Bowling Green, Kentucky (March 8, 2023) – It takes a bit of inspiration, a little good advice, and a lot of hard work to do what is needed to find a career you love while also creating positive change in the world.
In honor of International Women’s Day, we asked the women of Connected Nation (CN) to share their thoughts on how create the perfect recipe for achieving the success they dreamed of as little girls.
We hope their answers demonstrate the powerful impact these professionals have had on our organization and within their communities. We also hope they inspire young women and girls to dream big and achieve even bigger.
What is the most important piece of advice you have been given in your career?
Claudia Rico Hernandez, Project and Program Management Lead: It’s ok to receive recognition for your work. Humility is great, but professionally speaking, it is vital to present your work at all levels to be seen and respected.
Michelle Currier, Broadband Solutions Manager: To surround yourself with people that know more than you. This has pushed me to constantly learn, to think outside the box and to always strive to be better!
Jessica Denson, Director of Communications: Do not be afraid to use your connections – you earned them.
Heather Gate, Executive Vice President of Digital Inclusion: Don’t let society define you or put you in a box.
Lily McCoy, Communications Social Media Specialist: Step out of your comfort zone. It is easy to stay doing what you are used to, but you will never really grow and learn unless you try something new.
Bernie Bogle, Chief Financial Officer: People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. Take time to invest in those working alongside you, in their personal lives, and show them that they matter. This has revolutionized the way I interact with coworkers and has made me a better subordinate, coworker, supervisor, and person.
Emily Jordan, Vice President of Connect K-12: “Everyone is accountable to someone or something.” That mentality helps me maintain a humble approach to what and why I am doing my work and reduces the tendency to assume a hierarchical mindset.
What powerful women inspire you?
Claudia Rico Hernandez: Ruth Bader Ginsburg. I admired her stance on protecting women’s rights, her work ethic and determination to create a space for her and her ideology at a time when our voice didn’t have the same power it has now.
Malala Yousafzai. Malala’s story highlights some challenges and dangers women still face worldwide. However, Malala’s story didn’t define her. What makes her so influential is that she used the spotlight she was given to promote girls’ education as a tool for freedom. Her work has brought attention to systematic changes needed to open opportunities for women across the globe.
Michelle Currier: My own mother inspired me. She ran a household of six and made it look so easy. She canned all our food, planted a massive garden, mowed the lawn, went to every event, cooked amazing cinnamon rolls and ran the food service plans for our entire school district. She also suffered the loss of my brother at age 16, from cancer, and continued to be an inspiration to me. Now that I have my own children, I don’t know how she endured that loss and continued to serve her family, community, and church. She was the rock of our family.
Ruth Bader Ginsburg – She believed in education and was led by her passion for ending gender discrimination. I love her famous quote of “Fight for the things that you care about but do it in a way that will lead others to join you.”
Jessica Denson: Michelle Obama and Christiane Amanpour
Heather Gate: My late Grandmother was a true inspiration to me. She grew up in an orphanage and became a nurse, teacher, and broadcaster of children’s radio and tv programming. She broke barriers and inspired many children to pursue their dreams via education.
Lily McCoy: This person is not famous nor has a big role in society. But one person that inspires me is my mom. She raised two kids while working a full-time job and made work/life balance look so easy. She is always willing to listen and provide great advice.
Bernie Bogle: My grandmother was a very strong woman who worked alongside my grandfather in their home, raising their family through the loss of a child, and ministering on the mission field and was willing to sacrifice everything for the good of others. My mother set her career aspirations aside and stayed home raising three, rather rambunctious, children. She taught me about strength, love, and kindness every day in real and tangible ways. While most people would not consider either of these women powerful, they most certainly were and are the most powerful influences inspiring me every day to be the person I was created to be.
Emily Jordan: Working mothers everywhere. Females regularly absorb most of the unpaid labor necessary for maintaining a home and caring for children. Those who do that in addition to their professional responsibilities are the true heroes and inspirations among us.
What did you dream of doing when you were a little girl?
Claudia Rico Hernandez: I wanted to be a medical doctor. Growing up, this was one of the most inaccessible professions due to the cost of education in Colombia and the lack of access to educational loans or scholarships. I also wanted to travel as much as possible which I have been able to fulfill so far.
Jessica Denson: Being a journalist or archeologist.
Heather Gate: I wanted to be a doctor — but I took a little detour to computer science.
Lily McCoy: When I was a little girl, I never had a set career or “dream job”. But I knew wherever I ended up, I wanted to help people. So, when I saw an opportunity to work for a non-profit, I took advantage right away.
Bernie Bogle: Believe it or not, in the fifth grade I completed a fun little activity at school about what I envisioned my future to be. My top two career choices at the time were a gymnast and an accountant. I had never had a gymnastic class in my life, but I loved watching the Olympic gymnasts on television! A girl can dream, right? Needless to say, that career choice never panned out. I did, however, like math and it was relatively easy for me. My junior year in high school, I took my first accounting class, and I loved it. That’s pretty nerdy, I know! I participated in some accounting competitions and won, which meant that I was the only one in the competition or that I had a bit of aptitude for accounting. I decided then to make accounting my career. I’ve never regretted that decision and I have always been thankful that I knew what I wanted to do for a career at a young age!
