The definition of career success is up to you.
Prior to her position at The Boeing Company, Norma Clayton held
leadership roles at McDonnell Douglas, Lockheed Martin, General
Electric, RCA, and General Motors. She currently participates in a
variety of community, church, and civic activities; is a Boeing
executive focal for Michigan State University; and is a member of
Q| What steps did you take to rise in your career?
A| During my senior year of college, I built a career roadmap to
define my long-term personal and professional goals. This map has
been a guide throughout my career and has shaped the decisions Ive
made along the way. I revisit it every year to see what Ive
accomplished, what changes need to be made, and what actions I need
to take to address those changes.
Q|What lessons did you learn along the way?
Run your own race. Take time to get to know who you are and what
you value. Make sure the decisions you make are guided by your
passions and identity.
Create your own definition of success. People invent false ideas of
what success looks like. If you want the corner office, go for it.
If you want something else, you have to define it or you will never
Pick your bosses wisely. Select a manager who is supportive of your
ideas and goals. This can be difficult, and it may ultimately
involve the decision to leave a company.
Stay in an assignment long enough to learn from your mistakes. You
will learn the most from how you recover from those mistakes.
Know when it is time to move on. Whether this means changing
positions, companies, or even career paths, you have to know when
to go. Otherwise, you will get stuck and deny yourself new
opportunities and challenges.
Q| What strengths have you relied on for career development?
A| Self-confidence is one of my greatest strengthsIm a risk-taker
and not afraid to try something new. I adapt easily to different
environments and new situations. Im also a strategist and tend to
see the big picture, evaluate the situation, and make decisions
based on these perceptions.
Q| Did you have a coach or mentor who was influential in your
A| Ive had several mentors throughout my career. I believe you need
more than one, because as you rise in an organization, you need
guidance at each level. When choosing my mentors, I looked for
people who were doing extraordinary things in the areas I wanted to
grow. I also aligned myself with people who had similar interests
and values as I.
What I remember most about my mentoring relationships is the candid
feedback I received. It wasnt always what I wanted to hear, but it
was what I needed to hear to make good decisions. For example, one
of my mentors taught me that sometimes a step back will take you
forward. In this instance, I thought I was ready for a career
change, but I had a skill gap that needed to be addressed first.
Q| What are you most excited about in the learning and development
A| We are moving away from traditional learning methods and into
collaborative learning, which is learning by doing and sharing
information with others. Were adapting technology to create
learning solutions that support collaborative learning.
Q| What advice would you give a learning and development
professional about how to climb to the executive level?
A| Work on foundational skills and gain an understanding of the
business and its values. Its important to learn your craft and seek
a variety of experiences across HR and business functions. Its also
vital to remain in a continuous learning environment so you can
keep up with all of the changes in the field. Finally,
understanding what a company values will help you to make important
decisions about how much time you spend there and what you can