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What It Means to Lead: Reflections from NAFE Ceremony honoring Sandi Peterson
What It Means to Lead: Reflections from NAFE Ceremony honoring Sandi Peterson

Last month, NAFE honored Johnson & Johnson’s Sandi Peterson as its 2013 Woman of the Year. We invited two employees, both members of our Women’s Leadership Initiative, to attend the awards ceremony and share their thoughts with us.

Nina Zalah, IT Analyst, Enterprise Business Solutions

I was so proud to have a seat at the table with such amazing leaders! The stories that all of the NAFE winners told were inspirational and it’s remarkable to me how much they have accomplished in their careers. I realized how human each of them are, which made them seem so authentic and even more impressive as leaders.

One idea that stood out to me is that we should not classify ourselves in a different category as “female leaders.” Our mission as women in the corporate world should be to get rid of those differentiators and have people ask us questions about our career and success, rather than just our roles as women and moms. I also learned that being a role model is more important than being a sponsor or a mentor. A role model is someone you aspire to be, and you strive to emulate their actions and decisions. That idea changed the way I think about mentoring.

Sandi’s remarks really hit home for me. She encouraged all of us by saying that “to be successful, you need courage, conviction and confidence. You only learn when you’re uncomfortable.” Those words really helped me gain some personal perspective and made me realize that nothing good comes without a little struggle.

This experience made me think about what it takes to be successful. The message came through clearly that we are not measured only on the things we accomplish, but by the lives we touch along the way, the people we mentored, the difference we made in the world, and how many people listen when we speak. It doesn’t matter how many titles you have or how much you get paid. For me, it’s all about what you did as one person to make tomorrow better than yesterday.

Meredith Valentine, Brand Manager, Johnson’s Baby

I was excited to have the opportunity to meet some of Johnson & Johnson’s female leaders in a small setting, and I was impressed with the diversity of experiences, industries, and career paths from other honorees and attendees. While their individual stories varied, they all had the same attitude about success and engagement that I found encouraging for the continued success of women in corporate roles.

As I listened to the speakers and talked with other attendees, I learned that success is only partially defined by business results and that true leaders go above and beyond to help others within their company, as well as in their communities and globally. I think that’s what really separated this group of women from others – their willingness to take time away from day-to-day business operations and prioritize their passions.

Sandi’s remarks were inspiring to me because she clearly shared her passion for our business and for supporting women leaders. I liked the way she spoke about being courageous – breaking out of traditional molds and reinventing ourselves as leaders and business people who can compete in today’s world.

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Johnson & Johnson employees Meredith Valentine (left) and Nina Zalah (center), joined Sandi Peterson to celebrate her honor as NAFE’s 2014 Woman of Achievement.

Read some of Sandi remarks about business and leadership from the event here.

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