by Susan M. Puglia
IBM Vice President
When Dad tells you that you can be anything you want to be in life, believe him. But know that you’ll need to work hard, be alert to recognize and take opportunities that come your way, stretch yourself to operate outside your comfort zone, persevere to make a difference, and most importantly just be yourself… always be yourself. Although you’re a very reserved, even shy child, there will be many people in your life who will help you to build your confidence and find your voice. And as you do that, amazing things will happen.
Starting with Mom and Dad… listen to them. They are incredible role models and they will teach you a very important lesson… you need to earn things in life. They will present you with many opportunities to learn and excel, but you need to take them, work hard, always do your best and never take anything for granted. Following your passion for taking piano lessons and subsequently playing concerts in front of 100’s of people will open up incredible doors inside of you that you never thought existed. You will sweat, shake and even cry as you prepare for those concerts, but once you start to play on stage, your talent will take over and you will be one with the piano. This experience teaches you how to focus and immerse yourself in a task, and to trust in your ability in order to overcome fear. It’s those concerts, and the influence of Mary, your piano teacher, that will give you the gift of confidence to perform in front of a large crowd. So, just as hard work is a necessary ingredient for success, I believe that confidence is just as important. Stretch yourself often to operate outside of your comfort zone as that will help you to continually build up confidence and move to the next level.
In high school, you will realize that you are a natural leader as the other girls elect you as class President as early as Freshman year. You will be surprised, but as you stretch yourself to take on this responsibility, you’ll gain much more confidence… there’s that word again! You’ll study very hard… harder than your two sisters need to, but it will pay off. Others will respect you and seek your advice and friendship, and they will listen to you.
You are fortunate that you are very good in math, and you love it. Stay with math and pursue your desire to broaden yourself. Follow your instincts… they are often very sound. Go to college in Manhattan, even though some will try to dissuade you. Be a double major in Math and Computer Science, even though a particular professor will tell you to consider other options… you will graduate with honors! Take your first job at IBM right out of college, even though the Bell Labs offer seems more attractive. Your willingness to take risks and walk into totally new learning situations will be a valuable asset in your adult life and your long and fruitful career at IBM.
At IBM, you will meet many people who want to see you succeed. Some of them will be obvious and formal mentors, and others will work behind the scenes. And still, there will be others who see you as a threat to them, and will try to inhibit your progress. The “streetwise” awareness that you developed growing up in Brooklyn, NY, will help you to tell the difference. Like I said above, always be alert, and be ready to take action.
Perseverance will play an important role in many aspects of your life. There will be so many times that you will stick with things against the odds, because you believe that you can achieve anything once you put your mind to it. And you often do succeed. Your two awesome children will be living testament to what can happen when you persevere!
Last, enjoy life. No matter how hard you are working to succeed, you should always check periodically to ensure you are enjoying what you’re doing. Don’t get me wrong, life will have its ups and downs, but your positive outlook and belief in yourself will help you get through even the most difficult times. Having a wonderful, loving husband and family will also help you keep balance in your life. Remember, life is too short to not enjoy your time here!
So, I guess I’m living proof that Dad was right! Have the confidence to fulfill his dream for you, and take your time and enjoy the path… I’ll be waiting! Love and hope to you always.
Your Older Self, Susan