Leading the Way

I was fortunate to grow up in a family with a great passion for excellence. Both my mother and father instilled that in me. They believed that every time you reach a goal you have to raise the bar and go on to the next level. I spent my childhood surrounded by the wonderful academic world because my father was the chancellor of the University of Mayagüez. One time I got a C in school and my father sat me down and said, "In this house, you come in with an A or an F. You have to be either the best of the best or the best of the worst. But never mediocre." And that is one of the most valuable lessons I've ever learned.

After I graduated from college in New Orleans, I went back to Puerto Rico, but at the time there was really no opportunity on the island for new graduates, so I took a job as an advertising copywriter. I figured that advertising deals a lot with the TV industry and that I had a better chance to find an opportunity to make the crossover. And sure enough, that's what happened!

Soon after I began working, I went to an Advertising Awards ceremony where I met an impresario who was about to start a 24-hour news station in Puerto Rico--kind of a Caribbean CNN. He was looking for hungry and driven young people for on-camera jobs. It was the job I had dreamed about and a great place to learn. This guy sent us all over the world to report on every major event at the time. I covered civil wars in Latin America, the Olympics, the presidential elections in the U.S.

After a while I was offered a better-paying job at one of the established local stations. I declined. I could have brought up the offer to my boss as a bargaining chip to get a raise, but I didn't. I felt a sense of loyalty. My parents always told me to let my principles guide me.

Eventually my boss heard what I had done and rewarded me by giving me the most coveted assignment at the time--the beginning of glasnost and perestroika in the Soviet Union. I went to the Soviet Union and came back with a one-hour special that won me the Journalist of the Year award. At the awards ceremony, I met the man who would be named news director of the Univision affiliate in New York three months later. The same week he started, he asked me for a demo tape. That's how I entered the Hispanic television arena.

After a couple of months, a new management cleaned out the staff. Because of my contract, I had the option to stay as a reporter or cash out and leave. I decided to stay because I knew I could learn from this experienced news director. When I informed him of my decision, he said, "You have two choices. You have a bag of lemons and you'll either get sour or make lemonade." I was so eager for him to accept me that I went all over New York City until I found a card that had a lemon on the front. I wrote on it, "Let's make lemonade," and I bought him a bag of lemons. It did nothing for him. He would always send his reporters on assignment, not me.

But finally, I got to do little stories and I put my heart and soul into them. I got noticed by the news director of Univision network. He offered me the job of substitute national anchor and head of the L.A. bureau. A year later the network moved to Miami and they asked me to come along as the national newscast anchor for the weekend edition. I later became coanchor of "Primer Impacto," an infotainment news magazine. The show was a big success, but after almost 10 years, I decided it was time to grow in a different direction, and I joined Telemundo network.

It has been four years since "Al Rojo Vivo con María Celeste" first aired on Telemundo. As the managing editor of the program, I told everyone from day one that we were going to keep raising the bar while sticking to principles and ethics. And we have. Last year, when I had the honor of receiving an Emmy for my career achievements, I dedicated the award to my father. In my acceptance speech, I spoke to him directly and said, "This is definitely an A, Dad."

Cynthia Carroll

Incoming CEO, Anglo American

During high school, I was not very turned on by the sciences and thought I would pursue art history and languages. I attended Skidmore College and knowing that I would have to fulfill my one-year science requirement, I took geology my first semester. I went on for a second semester and then attended Princeton's summer field course in Red Lodge, Montana. This was a turning point, as it was clear I wanted to study geology. From there, I took chemistry, physics and math, enjoying the sciences more than anything else.

I couldn't say there was one defining moment of how I got to where I am today. But discussions regarding this particular role came about after I happened to meet Sir Mark [Moody-Stuart, chairman of Anglo American] at Davos in January. I saw Sir Mark sitting by himself and I thought, There's a gentleman over there at the table, I'll just go sit next to him. At the time I didn't know who he was, but there was nobody around, and it was 7 in the morning, so I just went over because I like to talk to people. I suppose I'm an extrovert. So I went over and introduced myself and then I said to him, "And what do you do?" So that was our introduction.

