September 25, 2023

BONUS: In Their Words – Client Success Stories

I'm Melissa
I'm a Career and Leadership Coach for Women in Pharma/Biotech. I've been where you are, and I help you create the career you want without working more hours or settling for good enough.
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Over the last several years I have been coaching women in the industry to reach their goals and get unheard of results. Whether it’s women in the lab, women running clinical trials, working in Manufacturing, or on the leadership team.

This episode is a compilation of some of my clients that have been on the podcast and gone through the Beyond the Ceiling process.

You’ll hear from 6 different women with different backgrounds and goals share their experience of coaching with me and the types of results they achieved. You’ll notice what each person found the most impactful and valuable to them.

Mentioned in this episode:

  • Beyond the Ceiling is currently enrolling through September 29th. This is my group coaching program for women in Pharma/Biotech who want to upgrade their career to one they love, whether that is in the role they are in now or with a new one.
  • Get all of the details and join at




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Welcome to Your Worthy Career, a podcast with me, Melissa Lawrence. I’m a career and life coach with all the corporate credit and talent development and organizational psychology. I help women like you get extraordinary results by being more you, not less. I won’t just help you have a career experience worthy of you, but I will help you build your self-worth to shift what you think is possible and take the action that will create the career you’ve always wanted, whether it’s more meaningful work you’re passionate about, making more money, getting to your next level, or being more effective as a leader. We are shattering the glass ceiling here, the one that exists for women at work and the one we put on ourselves with our doubt and inner critic. Each week, you will get practical teachings grounded in neuroscience and effective career development strategies.

You’ll experience deep mindset shifts and the perfect amount of woo. So you can run your career with ease rather than your career running you. You were born for more, and I’m going to help you get there with maybe a few dance parties along the way. Your up-level begins now. 

Melissa Lawrence (01:17)

Hello and welcome to this special bonus episode of the podcast. Beyond the Ceiling is currently enrolling through September 29th. This is my group coaching program for women in pharma or biotech who want to upgrade their career to one they love, whether that is in the role they are in now or with a new one. Over the last several years, I have been coaching women in the industry to reach their goals and get unheard of results, whether it’s women in the lab, women running clinical trials, working in manufacturing, or on the leadership team. 

This episode is a compilation of some of my clients that have been on the podcast and gone through the beyond the ceiling process. You’ll hear from six different women with different backgrounds and goals share their experience of coaching with me and the types of results that they achieved. You’ll notice what each person found the most impactful and valuable to them.

You may also be surprised to hear them talk about their personal growth and the transformation they experienced being even more important to them now than the career change or promotions they experienced. This is going to give you a great insight into what it’s like to work with me and what it’s like to go through the beyond the ceiling process. Let’s dig in. 

Melissa Lawrence (02:29)

This first clip is from Katherine Shu. Katherine is earlier in her career and works in quality assurance. When she came to me, she felt burnt out and mentally exhausted. She was tired of doom scrolling LinkedIn trying to figure out what she wanted next. She struggled with the unpredictable workload, the firefighting, and overthinking herself and her decisions. Her goals were to increase her self-confidence to influence others and have less anxiety to know what she wanted for her career and move into a new role and to communicate effectively with all levels and types of people. She exceeded every one of these goals, became confident in herself, stopped overthinking, and figured out what she wanted. She ended up getting multiple competing offers and moved into her dream role with a 25 % salary increase promotion and sign-on bonus within three months of coaching.

Here is what she has to say.

Melissa Lawrence (03:21)

When you were at this place where you were like, Okay, I’m overwhelmed. I’m not sure what to do next. I’m burnt out at work. Then you found me or listened to my podcast. What were some of the concerns you might have had or worries about coaching? Because it was your first experience. So what were some of those concerns or maybe obstacles you had to overcome to reach out?

Katherine Shu (03:45)

Honestly, I felt really scared just because I didn’t have much presence. I didn’t know anybody else who was early in their careers that reached out to a career coach. I didn’t have many historic examples, and so I took a trust fall. And I felt like my biggest concern was just coming out of my shell. I was very reserved. My mind was very chaotic at the time, and I was like, I need to make a change. I’m not sure who I am. And just coming out of my shell and being able to open up was a huge concern. But I’m glad I did. It’s been amazing. And I’m so glad I placed my trust in you. You are incredible.

Melissa Lawrence (04:27)

Thank you so much. I remember you telling me that you even had people in your life, like close people in your life that were like, What are you doing? You found this woman on the internet, you’re going to give her all of this money. Are you sure you want to do this? I think you had so many obstacles between… You didn’t have examples of people that worked with coaches at your level. You hadn’t worked with a coach before, so there wasn’t a way to really guarantee the results for you. Then you had people in your life that were like, important advisors telling you, Are you sure you want to do… I’m sure you’re trying to do this? How did you overcome those obstacles and just make that decision to go for it for yourself?

