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Unapologetically Ambitious - by Shellye Archambeau - Book Review - by Julie C. DeCuypere

05 Oct 2022 6:40 PM | Anonymous

This past August, WWLF held another dynamic virtual book discussion.  I was thrilled to co-lead the session along with WWLF Vice-President, Beth Martindale.  Our choice of book was the inspirational “Unapologetically Ambitious” by Shellye Archambeau. Shellye is the former CEO of MetricStream.  Ms. Archambeau has over 30 years of experience in technology leading organizations focused on business-to-business as well as business-to-consumer.

The book begins with her remarkable childhood beginnings and paints a vivid picture of her loving family and the values they instilled in her.  Like many parents, they sacrificed and saved to afford quality experiences and education for their children.  But Shellye remembers these “sacrifices” as “choices” and uses this notion as a framework for her story.

She divides her book into five distinct sections and offers advice and insights on how to navigate the various stages of professional and personal life.  Some of the Early Lessons in Part One are: “Create Your Own Luck” and “Beware of Imposter Syndrome”.  One of the chapters that really resonated with the WWLF members on the video call was “Find Your Cheerleaders” - “We all need cheerleaders in life:  People who, when things aren’t going well, will believe in you and tell you you’re a good person.”  For Archambeau, her family was her first cheerleaders.  Through WWLF, we have found cheerleaders who support each other.

In the chapter entitled “Set Your Goals”, the author writes about her “seemingly insatiable craving for recognition.”  With vivid honesty, she recounts her early realizations that being involved in organizations gave her a way to show leadership and make an impact, even as a high schooler.  A younger version of herself connected the dots that would lead her to set a goal of wanting to run a business someday.

In Part Two, “Strategize for Success”, she digs into the juice of the book about her planning and preparation.  In the chapter on Fostering Self-Determination, Shellye writes about the three key factors of self-determination: competence, autonomy, and relatedness.  “Research has shown that if you don’t have all three, you’ll be more likely to struggle or withdraw from challenges… Looking back I see how carefully my parents steered me toward developing all three categories.”

Part Three is about “Living the Plan” and her descriptions of how she put her ambitious and thoughtful plan into action are fascinating!  Each goal was executed, from her choice of qualities in a spouse to the timing of when she had children.  Shellye Archambeau moved forward with no second thoughts.  The chapter about delegating hit home for me.  Her advice echoes many other management and leadership experts: Learn to delegate.  “I don’t mean that senior people don’t work hard.  Most do.  But they take on less creation personally.  They inspire, direct, review, edit, and enable their teams to get the necessary work done.”  The author challenges her readers to Embrace their Limits, Live Your Values, and, somewhat controversially, “Forget about Work/Life Balance.”  “I believe in making choices, not sacrifices.”

In Part Four of the book, entitled “Swerve,” we join the author as she matures into her life and career and has to make even more difficult decisions in order to achieve her goals.  She acknowledges the choices that took her away from her family, especially as she pursued a new position in Silicon Valley.  I don’t want to spoil the ending, but for those who aren’t familiar with Ms. Archambeau’s trajectory, let’s just say she had to make some tough decisions in order to build and grow each company that she was a part of, especially the technology start-ups she joined.  Her tenacity is catching.  You cannot help but be inspired by her journey.  She also shares encouragement with her readers..  “Believe in yourself.  Set your goals.  Go after them.  Reap the rewards.  You deserve it.  These are the messages I want you to take with you.”

In the final section, Improving Your Odds, she covers such topics as Finding Your Mentors, Building Your Network, and Taking Risks.  Her story is more than just a how-to but also serves to inspire and embolden women to take action to further their career without apologies!

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