Marshae Mansfield got an out-of-the-blue call last year from a top executive at her company, Lenovo.
After spending more than two decades in sales roles, Mansfield was surprised that the executive, Christian Teismann, was offering her the role of chief operating officer for Lenovo's North America business.
"I was silent on the phone, and I said, 'Did you call the right person? You know that I've been in sales for 22 years—I haven't had any experience on the operations side of the business,'" Mansfield recalled saying, while speaking during the Women in Tech event at Lenovo's Accelerate partner conference in May. "So I was feeling very uncomfortable with this conversation."
Teismann, who at the time was serving as interim president for Lenovo's North America business, replied that he was well aware of Mansfield's history. "'But as Lenovo evolves to a customer-centric organization, you have 22 years of direct customer experience—and that's a different perspective on a COO role, which has historically been very operational [and] analytical,'" Mansfield recalled Teismann saying. "So I went out on a limb and said 'Absolutely, I'd love to do this job.'"
As it turns out, "it's probably the best job I've ever had in my career," she said. "It's the most fun I've had. And it's just incredibly exciting to me. But it was a risk. And I think that you have to do that."
Ultimately, to advance in your career, "you have to take risks. And you have to put yourself in sometimes uncomfortable situations," she said.
Meanwhile, Mansfield said she has been unapologetic in her pursuit of work-life balance during her career.
"I try to do a good job, I try to deliver for the company, but I also know that I'm also a wife and a mother. And I don't want to give that up - I do believe that you [need to] have balance," she said.
Mansfield recalled her decision to take three years off after having her third child, for instance.
"A lot of people told me, 'Look, you're going to wreck your career, you're never going to be able to go back in the workplace,'" she said. "And that to me was motivation to prove them wrong."