Katherine Shu (05:08)

Well, I stayed true to myself, and I also did my research. I listened to so many podcast episodes. I sent it for free training. I implemented what I learned, and I realized that I was making such big strides. I was guessing out what I needed, though. I did listen to the podcast episodes that I thought I needed at the time. But when we started working on coaching, it was like real-time feedback, and I was able to accelerate that progress even faster. But while I was doing this on my own, I just developed more of a trust and trust in myself that this is the right decision, trust in you and your credentials. I just blocked out everybody, friends and family, as noise. I’m like, you know what? I’m going to blindly go into this and I’m going to give it my all. Now they have confirmation bias. They’re like, See, we told you. I’m like, no, at the beginning, you were stressed out. 

Melissa Lawrence (06:05)

I love how they try to take credit now. It’s so funny.

Katherine Shu (06:11)

Honestly, that has been such an amazing effect of this whole process, like developing that courage. Because I was so scared when we first started. I was even scared during the consult call when you told me to not pursue any certifications, I was like, Are you sure? Sure that was the right choice for sure?

Melissa Lawrence (06:33)

What would you say is the biggest change that you’ve gotten from the coaching process, both in terms of your professional change and then also your personal growth? What do you think that will help you to make that change?

Katherine Shu (06:46)

Professional change, I definitely know what I want. Every move I make is intentional now, and I’m in my dreams of God. I’m on an amazing team. I love it. I feel very empowered in my role now. Personally, I feel like I just have so much self-confidence. I’m able to communicate. I have clarity of my values, strengths, and weaknesses, and I’m able to bring the best I have to offer to the table. Just knowing that makes me feel overwhelmed with gratitude every single day. It’s crazy. The results that I achieved while working with you, I’m still shocked when I think about it because it happened so fast. All the changes with my communication style, my awareness of my values, the career process we went through, career discovery process we went through, all of it just happened so fast. It felt like I was on the fast lane. I think halfway through our coaching sessions, I also realized all the feedback I was getting in my brain, all the self doubt was surfacing. I was just like, Oh, I can fight the stack. I can question everything that has led me to decisions thus far, and I can reach that next level of growth.

I had so many powerful insights while working with you. But yeah, I credit it all to that very beginning where I just committed and I was all in. That was really the pivotal moment where I achieved all these gains. The people closest to me noticed the changes pretty early on. I think the biggest change day to day is that I go through life now with no self doubt. I don’t really have that inner voice saying, Can I do this? It’s more like, Okay, I need to do this, and how will I get it done? Previously, I was just like, Oh, no. I had so much anxiety about things. Now I find that it’s easier for me to advocate not only for myself, but for other people to approach things from a higher level and to escalate things to manage up. I’ve learned so many just skills from believing in myself and carrying myself differently.

Melissa Lawrence (09:11)

Is there anything that you experienced in coaching or a result that you got from coaching that took you by surprise or was unexpected?

Katherine Shu (09:21)

Honestly, the tangible results, like the multiple counter offers, internal and external, the salary bump, all that was so surreal to me. I’m like, Oh, my goodness, I have achieved the next level of growth.

Now, I’m finally seeing everything come together. I have so many decisions to make. When I was presented with all these offers, I was like, I know I’m going to make the correct choice because of all the work we did in coaching. What really surprised me was that I actually ended up staying in quality. It’s very indecisive about my career path and what I wanted to do. It surprised me that I stayed, but I feel really passionate about it. We did all the work, and I know that it’s the right decision. I’m very blessed to be working under a mentor who I really look up to now. I really am shocked that I didn’t obtain any certification. I really am.

Melissa Lawrence (10:28)

Now let’s talk about Swathi. Swathi is a PhD scientist who wanted to move away from the bench and into program management. She worried what others thought of her and felt insecure about her communication skills. She was an exceptionally high performer with very high expectations for herself, her career, and those around her. These expectations sometimes got in her way. She wanted to have clarity of her career path to know what her strengths were and be more visible. She wanted to grow personally in the areas of self-care and emotional health, communicate well across all levels, and build the confidence to have her own back, advocate for herself, and reduce overthinking. She met or exceeded these goals and moved into a role in alliance management with the dream company of hers. She then went on to grow from there in that role, making more and doing more and doing all of the things that she wanted to do for herself, in her personal life and in her career.

Let’s listen to what she has to say.

Swathi Gannavaram (11:23)

I think the biggest things like I mentioned was the stakeholder management piece because that’s a big thing in my role right now. And I always think back to our conversations and how it is very important to establish that communication link and keep that open. Because a lot of the time when you are dealing with different people, the biggest thing obviously is lack of communication or overcommunication. I think it’s always good to overcommunicate than undercommunicate. So I think that’s one of the big pieces that I learned from our experience together that always keep that communication link open and make yourself as clear as possible when you’re dealing with people and understand where they’re coming from and what my point of view is. So just keep things transparent and clear by communicating.

Melissa Lawrence (12:13)

How does it feel to know that you’re in the right job for you?

Swathi Gannavaram (12:18)

The fact that I’m just happy and excited every day. Yeah.

Melissa Lawrence (12:22)

You’ve crossed that year mark, right? You’ve crossed that now, and you’re not having that downhill feeling?

