I met Maggie at a dinner in Lisbon. We were both staying at Destination Hostels and decided to do a Fado tour. I didn’t know anyone and I heard an American accent from the table beside me. The woman sitting next to me (Maggie) mentioned she was from DC, “Hi I said immediately hearing a familiar voice, we are neighbours, I’m from Toronto.” Sometimes, it’s that easy to make friends on the road. Over Sangria and overpriced bread Maggie and I became fast friends and talked about everything from what it’s like to be a woman in a male dominated industry, to solo travel, to goals we have both set for the future. I found Maggie to be both an awesome and inspiring person and I wanted to share her story with you in the hopes the she inspires you as well :)
1. Tell us a little bit about yourself and what you do?
I am an avid traveler, and an amateur dancer, chef, painter, and writer. I love trying new things, especially food. I live for small discoveries in life of the new or different and the moment when I make a connection with another person. I dream to make the world a better place, both for the environment and humanity.
I recently completed my active service as a Naval Officer. My specialty was surface warfare, which means I operated on naval ships, primarily in the Pacific Ocean, for the last six years. I led 10-50 people in varying capacities to include engineering and navigation. I am a trained ship driver, warfighter, and division leader.
2. Why did you choose this career path?
At 17 years old, it’s hard to realize the career path you are embarking upon when you make the decision to attend a military academy. I did recognize at that young age that I wanted to pursue something different. I wanted to challenge myself, to do the unexpected. I also recognized the unparalleled sense of camaraderie found in the military that I knew I would not find elsewhere. Furthermore, joining gave me financial independence and the opportunity to travel the world.
I also grew up in a time when our nation went to war. A lot of family members and friends in the service demanded my utmost respect. I also realized that decisionmakers with little military experience were sending young men and women abroad to fight and many were not coming home. As an American citizen and in case I ever hold a position of power, I wanted to understand what service to my country truly meant.
3. What inspires you?
People inspire me most. When I travel, it is the people, more than the places, that leave a lasting impact. They challenge the way I think about the world. They make me reflect on my own way of life. They reaffirm to me that positive change can happen in the world, one person at a time.
4. What is your personal mantra or mission statement?
Seek goodness and beauty in all things.
Remember forgiveness is the greatest gift, both for myself and for others.
Be grateful everyday.
Appreciate the people I love.
Sing with soul.
Dance with freedom.
Don’t wait–live the life I always imagined.
I love Mark Twain’s quote, “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” Maybe it’s the nautical reference 🙂
5. What does happiness mean to you?
My father told me years ago that he wishes me not happiness, but fulfillment. I don’t believe there is a recipe for happiness. Life will always have challenges. Happiness is a choice.
6. What are your hobbies?
I pick up new hobbies all the time, but consistently I return to a few. Cooking and dancing. Exploring new places. Learning a new language. People watching.
7. What are a few things you do every single day to keep yourself on track.
To-do lists! Sometimes they make me feel a bit neurotic, but getting thoughts out of my head and on paper gives me peace of mind and marking items off gives me such satisfaction. Also, I try to find a moment of quiet everyday, otherwise my brain will never stop running and I lose that precious time to think and to listen.
8. If you could give advice to someone looking to get into your field what would it be and why?
Do extensive research about the United States military so you have reasonable expectations. I say that because most people’s impression of the military comes from Top Gun or Battleship. I mean, I’m just like Rihanna, right?
Reading the news and following specifically military news can give you a good sense of what is going on in the Navy in particular. Because we operate offshore, in foreign parts of the world, some people lack an understanding of what we really do.
Once you decide to join, the commitment is usually at least four years. It is an incredible opportunity to work with people from all corners of the world who come together as a team to meet challenging missions everyday. It also offers amazing health and education benefits. It’s not for everyone, and it is a sacrifice. That being said, it’s one of the most rewarding careers you can choose. If you are thinking about college, there are officer scholarship opportunities and if you already have a Bachelor’s degree, you can apply for an officer program. Without a Bachelor’s degree, you must enlist through a local recruiter.
9. What has been your most rewarding experience so far? Work or personal
Seeing the people I lead succeed. I feel no better satisfaction than empowering people to use their talent, to help them recognize their own potential, and to maximize their contribution to the success of the team.
I had one very talented and smart, but immature young Sailor a few years ago. Over a year and a half, I worked with him and gave him more and more responsibility. At the end of that time, he received a promotion, he held more responsibility than his peers, and he was singled out as the best Sailor of the year by the Commanding Officer. In the end, he thanked me for the opportunities I presented to him. But that’s all I did, I opened the door to help him realize his own potential.
I have been fortunate to have many mentors who have done the same for me. Empowerment is the key to success, not only of individuals, but of an entire organization.
10. What is the biggest challenge you’ve overcome in your life thus far? What did you learn? Are you thankful for what it taught you?
A very messy divorce between my parents defined my childhood. Despite the hardship we faced as a family, I am thankful for what I learned. (I think being able to admit that is a recent development that has come with much reflection as I’ve grown older!)
The experience I faced as a child taught me forgiveness; it taught me compassion. As humans–sisters, mothers, fathers–we are imperfect and in many instances we do the best we can. I learned that love overcomes all. Despite the friction between my parents, they loved me unconditionally and surrounded me with a community of family and friends who loved me, believed in me, and taught me that anything is possible.
I know that I am a strong person. I am that way because I had to be from a young age.
11. Who is your role model/ who has been the most influential person in your life?
My mother. My mother is a woman who has overcome every obstacle life has thrown at her through fierce determination and unwavering faith in God. She is a loyal friend, a good mother, and a talented artist. She brings joy and comfort to everyone around her and she takes the time to appreciate beauty in everyday life. She is the person who tells me I’m beautiful when I don’t see it, who encourages me when I’m in deepest despair, and who inspires me to pursue my dreams and be true to myself. She taught me that as women, we can be self-sufficient and impactful in our community.
12. When do you feel most inspired?
I feel most inspired when I’m traveling. I enjoy the experiences that turn my world upside down, that challenge me to think in a new way. I try to go to a new place with an open mind and prepare to be changed.