My Greatest Partnership: A Reflection On How I Got HereJune 1, 2018
By Liz Giel, Vice President, Strategy
As a new Pony at Fast Horse, many new colleagues have asked me how I got to where I am in my career. My response always covers my journey from one job to another, and how I evolved professionally in strategy. It occurred to me that my typical response to that question omits an incredibly important piece of my story.
When I really think about the beginning of my career, I realize it all started in a bar in Chile, as most great careers do. It involves a handsome Chilean Naval officer named Gerd and a lot of drinks. I went to Chile in hopes of finding my true self, traveling around South America, and challenging myself to take on new adventures with things that used to scare me, like surfing and whitewater rafting. Instead, I met a dude, we fell in love, and three months later we found out we were pregnant.
I’ll admit that this really isn’t how most careers begin.
Being in a foreign country without a job, without health insurance and a baby on the way is a bit overwhelming. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t wonder if this handsome Chilean man was really going to stick around for this new and decidedly unexpected adventure in our lives. I’ll cut to the chase and say that he not only did stick around, but we formed the most important partnership I’ll probably ever know in my life.
There are a few reasons I believe this situation led me to the place in my career where I am today. One, it was a major lesson in resilience. It would have been easy to look at this as a setback in my life. But Gerd’s excitement and encouragement put me in a completely different state of mind. I told myself that I could do this. I learned how to be resourceful and not only make this situation work, but make it a success.
Gerd moved to Minnesota, separating himself from his family, friends, career, and country that he loved to start our family here. He has been there every step of the way to raise our son, Tommy, so that I could work tirelessly to advance my career. I’m not blind to the reality that if it weren’t for his support and partnership, I would not be here.
The same can be said for Tommy. He could have made his mother feel guilty about missing some important events in his childhood. He has never done this. This remarkable young man has always understood that his parents have much to balance, and he cheers us on every step of the way. The three of us have forged an incredible team.
This weekend, Tommy will celebrate his 10th birthday, and we will celebrate 10 years of having each other’s back, being each other’s cheerleaders, and appreciating each of our unique strengths.
It feels appropriate to take this moment to acknowledge how important these two extraordinary men have been to my success. Before they were in my life, I always prided myself on figuring things out on my own, often to my detriment. In America, we love to idolize the individual visionary over the collective forces of partners that often drive greatness. I’m still learning to stop and acknowledge that success is almost always attributed to a collective team and support system, both personally and professionally. I’m also learning that “personal” and “professional” are more connected than they are separated. The two most important men in my life, Gerd and Tommy, will be my daily reminders of this.