Swathi Gannavaram (12:32)

No, I’m not. I’m trying to see how I can expand my horizons. There’s just so much I can learn and do, and I think that’s very exciting for me.

Melissa Lawrence (12:42)

So you definitely have moved into this new role in the time that we worked together. But if we had never worked together, where do you think you would be now in your career and just like the way that you’re experiencing your career?

Swathi Gannavaram (12:55)

It would have been very different, I think. For me, I mentioned, I was at a cusp where I wanted to transition into project management and the business side of things. That transition would probably have been, I probably would have done it, but the timeline must have been much more stretched if I hadn’t gone through the coaching process with you just because it was not just about coaching and letting me know what are the opportunities, but the resources you provided. And when I had roadblocks along this process, the resources that you were able to provide were very crucial and expedited my journey in transitioning into where I am today. So I think if I hadn’t gone through the coaching process and all the roadblocks that I have hit, it just would have been a very different space for me.

Melissa Lawrence (13:47)

Yeah. You might have gotten into that role eventually, but then those other skills would have been lacking, too, right? Exactly. The way that you approach your career. And I wish people could see your face when I asked that question because you’re so beamy and smiley. And then when I asked that question, it’s like you have this look of disgust. What would have we did? We’re together. I was like, oh.

Swathi Gannavaram (14:11)

You won’t believe me, Melissa. I have told so many people that felt stuck or in that same space that I felt before taking the coaching process with you that they have to explore what is called coaching, like professional coaching and I think I was actually able to positively convince a few people to take that leap. So definitely, coaching is the way to go if you have an experience to do it.

Melissa Lawrence (14:36)

Yeah. Well, like you said, when you haven’t done something before, it does take that courage. And now you’re on the other side, which is why I think it’s so great for people to hear your story.

Swathi Gannavaram (14:45)

Before we started working together, I was very limited in how I was thinking and approaching my career just because I didn’t know what were the options that were available. Definitely, the coaching experience has opened my mind and enlightening ways that I wouldn’t have if I hadn’t gone through the coaching process. And now that I have gone through the ear in my role, I feel like I can definitely be my own cheerleader and push for myself if I feel like I have to head in a certain direction or if I have to learn something or achieve something professionally. I feel like I have a voice for myself, and I’m definitely able to do that now than before the coaching experience.

Melissa Lawrence (15:32)

Jenna works in clinical operations and came to me burnt out over working with recruiters knocking on her door and a desire to move up or move out to something new. She also wanted to stop working all the time, communicate at work more effectively, establish boundaries, and work through some of her personal experiences that had kept her in a cycle of being unfulfilled in her career and in her life. She exceeded all of her goals and not only worked only when she wanted to, she released the compare and despair, the should, and started living her life the way she wanted to. She got clear on what she wanted and ended up loving her company and her role. She negotiated a new role and promotion on her terms, doing the work she wanted to do, and ensuring she had the resources in place to set her up for success. Here is Jenna.

Jenna Burke (16:20)

I don’t want to wake up one day and realize that all I talk about or all I do is work. I’m losing track of hobbies or things that I want to get into. Even just that stress alone for me being so involved in my career made me think like, Well, is this the career that I want to stay in? Am I even happy doing this? And then the thought of switching careers was stressing me out. So it was a bit of a jumbled mess in my brain, a bit of spiraling, out of control, and really just hoping to take back to RAINN and move into this next decade of life feeling like I had clear set in goals and things that I wanted to accomplish, and being really comfortable in the place that I was in.

Melissa Lawrence (17:04)

Yeah. I remember you feeling really overwhelmed and you had recruiters reaching out to you and you were like, I’m not sure. Should I apply for this job? Should I go for that job? Should I stay where I am? And then at the same time, you were working so much that you, like you said, didn’t have that personal life. And so you just were stressed and a little bit in chaos like you said.

Jenna Burke (17:26)

Yes. And then just thinking of where I was in my life from a career standpoint like, do I need to work towards a promotion? Should I try to get a higher title? What does it take to get there? So really just craziness overall. I will say that one of the main goals was obviously having that balance. I’m going to tell you to say it because that was the most important. And not only am Iam I more balanced in my workload, but I’ve also been really focusing on making it a norm in conversation with in the workplace of making sure you have that balance, also vocalizing my bandwidth because I was often someone that would just take things on and say, Yes, in a sense, I can do that. I can do that. And then I would put my personal things to the way. Well, it’s fine. I just have to get this done through work. I can reschedule with my friends. I can miss that book club meeting. I’ll catch the next one. But that really compounds itself. So now I’m definitely more engaged in my personal life, have had more time for hobbies that I wanted to explore. I think one of the biggest things for me that’s been huge, and I was talking to someone at work about this today, was realizing how much I was saying I should do something versus wanting to do something in that.

