A big change…
As I prepared to write my first blog about leadership development I wondered, how did I get started down this path? Of course that as children our parents play an important role in our initial formation. However, at some point as we grow, and hopefully mature, leadership development is a personal decision.
Right out of college, I moved from Puerto Rico to Houston Texas for my first job as a young engineer. Since my original goal was to be an astronaut, I was very excited about a job to work on Space Shuttle Software applications. To be honest, I was more scared than excited. God saw fit that my first officemate was to be Ms. Fay Linda Moore.
Who was she?
Fay (never ending with an E!) had a presence that conveyed friendliness, confidence, high standards and a do-not-mess-with-me vibe all mixed into one heck of a first impression. Little did I know that on that day I would meet my first leadership mentor without even knowing what a mentor was or did. That day also marked the beginning to one of those friendships of a lifetime.
Fay also happened to be the team lead for our group. She ran a tight ship and as such she was passionate about documentation, continuous improvement, a job well done and giving praise when praise was due. Anyone who ever worked with her quickly learned that the job would be completed with a high standard of quality and it would many times go beyond what was required to ensure nothing was missed (complete staff work as she called it).
As the years went by I learned so much from Fay. With time, our work situations changed but no matter what, when we faced challenges and needed support, we were always there for each other and we took turns reminding one another that when in doubt we had to focus on the basics.
As I look back, I can honestly say that all the skills I learned from Fay were the foundation for my engineering career. Many of those skills are the same ones I use now in my leadership career. So how did I get started down the path of leadership development? It started when a mentor showed up in my life and was kind enough to not only train me but to show me the way. I miss my friend Fay. She passed away in 2016.
I promised I would!
As I close this first entry of my blog, I wanted to pay tribute to Fay in two ways, in appreciation for the solid foundation she provided for my adult life. First, I am including an essay that her daughter Trina Moore wrote which helps you know more about Fay.
Secondly, I wanted to share a memorable routine we had in our office. Many times she made me promise that if I ever made it as an astronaut (or anything else big), one of my main tasks was to give her some credit! We would go through the motions and laughed so hard we almost ended up crying every time this came up. So, just as we practiced over and over and over again, here are the words she wanted me to say:
My Mama’s Hands
By Trina Moore
When I was a kid – I loved looking at my mama’s hands. She always had her nails beautifully shaped and polished – oval – which is a less common shape, which is very fitting because she was a less common woman. Her hands were smooth deep caramel colored; they always seemed regal to me. She would spend a couple hours on the weekend taking care of them, shaping, polishing – then making me spend the next couple hours being hand servant – cause she wasn’t touching NOTHING till that polish dried!
My mama would do all kinds of things with her hands – she was a MEAN typist – 60 words a minute easy. She’d cook with those hands – just THROW DOWN in the kitchen. She taught me with those hands – math problems, reading and such. And she’d scold me with those hands – oh who am I kidding? She beat my TAIL with those hands! LOL
And, she held me with those hands. She isn’t the lovey-dovey type, but she cared hard in the moments I needed it. She would rub my back with Vicks (ick!!!) and put hot towels on my back to soothe me – with those hands. She always animated her conversation with her hands, she made stories come alive with the twist of her wrist or a swift swath across the table in front of her. My mama could make a point in a conversation and win a debate – not with words, but with those hands.
When she had her stroke, she lost feeling in them a bit, she typed a little slower, things took a little longer. She found it harder to hold onto some things. I’m happy to help – but she liked to do for herself, she was very prideful – and liked to do things by her own hand – with those hands.
I sat in church one night and the lady in front of me had her hand in the air – she wasn’t my mom’s color or height or anything, really – but her hands were like my mom’s – beautifully cared for. It brought back to me so simply how elegant, how beautiful my mama’s hands are. And that it is symbolic of her – beautiful, elegant, well cared for and strong. In that moment, I remembered and fell in love again, with my mama’s hands.