Throughout my career, I've worked in a male-dominated environment. First it was the oil industry, then the aluminum industry. When I took over as managing director of [Canadian aluminium company] Alcan's Aughinish Alumina division in Ireland, competitors probably thought Alcan was out of their minds to appoint a woman. But in all of my experience in male-dominated environments, I've learned that after a couple of months all that really goes away and it's all about performance, and building a team that wants to be world-class. I don't mean to sound simple but it's never been a barrier or an issue for me. There were times when people said, "You're too young" or "You don't have any background," and blah, blah, blah. But I never found anything to be an obstacle. I never thought that there was anything that I couldn't do.

At Anglo American, I'm even more different than usual. When I got home from my last business trip [when my appointment as CEO was announced], my husband showed me a Web site outlining the CVs of the former CEOs of Anglo. To put it mildly, I'm not too terribly similar to any of my predecessors from the beginning of Anglo's history. I'm a woman. I'm not South African. I haven't worked at Anglo before. I don't even have a mining background.

But I think being different is actually an advantage. I'll say that modestly, but I'm bringing a very different perspective to Anglo than it's had before. One thing that I am particularly strong at is bringing together a global organization and to motivate people. I respect everybody from top to bottom, at all levels. I subscribe, for example, to using the talent base in existence, on the ground. In the case of China, we're the managing partner of a 150,000-ton smelter where we have four expats managing a facility of 1,200 people. Developing, training and work-ing with the local talent base is a recipe for success.

My management style and my attitude are forward-looking. I think I'm naturally very optimistic. I am not a worrier--I don't worry about what happened in the past or dwell on it. When I go to bed at night I sleep extremely well.

Sarah Chang

Violinist

I love being onstage. It is the most comfortable place for me. I travel all year long, and every week is a new city. So I'm always in extremely unfamiliar surroundings, living out of hotels and suitcases. And the only familiar place, really, even if you go from hall to hall, is the stage itself and the backstage area. For me, the stage is my home.

I love the adrenaline rush you get from having a live audience in front of you. There's nothing like performing live. I like to categorize classical music as one of those really beautiful, glamorous gems from the old era. The men are in tails onstage, the women are in beautiful dresses and the soloist comes out in a gorgeous evening gown. I really, really love that old-school glamour.

For me, concert days are always exciting. It doesn't matter if I give 100 concerts or 150 concerts that season. Every concert is magical. Every concert has a sparkle to it. The challenge is to keep myself fresh and to give a spontaneous performance every single night while maturing and growing as a musician every day. The whole art form of being onstage is so mysterious and magical, it fascinates me.

People assume I always wanted to be a violinist. It was actually just one of many other hobbies that I had. I had very enthusiastic parents. They gave me swimming lessons and horseback riding and gymnastics and ballet. My mom put me on the piano when I was about 3 1/2. I asked for the violin when I was 4 because I wanted something that was smaller and more portable. I auditioned for the Juilliard School when I was about 6. During the week, I went to a regular school in Philadelphia so I could be with kids my own age. But on Saturdays, my mom would drive me to Juilliard in New York. I was by far the youngest person there. The majority of the students were 14, 15 and older. There were times when I was painfully aware of the age difference. But on a musical level, it was such a great environment to grow up in because the talent around me was just astronomical.

I started my career when I was 8 with two debuts in New York and Philadelphia, and then I started recording when I was 9. When you're so young, you don't realize the impact of a New York Philharmonic debut. You're told to do something and you go out and do it and you don't ask too many questions. I think the questions come later when you're in your teens. By the time I was 14, I was spending probably half the year in Europe. So I was out of school a lot. I did most of my homework by e-mail or fax. We made it work because my professors were incredible.

When you're a girl in your early teens, you've obviously got insecurities. You are beginning to form new friendships and relationships with people. And your clothes never quite fit right. On top of that, I had the career and then the photo sessions and having to be onstage and have every concert reviewed by the press. It was an added layer. But I think having a career at such an early age kept me focused. We schedule at least two to three years in advance in the classical industry. So it was good to have that stability. I felt so grounded and so grateful to already know what it was that I wanted to do with my life.

