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The Non-Traditional Career Path: M. Anne McConnell

It###s fitting that the recipient of the first Betsy Bernard Emerging Leader of the Year Award describes her career path as "non-traditional". After all, M. Anne McConnell, senior manager of Channel Marketing at StorageTek, was being recognized not only for her professional accomplishments but also for serving as a positive role model for women. And today, a non-traditional path to success-or at least, a non-traditional outlook-may be the course that serves many women best. The Women###s Vision Foundation bestowed the award, which is named for the president of AT&T Corp.

"I have done a lot in my short career that isn###t necessarily a straight line," says McConnell. "If you told me 10 years ago that I would have this title and responsibility, I wouldn###t have believed you."

A native of Texas, McConnell earned a degree in Journalism/Public Relations with a minor in Radio, Television and Film from the University of Texas, a stint interrupted by two years spent bike racing. She moved to Colorado and worked for radio stations as a news anchor and DJ, and later in marketing and promotions for National Public Radio###s E-Town. "I also did lighting design and spotlight work for concerts, worked in a record store, and was a project manager for an advertising agency. I like to do new things," she says.

She joined StorageTek in late 1998 and was promoted to senior manager in December 1992. In her present job she defines and executes the marketing strategy for StorageTek###s channel business and is responsible for more than $400 million in annual revenues.

"StorageTek was one of the first professional jobs I had," she says. "One of the reasons I was chosen for the award is because I started as a specialist and now am a generalist. I play to my strengths and do what I enjoy, and that turns into different things sometimes.

"I guess you could say I bounced around until I found what I really loved, or you could say I didn###t stick with anything for too long. It###s probably a little bit of both."

McConnell spends about 50% of her time managing others, setting strategy for the group, and "evangelizing what we do within the company. I###ve always gravitated toward management," she says. "I think it###s a natural ability for me."

Although McConnell is single and has no children as yet, she does not hesitate to acknowledge the difficult balancing act many women face as they try to meet family and job expectations... "I###m at the point where it###s okay for me to spend a lot of time at work; that###s the stage of life I###m in. I do see women really wanting to honor the role of being a mother, which I think is awesome, and I do see them struggling. Women are just 7% of the population of CEOs in the U.S. We are mainly managed by men, and how can they possibly understand our experience?

"Changes to help women achieve balance in the corporate world are coming, but coming slowly," she says. On the other hand, McConnell believes women can represent their abilities better. "We need to do a better job of playing to our strengths and educating men about how we can contribute and make changes in the business world; this isn###t necessarily playing by the same rules they do.

"We###re very good at communication and nurturing, I don###t mean in the sense of the typical response to that, but more in terms of looking after people. We###re caring. We###re incredibly powerful, and if women would play to our innate strengths, we###d start to see a shift.

"The vast majority of my staff is women, and we work so successfully in a small group in part because we###re honest with one another and we###re supportive."

McConnell says she has always valued mentors, even before she "knew it was mentoring." She has four mentors who she sees on different schedules when she needs different things. "There is so much wisdom to be gained from others," she says. In turn, she is mentoring several young women at StorageTek.

For six years McConnell served on the board of Climbing for Life, a mentoring program for youth. She also was awarded the Salvation Army###s President###s Award for fundraising for the Oklahoma City bombing disaster.

Guiding McConnell in all of her endeavors are five practices she tries to lead by and live by:

  1. Know who you are and be who you are: Authenticity
  2. Know what###s right and do what###s right: Integrity
  3. Know what you love and do what you love and have fun: Passion
  4. Trust your gut and intuition: Spirit
  5. Always give others the benefit of the doubt: Respect

McConnell###s goals include having a family and continuing her career. In her spare time she enjoys yoga, hiking and backpacking. "I want to continue doing what feels right and what I enjoy," she concludes.