Your Stories

  • Julie Hill, Entrepreneur, CEO, Corporate Board member, US

    As a woman, starting my career in the late 1960’s, I followed the traditional route for an English major and became a teacher. I knew I wanted to “be in business”, but my counsellor told me that “Women in business became witches on wheels” – traditional “wisdom” at the time. I had access to few business mentors, and vowed if I ever succeeded in business, I would be one, and I am: I became a CEO; I now have a portfolio career, and I mentor younger women.

    One of the things I tell these young women is that my career is a lot like looking back up a ski slope. From the bottom, it looks like all my turns were linked, my path was predetermined, and that the bumps could be avoided. But of course, that is not the way that it looked from the top. Skiing makes us lean forward, and be a bit aggressive, take an occasional leap, and one assumes that we will be in one piece at the bottom. I have lived by that.

    I have always tried to “say yes at the door.” I even said I played golf when I didn’t, in order to ace an interview for a corporate board. Saying “yes at the door” became a metaphor for my life and career. Women can use this to test themselves. We can do much more than we think: Just doing it is the key.

    The highest hurdle for me was breaking the glass ceiling, in a male-dominated industry, to become a company CEO here in California. This was made more difficult with raising my son at the same time, but I did it (and successfully too): I don’t think I fully appreciated how pioneering that was at the time. I then set up and ran my own business for a number of years,  before realizing that I had “done” a full-time career and wanted to move on and broaden my horizons.

    A portfolio career suited my many interests, the transatlantic lifestyle I share with my husband who was himself a UK-based CEO and now a Chairman; to stay close to my son, and to allow me to fulfil my ambition to “give back”. So I joined the Boards of US and Australian public and privately-held corporations; became active in a number of philanthropic endeavors including chairing not-for-profit boards, and am also active at the University of California, being a member of a number of faculty business, law and medical school boards, chairing the CEO Roundtable, and becoming a Trustee of the University.

    I am probably even more active now than I ever was when I worked “full time”, and it is tremendously fulfilling, I get to do what I really want, and I have (mostly!) control over my time. I have survived serious health bumps, and I have successfully travelled many roads since that first teaching job.

    I will be seventy this year; I still ski, and I don’t believe in retiring. Just morphing, and I hope to morph into my 100th year. At some point I will progressively wind down, but the morphing process will continue. My advice to anyone is to do your maintenance on body, mind and soul, so that the next run down the ski slope is as exciting as the first. Keep taking leaps and moving forward. There is still a lot of territory to cover!

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