I remember when you pointed that out to me, noting that “should have” such a negative connotation to it, it really made me start to think about the should-do’s versus what is truly making me happy or what I really enjoy doing. Obviously, we are all going to have to do things that we don’t want to do until the end of the time, but that shouldn’t be the way that we’re leading our lives. So for me, that’s been such a game-changer just in my general mindset because I can go through a day or a week really evaluating what I’m taking on. From the work sense as well, I think something that was very hard for me is up until the time where I realized, Oh, my gosh, my brain is craziness and chaotic right now. I really enjoyed my work. I really like what I do. And then I got to this point of just burnout and craziness and questioning if it was truly what I wanted. So then again, you pushed me on this one, too, to, well, do you love your job? It’s okay if you don’t. It’s okay if you don’t like it or even some days don’t like it.

You don’t have to love your job every day. And that just owning that some days I really just don’t like my job, some days it’s just a paycheck. It was really refreshing and took so much weight off because I work in the rare disease realm. So one of those factors that adds some stress is you want to feel motivated to do what you do every day for the people that you’re helping. But sometimes you do have to take a step back for that and look at yourself and look at what you’re doing and realize that it is still just a job. So it’s okay if that’s not motivating me today. Does it make me a bad person if I don’t love my job?

As much as maybe some other people that I work with on the daily do? So I think just taking away that pressure of feeling like, Oh, my gosh, I’m so busy, but I have to love what I do every day for the people that we’re helping. It really helped because I could just take that little piece of clutter out of my brain, just push it to the wayside and focus on the task at hand. And just giving myself grace, generally speaking, for what I do accomplish and what I can get through has also just been… That’s just been one that we don’t like to acknowledge the hard work that we do in ourselves. I mean, for me, it’s very uncomfortable. 

I don’t like realizing that like, Hey, man, I’m doing a good job. So I think just being able to reflect on that and even say it to myself is really game-changing for me.

Melissa Lawrence (22:12)

Yeah. I feel like you just needed permission to not make your day job your identity. Because when we started, I still think back fondly on you being very… And this speaks to what you said about warming up and becoming vulnerable about what you wanted. You were like, I want to be promoted, and I want to be this higher level, and I want to have direct reports, and I want to have all of these things with crypto. Then I took you through my self-discovery process, and it was a little bit resistant at first. Then I remember we got to a point I was like, Is this really what you want? Are you sure that this is the direction you want to go? Because when it came to working on some of those things that would get you to that level, it just seemed clear that that’s not really what you wanted. And so once you were able to give yourself that permission and that grace to just enjoy what you enjoy about your job and stop making it everything in your life, then if you had a bad day at work, it didn’t mean you were bad. If you had a good day at work, you were good. It’s like you just have this job you like, and you’re also awesome on your own.

Jenna Burke (23:22)

Yeah. To add to that, too, so much of the stress and pressure is like, Well, I’m at a certain point in my life. Should I be making X amount of money or have X title?

Even though going through these practices, I realized that it’s not something I actually really want. So I’m adding all this extra pressure to myself without even realizing it to get to a certain title, even though, again, through a lot of what we’ve been working on realizing that I am actually very comfortable where I am. That’s okay. It’s okay to just sit and become an expert in what I’m doing right now and not be so worried about what milestone I’m hitting or salary I’m hitting because that’s not what’s driving me in what I enjoy in the day to day or what I want out of everyday.

Melissa Lawrence (24:11)

Yeah. And when you stop doing that, then you started getting more opportunity and more praise at work.

Jenna Burke (24:17)

Yeah. Or, notice me, right? Yes. It’s been such a funny switch, but I guess that’s what I was hoping for, in that I had basically this refresh moment where I could take a step back and reevaluate what I was doing and realize that, no, I don’t want to leave my company. I really like it here. I want to stay here. And I don’t want to push for this big promotion because I actually really like the position I’m in and what I’m currently working on. And I’m enjoying what I’m doing. And I have new ideas, and I want to share them. And it gave me more energy to get through the day versus the dread that I was feeling by… We talked about this. I took a week off and then came back. I think the Wednesday through my week was already dreading the Monday. I’ve been just focusing on the time being off. So now it’s like, okay, well, now I know what to expect. I don’t have that sense of dread anymore. Okay, so the Sunday scaries, but it’s nothing compared to that. Gosh, just like this pit that was constantly in my stomach of what buyer is going to be in my face that I didn’t get accomplished because I just didn’t have the time or just feel like an uneasy feeling.

Melissa Lawrence (25:37)

It seems uncomfortable to even talk about.

So if you could pick just like a couple of things that you think have had these real world tangible benefits that coaching has helped you with, what would you say those things are?

Jenna Burke (25:59)

I think I’m going to say it again, the balance. Because that was an ultimate goal of mine. I need to have the time outside of work so that I can have time with my friends, go on dates, which I think that’s been very successful. Focus on, if I wanted to get more into my health and fitness journey, have more time to do that and not feel upset all the time because I realized I was just giving more energy to work. So that, the balance is definitely big.

I think my general outlook, so I think the reminder of you don’t have to love your job every day, it can be a paycheck. Taking flipping, like we worked on this last week where I was feeling overwhelmed a little bit with like, Oh, this was a crazy week. I have a lot on my plate. I can’t handle my workload, flipping it to remind yourself like, no, you can get through it.

