Ronnie Maffa’s letter to her young self

With a strong foundation of good values and work ethic, Ronnie is always prepared to tackle challenges as the director of social software product development at IBM



Dear Ronnie,

The opportunity to really establish yourself is in front of you. Leading project Hydra will test your ability to not be afraid to take chances. I know you only have been in the work force for a few years, and you are worried that you neither have the experience nor the stature for your manager to trust you with this complex project.

“And you are worried that more experienced leaders on the team have tried and have failed. You are concerned about the impression that you may make on your colleagues and manager when you ask for this opportunity.”

The seemingly endless debate you have with yourself about whether you should apply for the position: what will happen if you are turned down? What will happen if you get the job and can you succeed if you do? Is the risk worth it? And are you really prepare to do whatever it will take? These questions will eventually convince you to take the safe route, keep doing what you are doing and wait for the next small growth opportunity.

I will ask you to think through your doubts. Your parents have prepared you with a strong foundation of good values: respect others’ strength and learn from it, take personal responsibility for your commitments, work hard if you want results and only ask from others what you are willing to give. You have worked hard in school to build a solid software engineering base. You have spent the last few years learning from good leaders and have taken on a number of very challenging situations where you needed to rely on your knowledge and your ability to work through problems. And you have learned from both your successes and failures. What else do you need to be more prepared?

Once you consider the possibilities that this new project can provide for your career, your future and your job satisfaction, and the prospect of giving up the safe path that you are on, I hope that you will conclude that you should go ahead and toss your hat in the ring. Be prepared that you may not be chosen. More importantly be prepared that you will be chosen. Either way, you would have strengthened your position and preparedness for the future.

If you are given the opportunity to lead Hydra, don’t let any small setbacks discourage you; remember that your success begins with you, but it requires you to gain your team’s trust and respect, their cooperation and support. You can’t do this alone. It is important that you share a common vision, agree on the execution strategy and never lose focus on the objective. Never forget to give credit where it is due, and your success will come. You will be challenged in ways that you cannot even imagine.

Trust yourself.



Ronnie (Siuyin) Maffa is the director of social software product development at IBM. She has a bachelor’s degree from Brown University. She is married and has two children.

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