Music takes me everywhere. A few years ago I had a chance to go to North Korea to do a joint concert with the North and South Korean orchestras in Pyongyang. That was totally, totally eye-opening. I am very much an American. I was born and brought up here with Korean parents. But this was beyond anything else I had ever seen before. You've got armed guards everywhere and you can't go anywhere or do anything. There's no communication with the outside world. The concert was full of government officials. Every single last seat. It was invitation only, but it was an unbelievable experience. Frightening and exhilarating at the same time. And I just thought about how lucky I am. I am so fortunate to be a musician, and at that moment, I genuinely felt that music is the one and only universal language.

Helene Darroze

Chef, Hélène Darroze, Paris

I never said, "I will be a cook." Even though I was born into the culture, the art de vivre. I worked in my father's kitchen, at his [Michelin-starred] restaurant and hotel in France's Landes region. I loved that place! In the summers, I would work for him for pocket money. I did everything--the dishwashing, the front desk, the kitchen, chambermaid. In a little family operation, you do everything. But I never really thought I'd spend my life in the kitchen. I went off to business school in Bordeaux, thinking I'd work in the hotel industry. And I applied to the big chains. I happened to meet Alain Ducasse when I was applying to work at the Hotel de Paris in Monaco, where his restaurant is, the Louis XV.

By a stroke of luck, the office job I'd applied for wouldn't be available for three months. So, in the meantime, I interned in Ducasse's kitchen. I didn't really have any responsibilities because I didn't have any training. I washed a lot of salad and churned the butter. I churned the butter! And I watched everything. I was a little mouse, snooping everywhere. Ducasse saw how much pleasure I drew from the kitchen. And when I finished the office job I'd been hired for, he said, "All right, now you'll have to be a cook." He really encouraged me. He said, "There aren't enough women--you have to go for it."

When I worked with Ducasse is really when I realized I loved the kitchen and that I could make it my life's work. I went back to my father's restaurant and, little by little, I went into the kitchen. It wasn't always easy with my father. He was 65; I wasn't even 30. We did things differently. And very generously, as a papa can, he withdrew and let me take over. Four years later, when I closed my father's restaurant and left to start my own place in Paris--because my boyfriend was there, because I wanted my independence and because, financially, it wasn't easy in the Landes--my father wasn't so happy. But now that he sees my success [with 22 associate chefs and two Michelin stars at Hélène Darroze in Paris's sixth arrondissement], he is very pleased.

I hate the word "chef." It feels inappropriate to this vocation. Right now, I am a "cook." I don't like that word "chef" in the kitchen. I don't like the military connotation and what it implies. That isn't how I work. I communicate, out of respect, with my colleagues; there's a real team spirit and I give a lot of myself, that's for sure, on all levels--to what's on the plate, but also to how I work with my colleagues.

I think we don't cook the same way when we're sad, or joyful, in love, or not. We don't put the same heart into things. When I'm unhappy, I really need to cook because it helps me exorcise pain, and at those times, I think my cuisine is full of heavy emotion, a lot more than when I am in love and very light on my feet. In that moment of creating a dish, I really think my spirit and my moods are very important. I cook with my heart, with my guts. That's why my emotions gush onto the plate. It's everything I am.

Being a woman was never something to suppress; it has never been a handicap. It even helped me out now and then. We can't kid ourselves. They noticed me right away because I was a woman in a man's world and it opened a lot of doors. They said, "Ah, la, la, she's a woman!" and everybody was a lot more curious because of that. And then I had to turn that difference into an advantage. In another sense, it was a lot more difficult, too, because I was a woman and all eyes were on me. I had to work very hard to live up to all that attention.

Marina Mahathir

Social Activist

I was born in Alor Star, a small town in the north, two months before Malaysia got its independence. My father [Mahathir Mohamad] was a doctor --the first Malay doctor to have a clinic. My mother was my role model, absolutely. She was the second female Malay doctor in the country, the first female Malay medical officer [and later] head of the Public Health Institute. So I always knew that women worked.

