• Shelly Elliott

Reflect & React Part II: Put Up or Shut Up- A Few Self-Reflection Answers

Note: This is part two of a three part blog series to prepare for 2017. Enjoy!

In my prior post, Reflect and React Part I: I Want To See You Be Brave, I discussed the importance of self-awareness and how fear is the main hindrance to becoming self-aware. I'm stepping up to the plate and addressing some of the questions I posed at the beginning of the last post. In writing my responses, I learned new things about myself and wrote things that were in the back of my mind, but that I was afraid to admit. There will be much more of that as the blog progresses! This year was a year of many changes, both good and bad, including my last name (Fuhrman -> Elliott), my title (Miss -> Mrs.), my address (Houston -> Pittsburgh), the number of degrees to my name (1 -> 2), my employer (ExxonMobil -> Alcoa -> Arconic), number of living grandparents (2 -> 0), and others. Here’s a few highlights from my personal reflection.

What did your 2016 chapter look like?

  • Graduated with my MBA from Texas A&M

  • Married my husband Scott in July

  • Planned a wedding while working in a job I was on-call 24/7 and going to school full time

  • Honeymooned in Costa Rica

  • Scott and I revised our life’s priorities

  • Made an incredibly difficult decision to resign from a job I loved with ExxonMobil and relocate back to Pennsylvania to be closer to family

  • Sold my house in Houston (the first I ever bought and my first true "big girl" purchase)

  • Started a new career as a consultant with Arconic (formerly Alcoa)

  • Lost my beloved grandma, Mimi, on October 29

  • Unexpectedly lost my Pap, whom I adored, on November 13

  • Hosted our first Christmas in Pennsylvania with my mom, dad, and brother

What was your biggest failure this year? Why did you fail? Are you still pursuing it? Why or why not?

My biggest failure this year was not being as present as I should have been in certain situations. My strengths are execution oriented, and I have a dominant tendency to check things off my to-do list. I focus on getting things done, which is well-suited for some situations, but not all. For example, I was feeling incredibly burnt out the last semester of my MBA program. It was difficult to pay attention to the classroom when I was focusing on planning a wedding and preparing for job interviews. By not being fully present during my classes, I know I missed out on critical concepts and experiences my classmates were discussing. I have also noticed this happening in my work life, where coworkers are sharing things they learned that day or interesting discoveries and I am so focused on my own work, that I miss what they are saying. I’ve done it around Scott, too. Most of the time, this happens when we are in the car. I have a horrible habit of using this as “catch-up time” to peruse Twitter for the latest news, Facebook for updates on friends, or log food on MyFitnessPal instead of using this as time to chat with my husband and just relax. I failed because I did not hold myself accountable for being present. I didn’t ask my classmates, coworkers, or husband to give me feedback and let me know when they saw this happening. This year, I’m still pursuing this because being present in the moment builds relationships, inspires creativity, and prevents anxiety (something I struggle with), among other things.

What am I most proud of and why?

This is difficult to answer because there are a few things that stand out about 2016. I am proud of Scott and I for thinking about our priorities, determining what really mattered most in life, and taking action to align our life with those priorities.

Our careers are important to us, and I am fortunate that Scott endorses me as the lead career person in our marriage. Last Christmas, I knew something just wasn’t right. It was the second Christmas in a row that I had not been able to spend the day with my family; they came down after Christmas since my grandma (Mimi) could not make the trip and understandably, Mom didn’t want to leave her at Christmas. Trying to get from Houston, Texas, to Bradford, Pennsylvania required at least two plane rides followed by a minimum of two hours driving. I saw my parents more when I was at Notre Dame than I had since moving to Houston. I missed my parents, I missed my brother, and I also missed my grandparents. My Mimi lived in my hometown and my Pap was only three hours away. The close relationship I had with them was the result of them being present in my life. Although all of Scott’s grandparents had passed away, he had the same experience growing up, and we both realized that we wanted the same experience for our children (Still years away Mom!). We did not want our grandparents to be “airplane grandparents,” seeing our kids a couple times a year. Thinking about it now, I think we were a little selfish, too, and didn’t want “airplane parents” anymore. We wanted to be closer to ones we love.

Why Pittsburgh and not Holts Summitt, Missouri, where Scott is from? Honestly, a lot came down to location. There isn’t a job market there for neither Scott nor me and outside of my in-laws and a few friends from Scott’s childhood, there wasn’t anything drawing us to the location. When I started job searching, I was fortunate enough to find a few openings in Pittsburgh, and long story short, I hit the jackpot with a job offer in the city from Alcoa for a position in consulting, an area I have been interested in since college.

Making the decision, however, to leave an secure job with a Fortune 2 company where I was on a management fast-track career path to start over again with a new company that was undergoing significant change, in the consulting field, an area I had little experience in, and in a new city was downright terrifying. We had incredible friends in Houston, a beautiful house, and a comfortable living. I felt slightly guilty, not wanting to seem ungrateful for all of this, but I felt this void that wasn’t going away.

When I met with my most influential female mentor at ExxonMobil the day after I resigned, she was incredibly supportive, saying, “It takes guts to do what you did, to sit down with your significant other, figure out what is important to you, and act on it. You’ve shown tremendous courage.” I respected her more than any other female at the company, and though I didn’t second-guess our decision, her words made me feel at peace. Handing in my resignation letter was exponentially more difficult than I thought it would be (a post for another day), and honestly, I was afraid of what my coworkers would say. The job I was in was demanding as hell, and I thought some people would say things like, “She couldn’t handle the pressure” or “She’s walking away from ExxonMobil for a metals company?” My mentor’s words reinforced that these things didn’t matter, that there was a more important world outside of ExxonMobil that impacted our happiness.

Financially, ExxonMobil helped me pay for my MBA tuition, and leaving before February, 2017, would mean that the salary increase from Alcoa would basically go towards paying this back. Additionally, Exxon is one of the few remaining companies that still offers a pension to employees with 15 or more years of service. Resigning meant relinquishing that benefit, but for me, no amount of money could make-up the opportunity cost of relocating back to my family. We are blessed that we were able to relocate and take advantage of new career opportunities without taking a financial hit.

Now, in 2017, we will be focusing on establishing our life together and careers in Pittsburgh, and that is part three of the new years blog!

Our first Christmas as Mr. & Mrs.

#selfawareness #reflect #QA #decisionmaking

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