment that there are two versions of me.  There’s the version I need to be at work, where I am a young female who often has managed men who are many years my senior.  I can’t be small or quiet or anything but strong, confident, tough and resilient.  But when I’m home, with my husband and two small children, I don’t want him to feel bad about me being the primary breadwinner so I take a back seat.  So yes, there are two versions of me, but there has to be.    

These are interesting challenges. On the one hand, here is a success story that I’d like to see more women have.  But on the other hand, is it possible to achieve this kind of success this quickly, in this kind of environment, and still be true to our authentic selves?  Is adoption of traditionally “male” traits the only way to get this level of success in some industries?  And is that the right approach to take?  For these more traditional industries, do we need to give them a pass on being “woke” and we’ll just trust that the women who chose to work there will be able to hack it?   

I really don’t know the answer to these questions. But I’d love to hear your thoughts!  


Beth Yehaskel is Ceresa’s Chief Customer Officer, and is responsible for leading sales, business development and customer success. She has more than 20 years of experience scaling rapidly growing companies and building customer service teams, and previously held VP roles at Spredfast and Jungle Scout. She’s a jigsaw puzzle enthusiast, former Peace Corps volunteer, and a Ceresa mentor herself!

3 comments on “Hanging with the Boys

  1. Love this- I was equally impressed the first time I spent 1×1 time with Kelly. Let’s just keep asking these hard questions until we get good answers.

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  2. Great questions! They all make me think of the Purl Pixar SparkShorts video that I saw through Ceresa. It is so easy as a young woman to fall into the trap of being your unauthentic self in a male dominated industry to fit in and get ahead. For those of us that have done that, we have to continue to be trailblazers for and mentors to the women that come after us so that they can be their authentic selves and experience even greater successes doing so!

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  3. Kim Kasee

    After many decades of working in male dominated industries I found two things worked for me. 1) Always be true to myself. I believe Demi mentioned this in her comment. And 2) always have interesting industry or current event things to start or add into conversations. These conversation starters or topics will help your audience understand you better…quickly. The depth of your knowledge and perspective on these topics will most likely begin to have your audience seeing you in a different light…As a note i stayed away from religion and politics.

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