Rise, Lead and Guide
Taking risks and living outside of her comfort zone is how Anna Sampang began her career with Toyota 29 years ago. It was a strategy that has proven very successful for her. Fresh out of college, she chose to come to work for Toyota in the management trainee program that offered four, six-month rotations in different areas within the company. She did not know it at the time, but from day one, she began her career defining strategy of building transferable skills that not only made her an invaluable employee, but also a successful mentor.
“Learning a new a new job is risky, but it helped me build the muscle I needed to shape myself into new roles,” Sampang shared. “I learned that I was not expected to be an expert in everything. I was in an environment where I was supported when I did take a risk. While I did not have a road map to my career, I learned that when I built my brand, others were able to see my skills,” she continued. That support she received early on left a lasting impression on her. As she moved forward in her career, that was the same philosophy she passed on to the people on her own team.
“When I need to fill a position, I don’t look for someone who has had a career that has grown vertically,” Sampang said. She looks for people, like herself, who have been brave enough to shift gears and find where they can contribute. Centering on confidence, Sampang helps her team apply their skills outside of their wheelhouse. “Toyota is good at developing people and pushing them to grow. They create opportunities for team members,” she continued.
Toyota promotes mentorships within their teams. It’s a long-standing professional tradition within the company. “In a mentorship relationship you still need to be open to drive your own career,” said Sampang. “Understand where you want to go but don’t put too much pressure on yourself.” Sampang shared that she was very appreciative of the mentors she worked with early on. Today, she can give back to the company and be a mentor to others. “Have a mentor when you start out and then mentor back, give back when you are able,” she advised.
When Sampang first began at Toyota, there were not as many women in leadership roles as there are today. “Today women are invested in, at the highest levels,” she shared. “We should ensure women rise, lead then guide.” That is the essence of why we celebrate Women’s History Month each March. All women, their contributions to events in history, in the workplace and in society are observed, recognized, and highlighted. “It is exciting to celebrate women and especially their journey,” said Sampang. “Women supporting women and sharing their experiences is so very important.”
Living outside of our comfort zones is not a fun place for most of us. Anna Sampang has made a successful career out of doing just that. This month as we celebrate Women’s History Month, take some of her advice. Don’t be afraid to stretch your limits and put yourself in a position where you might fail. Support taking risks. Rise, lead, and then guide.
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