CARY, N.C. — Maureen McQueen's rise to the top of the insurance industry wasn't a straight path. She describes her career as a jungle gym instead of a ladder.
McQueen, who moved to Raleigh from New York two and a half years ago, is now the senior vice president of Global Services and Operations for MetLife.
When asked what led to her success, her answer was simple:
“I bring my whole self to work every day,” she said. "And I've taken risks."
McQueen holds both a BA and MBA from DeSales University in Pennsylvania where she graduated magna cum laude. She also earned a certificate from the Wharton School of Business for Global Leadership.
“I actually took the long road on both accounts,” McQueen said. “I was an evening student for my undergraduate degree, while raising boys and working full-time, and I was also an evening student for my MBA.”
“It was challenging, but I did it because I wanted it, and I did it for me. You have to do it for you because it takes a lot of endurance.”
WRAL sat down with McQueen to discuss her career, female mentorship and the importance of taking risks.
This conversation has been edited for clarity.
WRAL: How important is having a mentor, specifically a female mentor in the workplace?
MM: For women, I think the most important thing is supporting each other. Building a network to support you is critical at both a personal and professional level. You need to surround yourself with people who will tell you what you need to hear and coach you, so you will grow. If I could speak to my younger self, I would have said to find a mentor sooner in your career.
WRAL: If you were to have a conversation with your 22-year-old self, what would you say?
MM: Looking back, it’s all about balance. When I look at my life, I look at three different levers - happiness at home, respect at work and personal growth. I would tell myself to always ask am growing both personally and professionally? Am I learning? It’s not always going to be perfect, and maybe one of them might be out of sync, and that’s okay, but if two or all three are out of sync, you really need to step back and regroup. It’s not about being everything to everyone.
I think when my children were younger, my work-life balance was different, and I needed different things. But that organizational thought process would have been helpful in my journey.
WRAL: How important is it for women to be in decision-making roles within companies?
MM: Business is all about knowing your customers, and having a mind at the table that represents diversity will drive the right results. We live in a world of diversity, so we have to represent that. My line of thinking is pretty basic in that regard. If a business really wants to become a powerhouse, diversity needs to be at the core of business and the company’s culture.
WRAL: How did you get to the place in your career right now?
MM: Sometimes you take a position that is right for you, and sometimes you don’t. It’s about the experience. What I’ve done in my career to help me is that I was willing to take risks. I’ve taken daunting, undefined roles, but I embraced the challenge because I knew that stretching myself outside my comfort zone would be the reward. You really don’t know what you’re going to be when you grow up. It’s all about looking at an opportunity in the moment. If you’re ready to take that risk, and it excites you, then go for it.
WRAL: What are your hopes for the next generation of female professionals?
MM: The positive change for both men and women is an amazing feat. We still have a long ways to go, but there is a strong awareness for the need to change. My hope for the next generation is that diversity and inclusion is in all of our DNA and that we don’t have to have these types of interviews because it’s already there.