The Biggest Risk Is Not Taking Risk

By Rachel A. McCaffrey and Josephine Lewis
Josephine Lewis

© Raytheon

“The perfect is the enemy of the good enough.” Fortunately, a close friend imparted this wisdom when the Air Force selected me for promotion to major.

Her assertion gave me the confidence to take risks, to innovate, to lead boldly without worrying about making mistakes or needing to achieve a perfect outcome. It helped me stomp on impostor syndrome, the self-doubt and sense of fraudulence that can overcome feelings of accomplishment, when accomplishment appears to fall short of ideal.

Her advice encouraged me to volunteer to lead big projects and gave me confidence to succeed. As we embark on Women’s History month, I’m honored to highlight a Women In Defense volunteer leader who embraced this ethos in 2020, generating positive professional impacts for herself and other women.

Like many of us, Josephine Lewis spent 2020 prioritizing between her job and family in ways she never anticipated. She enjoys working for Raytheon Technologies and she loves her five-year-old twins; however, she never expected to simultaneously work from home recruiting talented individuals and leading kindergarten for smart, energetic kids.

Many women would feel they had enough on their plate with work, family and a pandemic. But Lewis also serves as volunteer leader for WID, and in 2020 she accepted a significant additional workload to organize and execute a virtual event, “Taking More Risk.”

She stepped up to this leadership challenge because she wanted to help other women achieve their professional objectives by reframing their mindsets to view risk not as a potential danger, but instead as an opportunity.

WID depends on volunteer leader passion and initiative to achieve its twofold mission of helping women within the national security enterprise achieve their personal objectives and encouraging talented young women to choose the field as a career.

This means volunteer leaders enjoy wide latitude to work on projects and events they choose based on interest, significance and professional impact.

Lewis volunteers for two reasons: because she wants to participate in a community that makes a difference in people’s lives, and she seeks professional development opportunities in human resources. She specifically volunteers for WID because she knows many women, like herself, struggle with taking the next steps in their careers; they don’t know how or where to start.

She recognizes challenges exist along everyone’s career path, including fear of failure, fear of embarrassment, or fear of inadequacy. She finds WID volunteer leadership a critical tool to overcome these challenges, because connecting with other women facing similar challenges helps create shared confidence.

Lewis’s background and motivation made her the perfect project leader for the WID Greater Boston Chapter’s “Taking More Risk” event, which encouraged women to embrace risk by pursuing leadership opportunities in their careers and life. Anchored by a panel featuring speakers from industry and government, 217 participants tackled common challenges from different perspectives.

After the panel, attendees could access virtual networking booths to engage with a cross-section of women working in defense in the Boston area, and engage one-on-one with panelists and each other to share information and advice about taking risk in pursuit of career objectives.

Lewis received positive feedback after the event, with one participant focused on the idea, “you miss 100 percent of the shots you don’t take.” This aligned with her takeaway: “the biggest risk is not taking any risk.”

That sentiment resonates with Lewis because she did find it hard to carve out time for the event, given other demands on her schedule. However, she wanted to participate in an event designed to encourage women to take more risks and she recognized someone needed to take the initiative to make the event a reality.

She volunteered believing she would enjoy a significant return on her investment of time, talent and energy.

Lewis led “Taking More Risk” because she felt the event would provide her with practical tools to help her attain her professional goals. It can be very difficult to manage personal priorities with professional priorities, and some women hesitate to take on additional tasks fearing they won’t execute the additional tasks perfectly.

An unrealistic standard of perfection can prevent women from volunteering to lead a professional development event, a classic case of the perfect as the enemy of the good enough.

I’m sure Lewis faced challenges in organizing and executing the event, but attendees didn’t notice. What they noticed, and what they commented upon, was the value they derived from panelist stories and advice.

Lewis understands she does not know from where her next professional opportunity will emerge. But she knows it’s out there. Volunteer leadership strengthens her network and enhances her knowledge, skills and abilities, increasing her access to opportunities and preparing her to identify and seize them.

So, take the risk! Joining WID will build your network, foster your well-being, and provide you with learning experiences in leading and supporting projects to benefit your career.

Additionally, leading these events allows you to influence others’ lives, in ways you cannot imagine. It won’t always be perfect, but it will likely be good enough, for you and the many other women your leadership will impact.

Josephine Lewis is talent acquisition at Raytheon Missiles and Defense and Rachel McCaffrey is executive director of Women In Defense.

Topics: Defense Department

Comments (0)

Retype the CAPTCHA code from the image
Change the CAPTCHA codeSpeak the CAPTCHA code
Please enter the text displayed in the image.