When I came to the United States from the Philippines as a 25 year-old, I had a journalism degree and virtually nothing else. After working for a short time as a marketing consultant in construction, I noticed the need for the construction and legal industries to find reliable, well-informed subject matter specialists, consultants and experts.

Any entrepreneur will recognize this as a classic “aha moment,” the presentation of an opportunity to create my own niche, write my own destiny. But while I pieced together my nascent expert consulting services company, a chorus of naysayers scoffed.

“You’re not an engineer,” they told me. “You’re not a lawyer. You don’t have a business degree. You can’t do this.”

‘If you love what you do, are grateful for the gifts you have, and give back, you can turn an idea into an industry.’

I said nothing. I didn’t have to. I had a goal. After 26 years, my firm is now a national industry leader. I am told frequently that this is a remarkable feat for a woman and a minority who took on a male-dominated industry and thrived.

But I don’t see it that way.

When I walk into a room, I see a level playing field. I have talents, and more importantly, I have vision. All CEOs are driven. The good ones know where they’re going.

When I look back at the young, undeterred woman I was 26 years ago, I realize that what distinguishes my career trajectory is a centeredness that has served as my roadmap. Each step along that map informed the direction I took as a mother, wife, daughter and business leader. Each step still guides me today.

Step 1. Know yourself.

In 1991 when I started ForensisGroup, certain men expected women to stand back and listen. The thing is, when you listen, you learn. I learned so much from people who had no idea they were teaching me. I’m still not an engineer, and I’m still not a lawyer. But I am a problem-solver who has a purpose, knows her deep driving desire and has always been able to bend negativity into life lessons.

Step 2. Focus on the big picture.

For me, family has always come first. While growing an idea into a $10 million company, I never missed a ballet recital or football game. One reason I decided to strike out on my own was to gift myself the flexibility to be a working role model and a present mother, daughter and wife.

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