And then also not to overthink. I have a terrible habit of spiraling my brain by overthinking, not in a debilitating way, but I go through all the what ifs and I play out. I’m a project manager, so I very quickly play out different scenarios in my brain because that’s what I had to do for work is constantly have A through F scenarios ready to go at all times. And through some of the exercises that we did realizing that, well, none of the decisions that have gotten me this far in my life have caused catastrophic attacks. They’ve all been a good decision or they haven’t been a bad decision. So that reminder to myself that nothing that I do is likely going to just completely off-rail my goals or cause such a detrimental effect that I would be able to bounce. There’s no proof so far that that would happen. So I think just to not overthink and to trust myself a little bit more. I say it a lot, but it’s been hard, but it’s definitely worth it. And that’s hard as well, just the self-reflection.

Melissa Lawrence (28:27)

It definitely is hard because you get coaching and then you take action and then we evaluate the action and then you get coaching and you take action and you evaluate the action until you’re getting the results that you want. But it’s hard to have a mirror held up and for you to learn to take accountability for your own results. And part of that is the way that you’re thinking and understanding that connection between your thoughts and your results and how you have the power to make that change. But you have to want to do that work. You have to want to have someone hold the mirror up to you and to listen to you and to point out when you’re doing things that aren’t aligned with what you said you wanted and to question some of your decisions or to notice if you’re not really being genuine or saying you’re doing things when you’re not, and to really help you, not from a place of making you do something you don’t want to do because it’s always about what you want, but just to help you get out of your own way and understand yourself so that you can get what you want.

Jenna Burke (29:30)

Yeah. And it’s huge. I mean, everything is hard. But I am a firm believer that people should invest in themselves. And I’ve tried to leave a big example of that for the last couple of years. And this definitely supports that weight. It’s getting back so much. And I’m really excited because again, one of my main goals was, I wanted to have a clear path forward and things that I want to focus on this next part of my life. And it’s exciting because I’m right on track for that. I’ve just gone and cleared the clutter, and now I can do more of the fun stuff.

Melissa Lawrence (30:22)

Tugba has a PharmD, a PhD, and an MBA. She is a manager that works in quality for a large pharma company. When we started working together in coaching, she had worked with coaches before but didn’t get the results that she had hoped. She wanted to be able to use her skills and hire education to do something that she really enjoyed. She didn’t feel she was progressing. She felt limited and wanted to pursue people management. She was working all the time and overextending herself, stressed, and felt like she gave so much to her work that she had little time for her personal life. She didn’t have the title or salary that she wanted or felt she deserved, and she wanted to know her purpose and create something for herself on her terms. She ended up exceeding all of her goals. She moved into a new role at the same company, works for a boss she loves, is a people manager, and feels she can finally be authentic, have time for her family, and Excel in her career. She finally feels valued and that all of her education and experience are being leveraged in a role that is a great fit for her. She feels she truly has it all. 

Let’s listen to Tugba.

Tugba Delaire (31:29)

As mentioned, authenticity. I really feel like I am myself. I’m being myself. I’m not being someone else. I don’t have to be over-prepared, over-thinking when I’m going to read a project meeting. That’s also valid in my personal life. I’m able to even better communicate with my husband, having those sometimes difficult conversations. We used to ignore, like, Oh, okay, that’s an issue for me, but maybe I should just not talk about it, not create any conflict. But now I’m able to really even go through such tough conversations just to improve things. So I feel like I’m able to speak my truth in a powerful way due to this mindset change and authenticity that came along with this process.

Melissa Lawrence (32:28)

So can you share with us what your current career development goals are?

Tugba Delaire (32:33)

Yeah. I would say that I already reached out to the leadership role that I was seeking for in a department that I’m really passionate about, in a great team with an amazing manager, so I feel like I am where I need to be right now. But of course, in the future, my goal is really to complete my onboarding process flawlessly and establish myself within my new role as a new manager and continue really working in this direction. As a next step, I really want to expand my impact, reach out to as many people as possible, continue learning and sharing my experiences and values. Also, even develop those soft skills that I can share within the company, even as a coach, as a mentor, to share those experiences so other people can also benefit from it.

Melissa Lawrence (33:33)

So now that you have that, now that you have that confidence and that self-advocacy, how do you think your career future is going to be different?

Tugba Delaire (33:43)

It really shifted my mind in terms of what my potential is. Now I have a belief that nothing is impossible as long as I have it in my goal list and I plan and I work, I keep walking towards these goals constantly, I will accomplish. Maybe it will take some time, depending on my motivation, how fast I am and everything, but it’s possible. I don’t have anymore this fear of, That’s not for me. I know that goal is too big for me. So it’s just really the matter of strategy, dedication, resilience, and you will get there. So it’s not about being smart. It’s all about having this growth mindset and embracing the change and moving forward. A thought just popped in my mind, so I love more. I love more now at work that even in the meetings were in serious meetings, even just the joy comes up somehow. I think that’s a great sign also showing that I am where I need to be. So all I want to say is thank you for that. It has been such a transformational journey with you. I’m so grateful for it.

Melissa Lawrence (35:07)

It has been my pleasure.

