Angie Gosman still remembers her first day at Louisville Gas and Electric Company. She arrived at Trimble County Power Plant in 1986 as “data entry operator 1” having just graduated from high school at age 18. No one told her what to wear, so she showed up in her business best – complete with ‘hose and heels. On day two, she traded those in for blue jeans and boots and got to work.
Thirty-seven years later, Angie serves as executive vice president and chief human resources officer for PPL Corporation, a Fortune 500 company and one of the largest utility companies in the United States.
Angie was the keynote speaker at Women Influencing Louisville’s annual conference where she shared the highs, lows and speedbumps of her career trajectory. Here’s her sage advice in her own words:
Own your story.
You are uniquely you. No one else is exactly like you and that is a good thing. Women and other minorities are historically underrepresented in certain industries – but that is changing. We are all uniquely qualified to be who we want and to succeed at what we choose. Don’t modify or compromise yourself or your values for anything or anyone.
Several times throughout my career, other people doubted my abilities and made assumptions based on their perception of me, a young woman with a high school diploma from a small rural town. On several occasions, I had to stand up for myself and assert my value so that I could be heard and understood. It would have been easier to ignore the negative comments or shrug them off, but I faced them head-on and made sure to correct any misconceptions.
If I had listened to critics along the way, I would have started to doubt myself. My worth, my ability. Never let others steal your confidence or your faith in yourself. You are you, and you are uniquely qualified.
Swim, don’t sink.
My dad always said, “You will not sink, so swim.” That proved to be my motto and guiding principle throughout my life, both professionally and personally. My dad was my first male ally, and I am so blessed to have him.
I started my career at a young age, got married and started taking college classes at night. A few years later, we had our daughter, but I knew that to advance, I needed to finish my college degree.
I can recall packing up my young daughter and taking her along, complete with her mini backpack and coloring books for those Saturday morning classes. We earned that degree together – and it wouldn’t have been possible without my husband’s support all along the way.
But earning that degree proved to be one of the easier hurdles I crossed. The path forward in my career was met with a number of roadblocks, wrong turns and devastating rejections. I remember interviewing for my first management position – I wanted it so badly – but it didn’t work out.
I allowed myself to feel the disappointment, the frustration, but only for a moment. I kept swimming.
Find your allies.
What started off as a setback turned into an opportunity later. The person who landed that management position instead of me, asked me to be his successor as he was preparing to retire in a few years. I applied for and got the position. Since I left that role, four amazingly strong women have held that job.
Male allyship, and any form of allyship, was critical to my success and my psyche. Find your allies. They are there. And when you are able, be an ally for someone else.
Invest in yourself.
Self-care has come into the forefront the past few years and there is a good reason. With the pace of the world today, we need to focus inward even more than years ago. Invest in yourself – whether that is taking a few minutes each day to journal or get outside for a walk – take the time you need to be your best self.
And when it comes to your career: take risks, stretch yourself, work hard and lean on your allies. Don’t know something? Ask. Don’t understand something? Learn. Made a mistake? Own it, pick yourself up and move forward. Look to your friends, your mentors, your allies for help and guidance.
But above all else, believe in yourself and don’t let distractions get in your way.