Once a self-confessed overachiever; Cindy was a highly successful scientist for two decades in clinical microbiology and clinical research. Ultimately it was a crisis of purpose which completely transformed her career.
In this week’s episode of Success Stories, she talks with Catherine Robson about the trap of falling into a career and how to discover the work you are truly meant to do.
A global expert on advancing women in business leadership, the start of Cindy’s mission helping others thrive in meaningful careers was tackling her own crisis of purpose in her thirties.
“It comes out of a pain point in my career journey of not knowing what I was supposed to do” says Cindy.
Her childhood curiosity in nature and science unfolded into a successful career of 20 years as a scientist in microbiology and clinical research; delivering clinical drug trials and working in pharmaceuticals.
“I entered my career bright eyed and bushy tailed but I was very much focused on getting to the next level. It was this career tournament type of thing I was enacting; how far can I go?” she recalls.
“At some point, I came to realise; you’re not actually loving this. You’re doing it because you can do it, you’re good at it. I learned about learned behaviours. I got really good at delivering and getting things done, but it’s not like I got up in the morning and said ‘Yes! Another drug trial!’” she laughs.
“I went on this journey to find out what really did excite me and started volunteering.”
“I volunteered for an organisation that the company was already part of; United Way. They had a Women In Philanthropy arm. I realized I really loved the subject of empowering women and girls through education and understanding about what money and having economic freedom can do to a full community.” says Cindy.
“The passion grew. It started off with what’s happening with women in the workplace but what really ignited me was leadership. When I found the whole school of leadership and the theories of leadership, I thought ‘This is it!’”
Her purpose sparked, she went on to complete a Masters in Business Education, Workplace Learning And Development at New York University and a Doctorate in the field of Organizational Learning and Leadership at Teachers College, Columbia University.
Cindy now leads MetLife’s first Global Women’s Initiative. The program is focused on increasing women in leadership roles and strengthening readiness and capabilities of emerging women leaders in the talent pipeline.
She’s also Founder and CEO of Dr Cindy Pace | Empowered Leadership a motivational leadership coaching and communications practice focused on personal transformation.
Through her coaching work, she’s built a framework around empowered leadership; focusing on the areas of personal purpose and values. The framework helps women uncover their passion by getting clear on why they do what they do and the change they want to see in the world.
“It’s not enough to say ‘My purpose is X’. How is that purpose being enacted in the world? How are you enrolling others in partnership to meet this mission that you have for yourself?” says Cindy.
She admits uncovering one’s true mission can take time; it’s not necessarily something that happens overnight.
“It started with a passion area that I had taken time to learn about. I was just going to different meetings and reading different books.”
“That was a big learning for me. When I speak to a lot of women they say they’re passionate about women’s issues but they can’t talk to you past that. I say ‘If that’s an area you’re passionate about, get involved, educate yourself and find out what is it that you want to change.’” she advises.
“There are so many books that I absolutely love. One I would put at the top of my list, I read years ago that really stuck with me is the book How Remarkable Women Lead – Joanna Barsh, Susie Cranston, and Geoffrey Lewis.”
Cindy’s other book recommendations include Purpose And Meaning In The Workplace – Bryan Dik, Zinta Byrne, and Michael Steger, The Purpose Economy; How Your Desire For Impact, Personal Growth and Community is Changing the World – Aaron Hurst.
Just as discovering your purpose takes time, Cindy shares it’s also not an easy, or always happy, path to follow.
“When we take this journey and navigate the path with purpose; understand that the road is beset; especially for women; with challenges and barriers. But when you have purpose, that should serve as an anchor, as a compass, for helping guide you along the way.” she says.
“It doesn’t mean you won’t make mistakes. It also doesn’t mean your life is going to be happy because you know what your purpose is.”
“It just means your going to have more focus. You have an understanding of when that purpose is enacted, you’re really doing something that’s fulfilling for you personally but also for others.”
How Remarkable Women Lead – Joanna Barsh, Susie Cranston, and Geoffrey Lewis.