Sure, we all know the obvious career milestones – landing your first “real” job, scoring a big promotion, becoming a manager. But often we experience other unforgettable moments … ones that are a bit unexpected, yet affect us just as deeply.

Take it from Cheryl Porro, SVP of Technology & Products for Cheryl joined Salesforce in 2005, leading a small team of quality engineers. As the company grew, she eventually headed up a team of 100 engineers, got involved in our leadership team, and began driving strategic discussions and decisions around future innovations.

Today, Cheryl and her team build powerful technology that helps over 10,000 nonprofits and universities achieve their missions. After a successful launch of their first Higher Education product this past March, Cheryl is working hard to keep increasing our investment in products that will help improve our communities

As an engineer turned leader at one of the world’s most innovative companies, there’s no denying that Cheryl’s career journey has been eventful (to say the least). Yet there are a few times in particular that stand out … milestones that profoundly impacted both her personal perspective and professional path.

Here, our Salesforce Woman of the Month shares her top three pivotal career milestones and what she learned from them.

1. When I Transitioned from Manager to Leader

When I first became a manager, my goal was to be a great one. So I took good care of my employees and got to know them as people. I aggressively and competitively pursued success for myself and my team. Although I protected my own employees, I could be very hard on my peers. During a reorg, one of those peers moved onto my team. I remember saying to the employee, “Now that you report to me, I will be much nicer to you.” The moment those words came out of mouth, I realized how wrong they were.

Since then, I have approached everyone in the organization as if they were my direct report, regardless of team or department. We are all human beings, working hard to make a difference for our customers. It’s not us against them; it’s us coming together to enable our customers’ success. That moment changed the way I approach my work and allowed me to become not just a manager, but a leader.

2. When I Took On an Intimidating Role

As I moved along my career journey at Salesforce, I was happy but knew I wanted to progress my career, challenge myself in new ways, and make a more meaningful impact. When the SVP of Technology & Products for role opened up two years ago, I knew instantly that I wanted to apply. Despite being told that I had “about 50%” of the skills required for the role, I kept pushing forward and got it. But that was only the beginning.

As expected, the role was challenging, required me to learn a ton, and forced me to quiet the “impostor syndrome” demons in my head telling me I wasn’t good enough. But what was truly eye-opening was realizing that I could actually do the job – and do it well. Everything I had learned over the years had prepared me for it. My knowledge, experiences, and relationships were the foundation on top of which I layered on the hard work to develop a deep understanding of the new role I was stepping into. In work and in life, so many of the tools and lessons you are exposed to will be applicable no matter what your challenge.

3. When I Learned to Ask for Help

When I became a mother, I encountered a whole new set of challenges in the workplace. I readily admit that I can’t do it all, so I learned to ask for help in order to have time for my family and for myself. For example, it’s very important to me to be able to drop off my daughter at school and be home for dinner. Once I shared this with my colleagues, I discovered that they respect and appreciate my focus on family, and now they happily to work with me to schedule meetings at times convenient for everyone. Sometimes I have to miss the occasional drop-off, but that’s okay. It’s all about flexibility.

We are all on our own unique journeys. My advice to you, especially if you are in the midst of a challenging time in your life, is to first seek help from family, friends, colleagues, and professionals. And know that it’s these challenging times that will make you a stronger person. As tough as they can be, without challenging times, we don’t grow as people. I have learned this time and again, and know I am a better human for the difficult times I have worked through.

The Salesforce Woman of the Month campaign turns the spotlight on the amazing women who help make Salesforce one of the World’s Most Innovative Companies (according to Forbes) and one of Fortune Magazine’s Best Companies to Work For. Honorees are nominated by fellow employees and selected by a dedicated committee that works to ensure a variety of roles and regions are honored.

To hear more from Cheryl Porro, make sure to connect with her on LinkedIn and Twitter. And stay tuned for more career tips and tools for success from our next Salesforce Woman of the Month, coming your way in July.

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