Posted: 5 Min Read Diversity & Inclusion

You Are the Author of Your Life Story

Liza D. shares how challenging circumstances as a child led her to view the world with a growth mindset as an adult, including teaching others to do the same.

I grew up in a working class home and my dad left when I was five years old. My younger sister and I were forced to grow up quickly when my mum – experiencing sadness, loneliness, and now a single parent – found herself in very difficult circumstances. Although she met my step-dad and had my half-brother a few years after, she continued to struggle – eventually turning to alcohol when I was just ten years old. Needless to say, my siblings and I saw and experienced things that had lasting emotional impact.

Although I loved school, I struggled to focus. I was that kid staring out of the window, handing in homework late, and accidentally leaving textbooks at home. I wasn’t naughty, just very distracted. School reports would read, “Liza has so much potential but what a shame she doesn’t apply herself”. I desperately wanted to apply myself.

As I entered the workforce I had to navigate new gender-related challenges. Comments made about women in the office were often about how they looked, rather than their ability, and because of my youth and inexperience I struggled to assert my desire to be taken seriously. I was beginning to be much more mindful about how I was forming my identity and what I chose to believe about myself.

Comments made about women in the office were often about how they looked, rather than their ability, and because of my youth and inexperience I struggled to assert my desire to be taken seriously.

Despite these distractions, I had an undeniable drive. Although my experiences brought about feelings of guilt, anxiety, anger and shame, I wanted a happy life. I wanted to be the best version of myself, to ensure that my future children and partner would experience more safety, comfort, and joy than I had––things I knew I could have some control over. It wasn’t in my nature to rely on anyone else to provide this for me. It took me a long time to navigate my emotions––to understand that being ambitious isn’t selfish, that I had no control over the behavior of others, and that the only person responsible for my own happiness and success was me. 

I had to work very hard on improving my self-esteem, assertiveness, perfectionism, and my disorganized mind – all of which I believe were due to anxiety carried through from childhood. I relied on my natural love of learning, and discovered that I already had the grit and determination inside me that was necessary to get where I wanted to go. I believe that these difficult circumstances provided me with the experience and mindset I needed to persevere and be successful. I feel proud to have obtained a degree, traveled extensively across six continents, and after two years at Symantec to be recognized with a global award for my work. I was also included in PCR Magazine’s ‘Top 25 Women in Tech 2018’ feature alongside some very accomplished women. I regularly experience feelings of joy and contentment that I once didn’t believe were possible.

My personal story is unique to me, but it’s also a universal story. We all have stories of hardship or stories of disadvantage; each one of our lives is touched at some point by feelings of shame, guilt, sadness, or trauma. 

My personal story is unique to me, but it’s also a universal story. We all have stories of hardship or stories of disadvantage; each one of our lives is touched at some point by feelings of shame, guilt, sadness, or trauma. Now, at age 34 – well into my adulthood – I can see how some of my experiences sent me off course at times. But I can also see how my unrelenting commitment to personal development and a better life has set me on a positive path – and how the results of my efforts are gradually gaining momentum. 

These days I spend much of my free time working with communities in need – volunteering with homeless charities, helping sick and injured British Armed Services personnel make the transition back to civilian life. I also support a number of Women in Tech initiatives inside and outside of Symantec. While none of these efforts makes me a saint, I do find that I get a lot of fulfillment from championing the underdog and helping others to overcome their obstacles. 

The Women in Tech movement is especially relevant to me now as a marketer in cyber security. The under-representation of women in cyber security is startling, and there are a number of factors contributing to the low numbers – many external, but just as many inside our own heads. Moving forward it is my hope that women break through their limiting beliefs about what we should be doing – beliefs such as feeling that we cannot compete in a male dominated world or that we deserve less because of our backgrounds. These beliefs will only keep women underrepresented and perpetuate the status quo. 

I am grateful to work for Symantec, a company that embodies my values, and recognizes and rewards hard work regardless of gender. Companies like Symantec have a great opportunity to set the tone for other corporations for what’s to come in the future.

The message I always try to share with other women and girls is that when we change our mindset, we can be motivated by our pain, setbacks, criticism, and unfavorable circumstances. 

The message I always try to share with other women and girls is that when we change our mindset, we can be motivated by our pain, setbacks, criticism, and unfavorable circumstances. Yes, we are all struggling, we all carry childhood scars, and we’ve all been undermined at times. And, we all criticize ourselves too harshly.

While it’s undeniable that we often find ourselves in environments that are unfair, we must focus on what we are able to control – what we can do to achieve our dreams, and not blindly follow an agenda set out for us by others. We can educate ourselves by reading books and articles, attending courses, or working with a mentor. We can learn from those who are where we want to be. We can develop a friendship circle that loves, supports, and inspires us. We can always find resources to acquire the skills we need. What we definitely should not do is let disadvantages dictate where we end up. 

Most of all, we can honor what the so-called bad times taught us – how we became more resilient, more empathetic, or more assertive because of what we went through. We don’t have to share our whole life story but we should be careful not to devalue how the obstacles in our lives played a critical role in our personal growth. The obstacles are the essence of our story. And they are the greatest tools we have to shape how our story evolves. 

We are not broken, and we do not need to be “fixed”. What we all need are opportunities to grow and to channel all of the energy we have inside of us into something we can be proud of.

We are not broken, and we do not need to be “fixed”. What we all need are opportunities to grow and to channel all of the energy we have inside of us into something we can be proud of. Something that gives meaning to our setbacks and suffering. Something that brings about our authenticity and gives us confidence to shine in every area of our lives.

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About the Author

Liza Dempsey-Vicent

Senior Marketing Specialist

Liza Dempsey-Vicent has worked for Norton, Symantec’s consumer business since 2016 as Senior Marketing Specialist in the UK. She also loves to practice yoga, explore new countries, read, cook (and sing whenever the opportunity arises!).

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