Charlotte Riser Harris, Manager, Practice Support, Hess Corporation
(for the last 5.5 years)
Q: What did you want to do when you were 10 years old?
A: I have no idea! I was already taking leadership roles, so even then liked being in charge. Soon after I probably determined I wanted to work with children in some way.
Q: What was your favorite class in high school? Why?
A: Art History. I had a phenomenal teacher who used art to put the history of the world and cultures in context. Projects and tests were theory and concept based. Context and relationships work for me! And in college my very favorite test was an essay for Biology!
Q: What was your first paid job?
A: Other than babysitting, I was a tour guide starting at age 16 at Gunston Hall, a colonial home in Lorton, Virginia.
Q: How did you end up in your current role?
A: I intended to be a Child Psychologist and went to work for Children’s Protective Services to get experience working with disturbed, traumatized children. I ended up moving from the social worker role into the legal department as a paralegal assigned to one juvenile court handling all of its cases. I loved the legal world, went to paralegal school (needed more money), and went to work at a large law firm in litigation. I then found that I loved the technology, so ended up in litigation support. All were good and natural transitions that I identified and worked to make happen.
Q: What do you like most about your current role?
A: The fast pace and challenge. The opportunities to implement positive change and be involved with other departments to work together on huge, game-changing initiatives (e.g. information governance).
Q: Who was your most important mentor, coach, advocate or role model and how did (s)he help you?
A: It’s hard to identify just one, but years ago an attorney encouraged me to go to paralegal school and that was a breakthrough for me. Growing up, my parents taught me I could do anything I wanted to do and to be sure I was always doing my best.
Q: What is currently your biggest career challenge?
A: Managing different personality types, sometimes resulting from generational issues.
Q: What’s your 5-year career plan, i.e. where would you like to be in 2020?
A: Retired! And working either on environmental issues (litter, recycling) or with children. Or both!
Q: What do you see as the biggest roadblock to your career advancement?
A: At this point, getting the department to a point of development where I can turn it over to my successor and finding a great successor before I retire!
Q: What is the best career advice you’ve received?
A: Get past the initial change period of new situations – give it a year.
Q: What career advice would you give to women beginning their careers?
A: Always leave doors open and think creatively about opportunities and options. Make sure you are doing what makes you happy to go to work each day; if you find yourself in a situation where you are not happy, figure out why before making a change. Sometimes the newness feels unhappy and sometimes you have to give it time. I believe one needs a year to figure out if something major and new is right or not. On the other hand, I find making a significant change every 10 years or so keeps work interesting and me challenged. I don’t plan it but that seems to be my threshold – pay attention and don’t get bored.
Q: What mistakes do you see women making in their careers?
A: Not speaking up and asking. Not controlling their destiny.
Q: What book changed your career or life?
A: Stephen Covey’s Seven Habits of Highly Effective People is a mainstay. Recently I’ve been inspired by Essentialism, by Greg McKeown, and The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, by Marie Kondo. Can you tell I’m moving toward retirement?
Q: What is your favorite quote?
A: No one could make a greater mistake than he who did nothing because he could do only a little. (Edmund Burke 1729-1797)