Finding My Leadership Voice: What I Wish I had Learned Earlier in My Career

Fawn Bergen
Fawn Bergen
April 23, 2019
Finding Your Leadership Voice
I recently watched Greta Thunberg, a 16-year old climate activist, courageously address a room full of world leaders. Whether you agree with her views or not, it is apparent that her voice — authentic and passionate — is leading a climate activist movement. I watched her speech in awe of Greta having "found her voice" at such a young age. This led me to reflect on my own personal journey and the question I'm often asked: If you could go back in time, what would you tell your younger self? For me, the answer is finding (and using) my "leadership voice" earlier.

Over the course of my 20-year career, finding my voice has been a bumpy road — it's not something that came naturally to me. Earlier in my career, I operated under the assumption that my leadership voice was not valid until I had more years of experience, more people standing behind me, or a more senior-level management position. It was important to me that I wasn't just a loud voice, but one that contributed in a meaningful way to whatever project I was working on. I see now that this belief limited my potential to grow professionally and limited my opportunities to share my ideas and demonstrate my ability to be a leader from any position.

While I cannot discount the role of "with age comes wisdom," there have been a few significant inflection points in my journey to find my voice. Some of these have been working for some amazing managers who believed in my potential and provided me with opportunities to learn and grow.

As a female engineer, an important part of finding my own voice has also been through the support and empowerment I have found in other women. Finding this support and inspiration can be difficult. Events like NAEM's Women's Leadership Roundtable have been integral to my success. I'm thrilled to be co-chairing this event, taking place in June, that is bringing together a group of environmental, health, safety and sustainability (EHS&S) women to help grow our network, strengthen our business acumen and other leadership qualities, and empower and inspire all of us to find our voice and do amazing things.

This journey was not always an easy one for me, but its mix of positive and negative experiences (thankfully more good than bad) has brought me to where I am today. It's still a work in progress, but I'm grateful for those leaders who have given me those opportunities to find my voice and the women who have supported me directly or indirectly as leadership role models. I hope that I can continue to pay it forward to other women that are working to find their leadership voice.

NAEM's 2019 Women's Leadership Roundtable takes place in Savannah, Ga., from June 25-27, 2019.

About the Author

Fawn Bergen
Fawn Bergen
Intel Corp.
Fawn Bergen leads Intel’s global sustainability programs for water sustainability (conservation and stewardship) and carbon footprint. Fawn has worked in the environmental field for more than 20 years with experience in environmental sustainability and compliance program management, strategy development, environmental permitting, regulatory interpretation, auditing and training. Her career has spanned multiple roles in the manufacturing and mining industries (AMCOL International and CEMEX Inc.) as well as environmental consulting (Koogler Associates, Golder Associates, and MACTEC/ESE).

Fawn has a B.S. in environmental engineering from the University of Florida. She is a resident of Portland, Oregon, where she enjoys the beautiful Pacific Northwest outdoors with her two children and husband.

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