A career in Washington, D.C. was never my plan. Like a lot of recent college graduates, I intended to go to law school. But when I was given the opportunity to work on Capitol Hill, I wasted no time – putting law school on hold, packing my bags, and moving halfway across the country in ten short days. I figured the worst thing that could happen was deferred enrollment in law school. Little did I know the decision to move to Washington, D.C. would change my life, and nearly 17 years later, I am still working near the heartbeat of our federal government.
I discovered my calling in the halls of the U.S. House of Representatives. I loved being part of the legislative process – researching issues, meeting with stakeholders, developing policies, and working with colleagues to turn those policy ideas into legislation. Across my 11 years on the Hill, I had the distinct pleasure of working for Members of Congress who treated all of their staff, male and female, with the utmost respect. They trusted my counsel and acted upon my recommendations. It was a collaborative environment, where late nights and long weekends were the norm. As a part of that team, I was afforded the opportunity to write laws affecting our nation’s health care system. I was proud to see my work signed into law by two different presidents.
I grew professionally, of course, but also personally during my tenure on the Hill. My two oldest daughters were born while I was on the staff of the House Ways and Means Committee. At the time of my oldest daughter’s birth, I was the only woman on the Committee who had a child. My workload did not change, but rather I changed my schedule, which was challenging when staffing 30 Members of Congress. Thankfully, the Committee did what they could to help me. For example, I had a special laptop that enabled me to login from home, a rarity at the time. However, the nature of the work being what it is, I often had to rely on my husband to cover duties at home while I was at work or, as happened on more than one occasion, I simply pushed my daughter in her stroller straight through the Capitol Rotunda to a meeting.
I was also lucky to have a number of women in my life, who were, and continue to be, important role models. I relied on these women for advice about how to juggle all of my different duties. I did my best, but I still know I missed opportunities for promotions because of my family. My village was there for me during that time too. They were patient listeners, constant cheerleaders, and sometimes strong advocates for me.
I was lucky to find a new opportunity in the private sector, at Cornerstone Government Affairs, that allows me to work as part of a larger team. Collaboration is so important to me, and I knew I could be successful in an environment where everyone works together to achieve success for our clients. I have also enjoyed new synergies between my work life and my personal life. For example, as a mother, I am proud to work on behalf of Children’s National Medical Center, advocating for positions that not only help my children, who have been patients there, but all local children.
As was the case on the Hill, I once again found a strong group of female colleagues, whom I rely on as my sounding board, brain trust, and support system. I also try to pay it forward by offering the same kind of counsel to the young women beginning their careers in our office. I firmly believe I would not have achieved the success I have without the efforts of the women before me who so graciously passed on their wisdom. Now it’s up to me to do the same.