Some people like to plan their life and their future in the most detail possible. Others like to take it one day at a time and do what they need to do that day. Deborah (Deb) Corrao, the Salesforce Business Group Lead and Senior Managing Director at Accenture, is a remarkable example of someone who takes her life one day at a time and one step at a time with no big plans or goals or plan in mind for her future.
During her high school years, Deb says that she used to be “a rebellious teenager” who didn’t really care or think much about her future. She said that her choice of university was influenced by the number of friends going there rather than what she wanted to do or where she wanted to go. In college, she chose the engineering path as a default so she could keep a lot of options open to her as she learned more about what she liked and didn’t like. As she continued to explore her interests and passions in college, she picked up an internship at Accenture between her junior and senior years of college. During this internship, she found that she really enjoyed problem-solving, especially when given tough situations to solve, which was exactly her role at Accenture.
As she continued to explore her options through college, she found out that she was selected for jobs or other opportunities just because she was a woman and not because of her talents. This really upset her because as she would walk into an interview or initial meeting, the people seemed ready to hire her before even asking her anything. She didn’t feel valued this way and felt that it created a feeling of determination in her that she wanted to find a company that would value her for her talent and who she is as a person, not her gender. She noticed that in Accenture, she felt like she belonged and was valued so she decided to continue working in that company post-graduation.
As she continued her journey in Accenture, doing what she loved, she felt that there was always a voice inside her that haunted her and told her that she couldn’t do anything. She felt and noticed that men are naturally encouraged in society, from their childhood, to lead with confidence and to just be “strong men” while women are not. She noticed this most when she was stuck in an issue and didn’t have the confidence in her to tell herself that she can do this and that can get to the other side of this. She had to really push herself inside that she was capable and that she can accomplish whatever she set her mind to and that failure is sometimes inevitable. She said that the first time she failed, she “felt like the world was going to end”. She didn’t know how to deal with failure and thought that it was the end and she couldn’t move on. However, she had to change her mindset to accept failure and learn from it. She learned that it is not about the mistakes we make but about how we learn from them and move on. The more mistakes you make, the stronger you get, and the more you learn which is what is most important.
She said that the best example of how failure is not inevitable is her son who is 11 years old and takes failure as a lesson every single time. Her son has a hard time grasping a lot of things and learning something new takes him some time. When he was going into middle school, he had the option of taking an on-level math class or challenging himself and taking a more advanced class. Deb, knowing that he struggles in math and needs extra help, said that he should take the class that he feels is right for him, even if it means not taking the advanced class. However, he wanted to challenge himself and decided to take the advanced class. The first few weeks and tests went well and he understood everything. Later in the year, he started struggling a bit more and took some more time to understand subjects. His grades started going downhill and his teacher told him and Deb that he doesn’t belong in the advanced class and should consider dropping it for the on-level one. However, he knew what he wanted and he knew that he wanted to challenge himself, no matter what it took. He spent the next few months working with a tutor and spending extra time outside of class to learn everything properly. Soon his grades improved drastically and he was able to keep up with the rest of the class. Whenever Deb is struggling with something and feels that she can’t do it, she just thinks of her son and how he sticks to everything and does whatever it takes to accomplish his goals. This story is a perfect example of how failures are not final and that there is always room to grow and learn.
Looking back on her story, the best piece of advice Deb feels that she can give others is to just trust your instincts and do what’s best for you. You know yourself better than anyone else and you know what is right for you, what you like, and what you don’t like. Do what you want and what you need to do, not what others feel you should do. It doesn’t hurt to take advice but it is important to trust your gut feeling.
From speaking with Deb, I not only learned what it means to rise from your failures but also what it means to earn yourself some respect. Something that really stood out to me when about her journey is her struggle for finding a place where she was accepted to be herself. Being a female myself, I felt that it was a part of her story I could relate to as I feel some societal norms that I feel just aren’t fair. However, from Deb’s story, I learned that it is important to find a place where you feel that you belong and are respected, despite any and all differences.
Failure is inevitable. What you learn from failure is what matters.