Tugba Delaire (35:10)

Yeah. And this book that you recommended to me, it’s called Zone of Genius. I cannot just ignore that book. It really also helped me a lot. And thank you also for opening the doors to my zone of genius, like indicated in this book. And so as mentioned, I think it was the best investment that I have ever made. Thank you.

Melissa Lawrence (35:35)

Thank you so much.

Melissa Lawrence (35:35)

Angela works in manufacturing technical operations as a group leader. When we started working together, she was unclear of what her next best step was. She didn’t know how to grow her career beyond where she was and was considering a lateral move into QA. She worked at her company for over a decade and was having a hard time getting her ideas heard and the traction that she wanted to grow her career. She wanted to figure out what was best for her, if it was time for her to leave or how to get to that next level, have more time for her family, and build her confidence in her unique talents and abilities to be able to stand out in her own way. She ended up exceeding her goals and we identified the next best role for her. She was able to negotiate her responsibilities and a promotion to do what she loved and have a new role created for her. She received that second promotion to Associate Director shortly thereafter. She said she became more effective as a people manager and that coaching took her from always on with work to luxurious amounts of time with her family and doing the hobbies she enjoys.

Here is Angie.

Melissa Lawrence (36:45)

What do you think, if you can remember that time when you were feeling uncertain and you were comparing against others and not feeling confident in your decision making and not sure what your career path was, what impact was that having on you?

Angela Stillisano (36:59)

I mean, obviously, it was not very beneficial to my emotional health, probably not my physical health either. I’d be drained by the end of the day, opening a bottle of wine. But seriously, I really could not… I felt unfulfilled and not knowing what my next step was because I didn’t know where I was going. I didn’t know what steps I should be taking. I felt really strong at work in the decisions I was making when I felt informed. And so I just felt that need to be informed more about not so much the technical stuff, like the things that I have to do as a manager, but the things I need to do for myself. Though it was really taking, I think, a toll on probably more my mental and physical health, just because I’d go home and I’d talk to my husband for hours and he didn’t want to hear it because I wasn’t doing anything about it. And he said, Do something. And I’d be like, I don’t know what to do. So it was very unhealthy.

Melissa Lawrence (38:03)

Yeah. I guess, is there a tipping point that you think you had that maybe you want to get help with that?

Angela Stillisano (38:10)

No, I don’t think so necessarily. And I’ll tell you why. Because I had some career coaching starting in 2019 that my company put me through, and I thought that I would get a lot more out of it, unfortunately, than I did. They were very… Obviously, my company paid for it. I felt they were very biased to push me up, up, up. At the time, I felt very… I was pushing against that a little bit. I was like, What if I don’t want to go up? Whoa, slow down. Slow down. And so the coach there had obvious intentions, obviously paid for by my company, which is fine. But prior to that and around that same time, which was six, seven, eight months before I started working with you, I was reading books, and I was doing surveys, and I had a mentor, and I was trying to do some trainings. I don’t feel like there was an obvious tipping point. I feel like I had been trying to figure this out for a long time. I actually made my goal… Two years ago in 2019, I made my goal, my personal goal, to figure out my five-year plan, but I couldn’t.

The whole year, I thought about it, and it drove me crazy that I couldn’t even come up with a plan for myself. It was very frustrating to try a lot of things and think I was sticking with them, you know what I mean? And think I was doing what I needed to do and still coming out with the same resolution. I still didn’t have a five-year plan. I still didn’t have even a one-year plan. I just was going with the flow.

Melissa Lawrence (39:37)

Yeah. I remember the post, I think I did a video where I was going through some scenarios of different challenges with figuring out your direction and getting advocacy from your boss. I remember you commented. You’re like, This is me. Oh, my gosh. You’re talking to me.

Angela Stillisano (39:54)

Seriously. I do remember that, too.

Melissa Lawrence (39:57)

Was there anything else that you want to add that you tried to do on your own to try to resolve this?

Angela Stillisano (40:05)

No, but like I said, I was talking to my husband a lot. I was talking to my mentor a lot. She and I would go out to lunch every couple of weeks, and I just talked and talked and talked. And there were no…people who would give me advice, but nothing that seemed to really work for me. Everything I feel like really helped me. Now, looking back, all of it really helped. But coaching was much better, not only because it was weekly and it helped me accountable. I had to hold myself accountable and make the time. And it was so much more than trying to find time at the end of the night or make time at the end of the night to read or you know what I mean? When I’m having a great day or when I’m having a bad day to spend the time talking about my career to somebody, my mentor who we work together. She’s at a higher level than me in a different department. But I wanted to sometimes just stop talking about work, too. I tried a lot. I think I tried a lot of things and nothing single-handedly worked like coaching did.

Melissa Lawrence (41:06)

Yeah. It sounds like you did a lot between the mentor. You had your company development program and a coach there. You had books you read. You did pretty much everything I think.

Did you have any obstacles in hiring a coach outside of your company?

Angela Stillisano (41:26)

At the very beginning, after having our call, the money thing stuck with me. I wanted to make sure, it was COVID, and I’m very frugal. I don’t think I bought jeans in two years. So to make that an investment in myself in coaching, something that’s not tangible. I didn’t feel like it was tangible, like I couldn’t see it. I’d have to tell my husband, Hey, I’m spending this money, but you’re not going to see it. He was very supportive, though, so that was great. 

