Leaders at Home and in the Boardroom

Women often feel like others expect them to have it all together all the time. Be a good mom. Work hard. Keep the house in working order. It can be a challenge to be everything to everyone, but these local leaders managed to have it all at home and in their careers. And they are now the proud mothers of happy, healthy and grounded adult children.

Building a Career and a Family
Kathleen Canning has seen the Orange County Convention Center transform from a smaller venue on a developing International Drive to the booming event hub that it is today. She started in the sales department in 1984, and now, five expansions later, she is at the top of the corporate ladder, serving as executive director.

Her leadership style is clear and direct, and she has high expectations for herself and others. This, she says, is why she sometimes struggles with patience as she works with various private and public entities to complete projects in a timely manner. “I do like to say that I am much more patient now than I was earlier in my career,” she adds.

As Canning built her successful career, she was also busy raising her daughter and stepson with her husband Gary. “The only time it was really challenging was when I first had Caitlin and had to go back to work after maternity leave,” she says. “I think I was in a fog that whole first year.”

Luckily, Canning’s bosses allowed her to do a job share for a year and a half with another working mother. The two were so motivated that they hit 120 percent of their goal. Canning also credits her supportive spouse and his willingness to help with the kids with making it easier for her to achieve a work-life balance.

Her advice for other working moms? “Give yourself a break because you can’t do everything. Try and have as much of a support system as you can both at the office and at home, and let things go. Keep in mind that work is just that.”

Making a Plan and Sticking To It
Deborah German, founding dean for the University of Central Florida College of Medicine, is a born planner. With her ability to flawlessly execute her vision, it’s no wonder she was at the helm as the medical school came to fruition.

While she is known for raising funds to provide the school’s entire charter class with full four-year scholarships when others doubted her, German’s most expertly crafted plan was the birth of her first daughter. In a time when having a family and being a doctor didn’t co-exist, she decided that she and her husband were going to have a baby during the third year of her residency in internal medicine to allow for a maternity break. She succeeded down to the exact date she had set.

In her search for the fellowship that would follow her residency, she let every interviewer in on her plan to have a baby two and a half years in the future. As she told them, “I intend to be the best mother I can be and among the best fellows you’ve ever had.”

As her career progressed, German was raising two daughters. She often doubted if the decisions she made for herself were affecting them. Once her daughters were grown, she learned that they had fond memories of being at her side at the clinic and during activities she chose to do for herself, like working out.

She hopes other working mothers know that deep down inside they, too, can achieve a balance. “They just need to know that it’s possible,” she says. “If I can do it then anybody can do it.”

Always Moving Forward
Kay Rawlins is the queen of Orlando soccer now, but the road to get there was paved with motherhood and career shifts. Rawlins started off in banking after she graduated from high school in England. Just over 10 years later and was a stay-at-home mom with two babies.

Eventually, she started volunteering at her daughter’s preschool, which led her to return to college for an education degree and, ultimately, to purchase the preschool she volunteered at. Always aware of what the working mother needed, Rawlins extended the daycare hours to accommodate this need. The demand to attend was so high that she opened another location.

As her business continued to grow and administrative responsibilities increased, Rawlins lost what she loved most: the time spent being creative with the kids. So she sold the business and moved to Austin, Texas, with her husband Phil.

Rawlins has never felt there were barriers between her and success, instead taking an opposition to any challenge. Likewise, she has no regrets about being a working mother. “I have four amazing kids who are independent thinkers and have a sense of adventure,” she says.

She encourages working moms who want it all to go for it just like she did and offers a word of advice: “Don’t be afraid to fail.”


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Written by Lyndsay Fogarty

Lyndsay Fogarty has had many roles at Central Florida Lifestyle, working her way from intern to contributing writer to managing editor. She is a graduate of the University of Central Florida’s Nicholson School of Communication where she earned her degree in journalism. Along the way, she has learned that teamwork and dedication to your craft will get you far, and a positive outlook on the present will get you even farther.

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