What are you most proud of achieving in your life and/or career?
Claudia Rico Hernandez: Graduating as an engineer in my home country, Colombia, and graduating with a master’s degree in project and program management in the USA, makes me a bi-literate college graduate!
I’m also proud that an American company sponsored me as an International Engineer to come to the USA, a role hundreds of candidates were competing for in a male-dominated industry. I was also selected to join a field accelerated program in Alaska with my last organization, working with some of their best global engineers. I was later promoted to Engineer Lead. It took me half the time it took for my counterparts to reach that position.
Michelle Currier: I am super proud of taking risks in my career and stepping out of my comfort zone. Going back to school recently and getting my master’s in public health was a giant leap and totally out of my comfort zone!!! I also wanted to be a role model for my children, and really show them that no matter what age you are or what place you are in life, that continuing to grow, learn and go after something you want is worth it.
Jessica Denson: It’s a tie between winning a Edward R. Murrow award and co-founding No Kill Louisville.
Heather Gate: Coming to KY from Zimbabwe, getting myself into college while working two jobs, paying my own way, and graduating with a double major and two master’s degrees.
Lily McCoy: This past fall I was tasked in creating over 10 webpages for the State of Michigan covering Digital Inclusion Resources. The backend of the website was a software I was completely unfamiliar with. It took me months of training and playing around to figure out how to make things look good. Once I got the hang of it, I was proud of what I created and even enjoyed creating in a space that once felt very intimidating to me.
Bernie Bogle: I have just had my 20th anniversary at Connected Nation. I like to say that I started with CN when I was 10, but I’m not sure people buy that. It has been amazing to be a part of bringing access to technology to people who were marginalized and left out of the opportunities that access to the internet provides. I truly believe in Connected Nation’s mission to improve lives by providing innovative solutions that expand the access, adoption, and use of high-speed internet and its related technologies to all people. Everyone truly does belong in a Connected Nation, and I am so grateful to have been a part of an amazing organization, working with incredible people for over two decades!
Emily Jordan: The first part of my career was in education; I was a special educator for five years. Upon recognizing that I needed a change, I was doubtful that I’d be able to shift to anything outside the teaching field. Too often, teachers, especially female teachers, don’t recognize the breadth of skills required to manage a classroom of students- sadly because our society undervalues them. A colleague detailed some of the day-to-day expectations I had as a teacher in the context of a more “corporate” job and gave me the confidence to acknowledge those skills. I am proud that I honored my strengths and marketed them to help me get the jobs that have built the second part of my career. And I will always be a champion for all educators and their immense talents in and out of classrooms.
How has experiencing female leadership impacted your career?
Claudia Rico Hernandez: People who know me hear me talking about extraordinary female leaders I have encountered in my career. Many are part of Connected Nation, and others have been my role model during the last two decades. What all these women have in common is that they were mentors. They understand we are stronger united. They know opening opportunities for other women does not threaten our roles or positions but creates a strong network of skillful professionals.
Michelle Currier: When I think back to when I have been involved in an organization that may be going through a tumultuous time of change, those females that embody a “we got this” mentality and continue to do it with professionalism, positive attitudes, and grace are the leaders I am drawn to. Those women that have been able to roll up their sleeves next to another and pitch in but at the same time attract a trail of influence and encouragement behind them. At the same time, I have seen poor leadership, those that are threatened by others around them, or blame others for what they were unable to accomplish. When forming your own professional style, recognizing and seeing the negative is sometimes just as valuable as the positive.
Jessica Denson: Seeing women in leadership, especially early on with female news directors, made me believe I could lead a new project, a team, a company – whatever I want to do.
Lily McCoy: At almost every job I have had since high-school, I have worked under a female boss. I would purposefully apply for places with other female staff because I believe it is important for women to empower each other in the workplace. My current boss at Connected Nation has motivated, taught, and empowered me in ways that I will forever be grateful for. This April will be our 5th year working together and I couldn’t imagine where I would be in my career without her.
Bernie Bogle: I have known and worked with strong female leaders over my career and the thing that sets them above the rest is their ability to motivate and inspire others. I want to be like them when I grow up!
Emily Jordan: I’ve been lucky enough to work under several female leaders, and have noted that while representation matters, it’s more important how that woman shows up. Values are modeled from the top and through observation, I’ve seen that leaders who show honesty, respect, and direct communication, often see that reflected back to them in their colleagues.
This is just a small insight into the women who are part of CN. Through their expertise, experience, and wisdom, our organization can function and succeed at a higher level. CN’s staff would like to recognize ALL women today, on International Women’s Day.
“Character contributes to beauty. It fortifies a woman as her youth fades. A mode of conduct, a standard of courage, discipline, fortitude, and integrity can do a great deal to make a woman beautiful.” – Jacqueline Bisset
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