I went to St. Nicholas Convent School in Alor Star, run by nuns. Being Malay, I was a minority in the school. It was a school that taught in English--and because it was the'60s , Malay parentswere still a bit worried about sending theirchildren to English-speaking schools in case they turned into Christians . But it wasn't the way it is now, where people are totally sensitive about race. Later I went to Sussex University in England, and Iremember one day my dad's secretary sent me a telegram saying, "Your daddy made DPM [deputy prime minister ]." I didn't tell anyone. But my headmistress readthis little thing in the paper and she came up to me and said, "There's this littlepiece of news." I was quite embarrassed about it all.

That time, around 1975 -76, was the beginning of the whole Islamic revival thing. One Christmas holiday, I was at Malaysia Hall in London, meeting this guy--very tall with his afro, quite cool -- he said, "Marina, I've gone dakwah. "Dakwah" means propagation; in other words, he'd joined the religious set. And he said, "I just believe that the Qur'an is for all time, you know." And basically he was saying, Marina, I can't hang out with you anymore. [Then], when one of my best friends from Alor Star, who was also studying in England, went dakwah, I remember it being very emotional. I cried. I thought it was going to make such a fundamental difference to our relationship. In the end, though, it didn't. We're still friends.

I went back to Malaysia and became a journalist. I didn't set out to be a social activist--I was more interested in parties and boys and shopping--but I wanted to write things and comment. My AIDS work started when I got invited to join the Malaysian AIDS Foundation , basically as a fund-raiser I started raising funds and I realized, Hang on a minute, why are people saying these horrible things [about people with AIDS]? and I guess that's what sparked the activist side of me. The level of [AIDs] awareness has certainly gone up, but people haven't necessarily changed their attitudes; there's still a lot of denial and ignorance. You have people like the Mufti of Perak [a senior Islamic cleric] saying that people with AIDS should be put on an island.

Later I became involved with Sisters in Islam, a group that seeks to reclaim the Qur'an for women as well as men. I'm a Muslim. I think of myself as a pretty good Muslim, and I think a lot of women feel their religion is important. They don't want to leave it--but they want it to treat them with fairness and respect; which is what it's supposed to be doing. But it's [being interpreted] by all these religious officials who have their own attitudes and agendas. There's a story about how the women in the Prophet's time went to him and said, "How come all your revelations from God don't mention us, because it's making people think that women don't count at all?" And the next revelation that came stated, "All you men and women who believe, men and women who are faithful ... " just to underscore that women were to be thought of equally.

Marissa Mayer

Vice president of search products, Google

When I showed up at Stanford, I didn't know very much about computers at all. The fall of my freshman year I used all the baby-sitting money I had saved to buy my first computer. The resident computer consultant helped me unpack my computer, showed me how to boot it up and even taught me how to use the mouse. So, it really was entirely new.

At the time, I thought I might pursue medicine and planned to do a double major in biology and chemistry. But there was a lot of memorization and I wasn't being challenged. So I started looking for another major and discovered an interdisciplinary major--Symbolic Systems, which combines philosophy, linguistics, psychology and computer science. This was basically a cognitive-science degree with a very heavy computer-science bend. We studied how people think. How do people learn? And that actually did change the way that I think.

Google is a very comfortable environment for me because I love technology and innovation. I am very quantitative and analytical, and I also think that I have a lot of endurance and an ability to work really hard. A great late-night conversation really inspires me. Those qualities combined help make me successful at what I do.

I'm very good at taking a spark of an idea and turning it into something real and polished. In the fall of 2001, Google researcher Krishna Bharat wrote a little program to help him read news better in the wake of September 11. The program gathered news from his favorite 15 sources and grouped them with artificial intelligence. After using his tool to do his personal news reading for a few weeks, he decided to offer it to some work colleagues to see if others who wanted to read more news might like this tool. The promise and excitement that I felt when I first saw Krishna's tool was immense. It wasn't impressive in that first form--a plain white page with small groups of five plain blue links per topic and only about 10 topics covered. But I could see immediately how we could make it into a polished online news experience.

