How to Become A Corporate Executive by Jessica Higgins

Posted By Stacy |

Jessica Higgins is Chief Operating Officer of Gapingvoid Culture Design Group, a consultancy that uses design thinking and management science to create better work cultures. She is a graduate of the University of Miami School of Law and University of Miami Graduate School of Business. She became a business executive at the age of 27 after growing a company by over 500% as a first year associate, and partner by the age of 29, by creating a methodology for improving work environments that is quickly becoming the industry standard for improving engagement and innovation in corporate enterprise. Her client list includes Microsoft, Zappos, Goldman Sachs, AT&T, Roche Pharmaceuticals and many others. She currently manages teams of consultants and creatives around the world from her company headquarters in Miami Beach, Florida.

In November of 2015, she wrote the following open advice for women who want to become corporate executives. This document has been widely distributed by professors, female executives, and is given out to women at her alma mater upon their graduation. 

How to become a female executive: from my personal, biased anecdotal evidence…

1.   You’re going to cry. Don’t pretend like you’re not a woman. Everyone else already knows this. You’ll be fine.

2.   Make brave choices daily. By that I mean, create thoughtful perspective and voice it. Your perspective is immensely more valuable than your nodding head, therefore, it is always the better choice.

3.   Decide who you are, and what you want to accomplish.

4.   If anyone tries to influence the above: carry on.

5.   Begin projects by setting expectations for yourself and others. You can do anything, but you cannot do everything. Take on new tasks with excitement and be honest regarding your skill and time. Say that you cannot do it yet, so it takes time, but only the first time.

6.   Build your skillset over time through the above. The future is made for generalists.

7.   Speak your value daily. The female downfall is to sit around expecting others to notice you. You’re only as good as you execute, but not really, really only to the extent that others are aware.

8.   Get comfortable with the fact that you will fail. Expect it.

9.   When failure happens: learn; forge ahead. And see step 1.

10. When you communicate, always speak to the end user What do they want to know? The rest doesn’t matter. Skip it.

11. Make decisions and communications always from logic. If you have good statistics and financials, you’re probably going to win. We all have feelings and emotions, but the best come prepared.

12. If you encounter someone who works illogically, convert your logic to the end user’s emotional outcome, and communicate that to gain buy-in.

13. Don’t allow the emotional state of others interfere with your brain space. There is much to be done, and the person who accomplishes the most (over the long term) wins. Don’t mess around with politics.

14. If you find yourself in an environment with harassment, or even an undertone: leave. You’re not going anywhere there, anyway.

15. Find people who don’t care that you’re a woman.

16. Do great things. Solve for big, complex unknowns. You can.

17. The rest does not take care of itself. Demand it.

18. Keep demanding it.

19. Never expect it to get easy. Humans love solving problems, otherwise we get bored and create problems for ourselves that we can then pretend to solve. