Never Give Up: Grit Up

Written by:

Monica Krishnan

“Our virtues and our failings are inseparable, like force and matter. When they separate, man (or woman) is no more.”

Nikola Tesla

I was asked to speak to the fact that I was nominated three times before I received the GRIT award, and why I wasn’t discouraged to apply again. I think of Tesla and this quote often.

Through out my life and career, I have hit many bumps and have had to get up and try again.  My father is an engineer, and as a child I always knew that I also wanted to do this. So, I pursued a Mechanical Engineering degree. 

I was one of the few women in my Mechanical Engineering class in college, and initially, it didn’t bother me. But one day in class, a professor said that it was a waste of a chair when a woman took his class because they would end up barefoot and pregnant at some point.

This absolutely floored me.

I went home that day and thought, 'he is going to flunk me'. Nervous, I did horribly on the first test and went to his office to ask some questions, and he said, “You aren’t going to pass, I think you should drop out while you can”. I left his office stunned and then eventually felt angry. He told me to drop his own class... that I wasn’t capable of the same results as my male counterparts.

Instead of being discouraged, I used that pessimism to fuel my motivation and work even harder to prove him wrong. More importantly, I wanted to prove to myself that I could do it. And I did. Today, I stand before you as a Mechanical Engineer.

Grit is something that applies to all places in your life.

Shortly after having my son, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. It was very unexpected. I was still in my 30s, had no family history, and am extremely active and vegetarian. I felt something similar to what I felt when the professor told me to drop the class: anger.

So, I channeled that anger in to the part of my efforts to fight.

I was not going to let this get me down; not let it kill me. There is the internal part that only I could deal with, but there were also the external factors, like my family and friends that offered me help. I had an incredible support system and live in a city with the most advanced medical centers in the world. It was this support from my family, friends, and doctors that gave me the extra strength I used to fight. I am now proud to say that I'm celebrating my second year of remission.

So, I have struggled and persevered in my personal and professional lives. I have been lucky to continue to learn and strive while working at Chevron.

Chevron has a unique set of values, the Chevron Way Values. One of them emphasizes building relationships with internal and external partners.  My colleague who nominated me, Arran Davidson, was a technology provider I worked with. Initially, his company's technology didn’t pass the trial phase. Despite that, he enjoyed working with me and wanted to remain colleagues. After working with me on and off for the next two years, he nominated me for the GRIT award. Despite not winning, he nominated me two more times because he truly believed I deserved it.

Monica Krishnan, Mechanical Engineer, Breast Cancer survivor and GRIT Award winner.

Believing in yourself and never giving up is important, but it is just as important to surround yourself with others who are positive, push you, and believe in you.

The Human Energy you receive from others can influence you to do great things. Having sponsors (cheerleaders/supporters) in your career and life is important, especially given the times we are in. With uncertainty and transformation happening in the industry, and COVID keeping us physically apart, it's crucial to keep yourself surrounded through communities like ALLY.

Most important is to have advocates (or allies) that speak up for you when you can’t. In my case, my nominator, Arran, was my advocate. So, I encourage those who may feel like they are not going to succeed, to believe in yourself and try harder.

Surround yourself with positive and supportive people.

If you see someone who needs encouragement or help, reach out and give them a helping hand. You could be their advocate, like Arran was mine. So, per Nikola Tesla, “Our virtues and our failings are inseparable, like force and matter. When they separate, man (or woman) is no more.” Remember through all of those virtues and failings, keep your head up and your support close and you will succeed.

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