In the end we had done 64 different iterations of how Google News could look even before it launched. We knew with mathematical certainty that it facilitated browsing between different sections like entertainment and sports and business. When we launched it, it had more than 4,000 news sources, more than any other metanews or news-search site in the world. Most of our products up to that point had been all about search and, while Google News has a search component, it's predominantly a service that presents information to users proactively rather than through search.

At Google, things are really kind of friendly and fun. There is no question that a lot of the meetings have a good amount of laughter and whimsy. I've actually known the leaders of the company now for a very long time; Larry Page and Sergey Brin for more than seven years, and Eric Schmidt for more than five. And we all know each other very well at this point. I understand their perspectives and know the direction they'd like projects driven.

I think the concept that women are more emotional at work is an outdated cliché. I tend to be more on the side of the quantitative, analytical, data-driven. One important thing about leadership is approachability, people feeling they can come and talk to you about an issue. I have a few meetings that I hold--office hours and staff meetings--that have an open-door environment where people can put topics that they care about and want addressed on the agenda. I want people to come and challenge me, tell me that I'm wrong and show me the data or tell me why they have that opinion. That type of healthy debate helps us get to the best possible outcome.

Consistency is also very important. When you're leading large teams, people want to know that when they send you an e-mail, they'll get an answer back in a day. When they call your cell phone, they want to know that you pick up or call right back. These elements are important. I actually publish a set of guidelines for my team so they understand what to expect from me.

I'm happy to manage product managers because that is a job that I've done. It's a job that I'm very good at. I understand their challenges day in and day out. When I ask them to do something, I know roughly how hard it is. And I think that being able to relate to people on that kind of level helps you be a better manager in terms of assigning work and setting expectations. While we still have a lot to do and I'm still learning, I'm amazed at the fact that the Web site my friends and I built has positively touched the lives of so many millions of people.

Renee Reijo Pera

Infertility Researcher

Growing up, I had very little interest in science. I was the kid who always read and read. In high school, in Iron River, Wisconsin, girls were given the option of taking home economics or science: I took home ec. No one in my family had gone to college. My mom raised six kids, working as a cook. She worked so hard that I was motivated to have an office and an academic life. After high school, I started working as a bookkeeper at the local Ford dealership. I realized I didn't have much opportunity, so I enrolled as a business major at the University of Wisconsin in Superior. In my junior year, I took a class in human genetics for nonmajors, and it was the most amazing thing to think, how are we made?

I switched my major to biology and immersed myself in biology, chemistry, physics and lots and lots of math. At first I didn't get great grades. I got my degree in biology in 1983 and went to work as a lab technician in Kansas, where I also got my master's in biology. By then, I realized that I loved research, and I applied for the Ph.D. program in biochemistry at Cornell and went on for a postdoctorate with Dr. David Page, at MIT's Whitehead Institute, when gene discovery was starting. I mapped genes on the Y (male) chromosome that are deleted in infertile men.

Working on human reproduction was a backwater of developmental biology; there weren't that many people working in this field. There were times when I was discouraged. As an assistant professor, the first paper I submitted to the journal Nature was rejected. I wondered, Do I know the right people? Am I doing the right work? With advances in human stem-cell research, this work is now of central importance. The world has really changed.

I consider myself a human reproductive biologist. Currently, I supervise 16 researchers at [the University of California, San Francisco] investigating the genetic causes of human infertility. We are looking at how to get a human stem cell to become a germ cell, a sperm or an egg. Nothing is more important to me than the origin of life. What genes are required for our life? How does a human embryonic stem cell develop into a sperm or an egg, the cells that combine to create a child? What causes infertility? Why do some people make few or poor-quality reproductive cells? It's a genetic black box. If you look at the controversy surrounding human embryonic-stem-cell research, so much of it is because we don't understand what life is.

