Mistakes I Made at Work: 25 Influential Women Reflect on What They Got Out of Getting It Wrong
High-achieving women share their worst mistakes at work—and how learning from them paved the way to success.
Named by Fast Company as a "Top 10 Book You Need to Read This Year"
In Mistakes I Made at Work, a Publishers Weekly Top 10 Business Book for Spring 2014, Jessica Bacal interviews twenty-five successful women about their toughest on-the-job moments. These innovators across a variety of fields – from the arts to finance to tech – reveal that they’re more thoughtful, purposeful and assertive as leaders because they learned from their mistakes, not because they never made any. Interviewees include:
- Cheryl Strayed, bestselling author of Wild
- Anna Holmes, founding editor of Jezebel.com
- Kim Gordon, founding member of the band Sonic Youth
- Joanna Barsch, Director Emeritus of McKinsey & Company
- Carol Dweck, Stanford psychology professor
- Ruth Ozeki, New York Times bestselling author of Tale for the Time Being
- And many more
For readers of Lean In and #Girlboss, Mistakes I Made for Work is ideal for millenials just starting their careers, for women seeking to advance at work, or for anyone grappling with issues of perfectionism, and features fascinating and surprising anecdotes, as well as tips for readers.
had already become exhausted emotionally and physically. And there’s another layer to this. During that time, I was afraid to come out as queer because I felt as though I was continually on probation, as if I was being watched. As a Latina teacher in an English department, I was already someone the school culture was not used to; parents used to ask me if I was the Spanish teacher. So coming out as a woman of color who was also queer seemed dangerous; I thought it would further push me into more
jobs that were sapping the life out of them; this section is called “Learning to Say No.” Other women discussed experiences that taught them self-advocacy; these are in “Learning to Ask.” Stories in “Learning to Take Charge of Your Own Narrative” are about coming to recognize strengths and becoming more purposeful. And finally, there’s a section called “Learning Resilience”—on getting back up after being knocked down. Through listening to these lessons, and to the generous women who shared them,
to read; maybe he would have succeeded academically and developed self-respect. But part of me knows that only he could have changed his trajectory. I have had gifted athletes since then, but they were not treated the way Duke was. No excuses. I’m quicker at making decisions to kick players off the team. Kids get warnings, but the third time—that’s it. And since my mistake with Duke, I’ve had to give fewer warnings because kids think, “If she can do that with him, then there’s really no coddling
Lessons I’ve Learned Having a limited understanding of what you can do with your college major can confine you to a career path that may not be right for you. Growing up black in Birmingham, Alabama, in the 1950s, I had a lot of practice being told that I couldn’t do things. Our church was bombed multiple times because it was led by a minister who was active in the civil rights movement. Our governor, George Wallace, was sending out the message that the state wouldn’t invest in black kids
journalism and activism. She is part of the OpEd Project, helping to get the voices of women and people of color onto the op-ed pages of major media sources; she was one of the founding editors of the blog Feministing; and she has now partnered with a colleague to develop Valenti Martin Media, a communications consulting firm focused on helping social justice organizations to increase effectiveness. She’s written several books, including Perfect Girls, Starving Daughters: How the Quest for