I feel very busy in my life, both at work and at home. I feel like I signed up for so many things to do. I’m doing so many things at work. I’m doing so many things outside of work. So there was definitely a time constraint or a fear. I felt like that was a little bit of an obstacle. I had to, like I said, make time. I had to schedule time. I had to make sure that I prioritized it and met it, especially because I was spending money on it. And then I did. It was really my own, I think, mentality because I wanted a sense of guarantee, but I don’t have that satisfaction, guaranteed stamp on coaching.

I was really thinking, if I’m going to open up and I’m going to be vulnerable about what’s going on and my downfalls and try to work on them with somebody else, really open up and be honest, then I had the sense of like, it better work. I didn’t want it to fail. And then I’m coming out feeling like, man, I just opened myself up to somebody. It’s very vulnerable. It can be very embarrassing sometimes to realize that I’ve been doing this all wrong and then come out not any better. So it was definitely on my mind. If I’m going to do this, is it guaranteed that I’m going to be better for it? Because I didn’t want to live with myself after if it wasn’t. I don’t know. I don’t like to be vulnerable. 

I have a new title, more money. It’s still what I love to do. So I think a lot of that had to do with displaying confidence and knowing… You and I, I think it didn’t take very long. It didn’t take the full six months. I know we talked about a lot, but it probably took about three months. What do you think? Maybe four before I figured out my next path. You really challenged me and you’re like, What about this? And tried to change my mind on career… Not tried to change, but you challenged my why are you in this industry? Why aren’t you in this department? I think ruling out some of the things that I knew I didn’t want to do helped at first. And then when I finally decided this is the job I want and hey, it’s available at my company, but it’s a couple of levels up. I started letting my boss know that, and I put some goals within my development plan around how to get there. So I just played with that confidence. I talked about it. I knew it. I started being empowered to make decisions to help me get there.

And then I just was recently, like I said, promoted last week. So now I’m only one step away from that goal. So it’s funny. It took me years to try to get this, then it took me three or four months working with you to actually build a goal. And I’m literally halfway there. Right. It’s great. I mean, to the ultimate career goal. I don’t know what I’ll do after. I’ll be coaching again.

Melissa Lawrence (44:41)

Right. But just even here, you talk about it, you have such a lightness and happiness about it. And you said we’ve started, I’m doing what I love to do. Yeah. And even that was something that you were like, I don’t know. When we went through the exploration process together, where we were exploring your childhood dreams, going to another company, everything was on the table.

Angela Stillisano (45:02)

I did. I thought I had confidence. I thought I knew myself. I thought I didn’t have any problems there. I just need you to look at what jobs my company has and tell me what my next step is. Just do that. Tell me what to do. But really, it took a lot of self exploration for me to be like, well, actually, there’s this child that fits right along with what I want.

So it was really, I needed to know myself first. And then, like I said, everything else was really easy, which is awesome to even think about.

Melissa Lawrence (45:32)

Yeah. And then all those things set you up to advocate for what you wanted like you’ve done. Right. So if it was just here, this is what I think would align with your qualifications, you wouldn’t have had that same experience or that same outcome.

Angela Stillisano (45:45)

That’s true.I came into coaching with an expectation of coming up with a career goal, and we did that. And like I said, the self exploration was really great. I cannot say enough good things about how this impacted, like I said, the other parts of my life. I’m just really thankful for making that decision for myself, making that investment in myself and for your coaching. I mean, it’s been a really fast and huge year, six months. So I’m just very thankful.

Melissa Lawrence (46:28)

Rachel is a leader in global brand planning. She reached out when she was promoted into a new leadership role. She struggled with comparing herself to others and imposter syndrome. She wanted to speak up and influence others effectively without doubt. She wanted to have more meaningful relationships at work and stop feeling anxious. She also wanted to have boundaries and set her own hours at work. Her main goals were to increase her confidence, be an effective communicator, and build a good relationship with her new boss, make decisions without needing others’ opinions and establish boundaries. She met these goals and had a substantial increase in her confidence, which had a trickle effect to all of the other things that she was working on. She said she became a confident person and no longer questioned her skill set or belonging at the leadership table. Her colleagues noticed and she received positive feedback regularly for her performance. As a result, she was negotiating a promotion and title bump. Here is Rachel.

Melissa Lawrence (47:25)

The first question is, why did you want to work with me? What drew you to me?

Rachel N. (47:30)

I really felt like I was in a pivotal career moment where I had a lot of growth all at once and I wasn’t sure if that was really me, if I was really at that level. I had a lot of doubt and fear about my ability and what to do, and I just really felt like I needed someone to help me. I had been following you for some time on LinkedIn and social media and was reading testimonials. I had listened to your podcast. It seemed like you would be a really comfortable person to talk to and you had a lot of experience. And I felt like you were someone I could trust with being really honest about some vulnerable things. So yeah, it was a no-brainer. I knew that even before our initial consultation call that there would probably have to be some huge red flag for me to say, No, I don’t want to do this. I had already made up my mind no matter what, but thankfully, there wasn’t.

