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This is the next iteration of our series to honor and share the stories of empowered women, fulfilling roles as leaders in their country. The mission of this project is to inspire, educate, and connect women who are currently serving or considering serving in typically male dominated professions such as military, police, or fire service. Over ten weeks we will share the stories of ten amazing women who have served, or are currently serving our Nation, providing unique perspectives into the inspiring realities of these women's lives.
If you would like to contribute to our project and share your story through Valkyrie Performance, please email me at email@example.com
Second Lieutenant Sam Sobota
Communications Platoon Commander, United States Marine Corps
1. What do you appreciate the most about being a woman in a male dominated field?
Though I’m in a male-dominated field, performance and rank-structure hold someone in higher regard than their gender, ethnicity, upbringing, etc.
2. As a woman in a male dominated field, what challenges do you regularly face and how do you overcome those challenges?
That because I’m small, the expectation of my ability – to perform physically and in the leadership position that I currently hold – is not that high. Just keep your head down and show up. They will notice your efforts and that you do not accept dated notions. Small can be mighty.
3. What practices do you have, to re-center yourself when you’ve had a tough conversation or someone has given you an ungrounded assessment or unsolicited advice?
Sometimes the best thing to do is say “thank you” and remove yourself from the situation. The great part about developing yourself and your personal leadership style is that you can watch others/superiors and see qualities you want to add to your own repertoire, or make a mental note to never talk to/treat someone else like that.
4. What are your top 3-5 priorities in life? How do you make time for the areas you value most?
My family, my Marines and overcoming fear. Sometimes you need to remind yourself that time spent at work doesn’t always equate to performance. When the work is done make sure you leave at a decent time to spend time with those you love at home.
5. While serving, what has been your biggest personal victory? What about the best organizational/team victory and why?
One of my biggest personal victories this past year has been graduating the Marine Corps’ Basic Communication Officer School and the Air Force’s Space Operations Staff Officer Course. These courses offer a vast amount of information that has been invaluable during my time in the service and I know will be extremely helpful after. I also feel great when women (and men) ask for advice on how to become an officer in the Marine Corps. It’s always exciting to see someone’s interest or enthusiasm while preparing for OCS or TBS, and that they value my input.
In terms of a team victory, it was awesome to help my unit take home the win in our heat of Camp Pendleton’s 10k Mud Run.
6. Do you feel like you have found your “life’s purpose/calling” yet, or do you still feel like you are continuing to discover and unravel what unique gift/niche you bring to the world?
No not yet, but I feel that the more competent I become in my profession, the more confident I feel I’m headed where I should be going.
7. How do you combat negative self-talk, and pick yourself back up from failure?
This is something I struggle with a lot. I am my own worst enemy sometimes. I just try to tell myself it’s not personal – especially in a male dominated field. But sometimes it helps to call up your mom (especially when she’s been in similar situations), but coming home to my husband and our dog after a crumby day helps, too.
8. If you could describe yourself in 3 words what would they be? If others described you in 3 words what would they be? Are they congruent with the way you think you are portraying yourself in the world?
I would describe myself as detail-oriented, optimistic, and stubborn. Others (my husband) would describe me as goal-oriented, thorough, and independent.
I feel like these two lists are descriptive of what I am based on where I am in life right now. In my current occupation, you’re respected by how well you know your job, can address others, and can learn. If you can’t keep up, you’ll get left behind- and staying ahead requires a good attitude.
9. What changes would you like to see in the next 5 years for women in male-dominated environments?
That young women notice the increase in women in male-dominated professions and see it as viable career field instead of inappropriate, intimidating, or unattainable.
10. What advice would give to your 19 year old self? Or to a young woman starting her journey of serving our Country?
I would tell myself to not sweat the small stuff, and though it may not seem like it when you’re in the moment- a lot of challenges you’re currently facing are just small stuff.
To a young woman just starting her career in the military: Put your head down and keep pushing. It’s not all about you, especially if you’re in a leadership role. Avoid complaining (which we often do subconsciously just to strike up conversation). People will be watching you. The biggest way to earn respect is to admit when you don’t know something, strive to become well versed in your job, be detail-oriented, and to work hard. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, and don’t be afraid to raise your hand and contribute.
Thank you for reading!
Again, if you have questions or would like to share your story with Valkyrie, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org