This subject matters to me so much. I see infertility as a major health problem, not a minor inconvenience. It greatly affects a couple's quality of life. My own experience really weighs in here. During my time as a postdoctoral fellow, I was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. I was 34 at the time of surgery. I didn't contemplate egg-saving because I have always thought adoption was a good option. I had faith it would all work out. And at 47, I am going to become a mother soon. My husband, Fred, and I are in the process of adopting an older child from Guatemala. I'm going to have to learn Spanish.

I know that it's difficult to balance a family and a research career in science, with irregular schedules and 10- to 12-hour workdays. I see how the women--and the men--in my lab struggle. I don't know if there's a right time to do things in life, but I think there's probably a right time for each person. I think the women who make it work in life and in the lab have great partners. And I think women have to be very, very, very flexible to make it all work.

Gwen Sykes

Chief financial officer, NASA

I was a military brat, born at West Point. When I was 5, Dad got stationed in Alaska. Growing up in a large state with a small population encouraged me to develop a self-reliant, can-do attitude. I often tell people about the summer I spent in Nome when I was a teenager. Outside of Alaska, people talk about Nome once a year, during the Iditarod. The other 11 months of the year, nobody says anything about Nome because there's nothing there. That summer, I remember there was one grocery store, one landing strip, one church, an assortment of houses, and that was it. I found a small group of kids my age and we would go to the beach, where the walruses would be sunning themselves. So we took it upon ourselves to do a little bit of walrus rolling for entertainment. A group of us would just run out on the beach and pick a particular walrus sunning and kind of roll him and listen to him whine as he rolled. It's kind of akin to cow tipping that folks do in the Midwest. I tell folks that if I can roll a walrus, I guess there's nothing I can't do.

After I graduated from high school, I decided to find out what the rest of the world was about, so I went to Catholic University here in Washington, D.C. That was a very significant transition for me, coming from the great state of Alaska. I remember telling my mom that I couldn't understand how these trees grow with cement around them. There was a lot of city learning that I had to do. In Alaska, most of the people I knew were military or Alaskan natives or what we call the environmental folks. Here in Washington, you get people from all over the world. I was kind of like a kid in a candy store during my college years.

I majored in accounting. That was an interest I developed working for my father, who had his own company in Alaska. He brought me to work, put me on the payroll and told me what my hourly salary was. I had done all my figuring for the first two weeks and I knew I was getting something like $200. And when he handed me that check and it only had $150, I said, "Where's my $50?" He said I hadn't calculated for FICA and other assorted Uncle Sam-type taxes. So that was my first foray into taxes. And I really wanted to know who these guys were and how come they were taking my money.

I wasn't always good in math. I've had opportunities where I go out and speak to a lot of the schools. At one, I had a young lady come up to me and ask, "Do I have to be good in math to be like you?" She had the mic close to her mouth and she didn't provide me with any eye contact, which gave me the indication that she probably wasn't doing that well in math. But she was truly a child who was inspired on some level by me. I answered honestly, and I told her I got a D in algebra. Boy, did the teachers balk at that one. But we have to share with our children that there are times of failure. I said to her, "Yes, I got a D in algebra. But my parents saw that I had a challenge. They stepped up to the plate and helped me. And I have overcome the challenge and there's just nothing that I can't do. I had to study hard, but I was able to do it." I think that we need to tell children that there are going to be times when you stumble, times when you fail. It's how you pick yourself up that counts.

I'm often asked what it's like to work in such a male-dominated environment. I don't think or see the world as a man's environment, a woman's environment, a black environment, a white environment, Hispanic environment. I just see the world. When I walk into a meeting and there's a crucial decision or crucial challenge at the table, we're all there to come up with a plan so we can move forward. I'm not really paying attention to how many are men, how many are women and what the ethnicity of the individuals at the table are. I'm there making sure that we have the right people at the table to make the right decision.

I have been married once but I am currently divorced. Women of my generation understand that we really can't have it all. We can have some things that are important to us. But we can't have it all. You're only one person. So you have to make choices and be comfortable with those choices. In order for marriage to work, you have to find someone who understands your motivation and your drive and will work with you rather than against you. I do believe that at some point in my journey, I will have that. So please, Mom, don't give up. I haven't. Someday my prince will come. And he'll be running alongside me, OK?