Melissa Lawrence (48:30)

And what were some of your biggest concerns or worries about working with me, if any, before we start?

Rachel N. (48:36)

I think it was just a little bit of hesitancy and unsureness about what the coaching process would be. I didn’t want to be doing hokey things or I don’t know. I don’t know. Having never been coached or mentored before, not really understanding what that process looked like, but I was certainly open to it because I was in a really bad mental space and I was like, Okay, I’ll try anything.

Melissa Lawrence (49:03)

Virtual trust falls.

Rachel N. (49:04)

Yeah, really. I don’t know what this is, but I’ll jump out of the plane if it just helps me sleep at night.

Melissa Lawrence (49:13)

What has been your favorite part of doing this work together?

Rachel N. (49:16)

Definitely the exercises, the mental exercises, because working with you, it’s an hour a week and it’s extremely helpful. But I have so many other hours in the week where we’re not on video calls together, and then I have to figure things out in the moment for myself. So having that mental plan about the ways that I can influence my emotions, the way that I’m thinking, the way that I’m working in the moment. And even if it didn’t work right away, it’s something that I found over time I’ve gotten much better at and I’m really feeling the benefits of.

Melissa Lawrence (49:53)

And what would you say is the biggest transformation that you got?

Rachel N. (49:57)

It has to be my confidence level, which influences the entire way that I work and the way that I interact with people, the way that I respond to email, the way that I hold meetings, it bleeds into everything. The confidence really just comes from a better mental outlook than I did. The self-talk was a real problem for me, the negative self-talk. That’s probably been the biggest takeaway and what’s made this process worth it for me.

Melissa Lawrence (50:26)

What’s the impact of being more confident? Do you think now, you talked about in your career, but just the rest of your life that you feel differently about yourself?

Rachel N. (50:36)

Yeah, there’s bleed-over, right? Work is not my entire life. But when I do start to feel anxiety about life things, the tools still work there as well. Honestly, even though work is only one-third of my life, really, it really influences the way that I feel outside of work because it’s all day. Then when I get off, I’m able to relax. I feel better about taking time for myself. We’ve talked about celebrating myself and the ways that I do that and I think bringing that into daily life of when I want to go get a nice meal or have a nice cocktail or something, just being nicer to myself, I’m sure that it shows on the outside.

Melissa Lawrence (51:20)

Yeah. Do you think that you’ll achieve anything different in your life or you’ll have different results in your career because you did this work?

Rachel N. (51:29)

Yeah, I think so. I think, like I mentioned earlier, one of the biggest reasons for contacting you was because I had had all this growth in a very short amount of time, and I was like, Oh, shit. I don’t know if I can handle this. And feeling that way and then six months later feeling the way that I do now, it’s like, Oh, you could have way more growth and get through it. This was a stepping stone and yeah, it was hard in the beginning, but it’s not a matter of your capability or what I’m able to do because I feel like I can do anything.

Melissa Lawrence (52:03)

What surprised you most about working with me?

Rachel N. (52:06)

This probably won’t be a surprise, but the level that we went into some deeper topics and really tried to unpack thoughts and unpack behaviors and talk about the ways that my brain has worked because of the life that I’ve lived. So that was definitely something that was unexpected.

Melissa Lawrence (52:26)

And who would you recommend me to?

Rachel N. (52:29)

I would recommend you to any woman that I know that has a lot of self-doubt, which is a good friend of women. I would recommend you to a friend, a close personal friend. I would definitely say, Hey, Melissa really helped me. I can see you’re struggling. This is something that I think is worth your time. It’s worth your effort. Yeah, that’s probably the best recommendation that I could give to a friend.

Melissa Lawrence (52:55)

There you have it, six different stories and my clients’ words of the results they experienced in coaching. You can hear their full interviews by going back to their individual episodes. No matter what you want to be different in your career, Beyond the Ceiling is the place to make your goals a reality. You heard from my clients who felt like they tried it all, who even worked with coaches before, those who were early in their career and those who had decades of experience, those with several advanced degrees, those who worked in the lab or worked in an office, who struggled with making a financial investment in themselves. 

The process in Beyond the Ceiling works for everyone. This is a new beginning for you and a space where you have the strategy, the personal development, the support, and the career process to ensure you reach your goals. If this feels like the right move for you, schedule a consultation to join us. Enrollment is open through September 29th, and we get started on October 20th. Get all of the details at Have an amazing week.

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No longer settles for “good enough”

Hi, I’m Melissa.

Career & Leadership Coach for Women in Pharma/Biotech

I'm a former Talent & Development leader in Pharma/Biotech turned CEO and Certified Professional Career & Life Coach. I also host the podcast, Your Worthy Career.

I've been where you are, and I help you create the career you want without working more hours or settling for good enough.

I'm leading a movement of women in the industry who are figuring out exactly what they want and shattering the glass ceiling. The very real ceiling in the industry, but also the one that we impose on ourselves. 

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