How to Take Ups and Downs of Life with Grace

Take a look through LinkedIn or Facebook, and what do you see? Life’s biggest and happiest highlights: new jobs, birthdays, weddings, babies. But Jennifer Tejada, CEO of PagerDuty, pointed out when she took the stage at Girls in Tech’s Catalyst Conference, many of life’s greatest milestones are the things we all choose to leave out of our LinkedIn profiles. And there’s not always the happy kind—you know, like deaths, miscarriages and failed relationships.

Jennifer Tejada

This is what she kicked off with when she took the stage at Catalyst Conference, in its fifth year, last month in San Francisco. It was the epitome of what Catalyst is all about: gritty, authentic and no-BS talks from some of the biggest names in tech and business.

“The last 25 years have been more like an action adventure versus a rom com,” she joked. “Largely because of the great role models I’ve had.”

Jennifer’s talk focused on grace—how to use it to sail through the hardest (and most awkward) moments in life. The hero behind her message? Her Dad. She still carries around the last letter he wrote her, scrawled out on yellow legal paper. In it, he said, “Don’t ever let anyone fluster you or see you sweat, they’ll respect you more. Grace under pressure, kiddo.”

That’s right, grace. Or, as Jennifer explains it, the “dignified, composed way you deal with a very difficult situation—especially when the fight or flight instinct kicks in and you really just want to vomit and flee.”

Jennifer sees her achievements and struggles with grace through the decades and she noted some dramatic shifts as the years passed. For example, in her twenties, she suffered from terrible performance anxiety, fraught with imposter syndrome. It would rear its ugly head at the worst times—such as in mission critical meetings, under the stress of a long day at work, and in lack of perspective and maturity that comes along with being in your twenties.

“When a defining moment comes along, you can define the moment or let the moment define you,” Jennifer told the crowd of more than 800 women. “In my twenties, I was letting the moments define me.”

When her thirties rolled along, Jennifer admits she pushed health and relationships to the side. It was only until “everything came crashing down” that she realized she was just so physically and mentally overwhelmed—and far too independent to ask for help.

“I look back and think – what an idiot! It could have been so much easier. At the same time, was working for a boss who did not have my best interests in mind.”

Well, now she’s 40 and she services as CEO at an enterprise software company. She’s figured out a few things about grace over the years, including breathe deeply and often. It works to slow down and just breathe! And keeping your priorities straight is a good start, as well.

What are your tips and tricks for managing your life and career with grace?

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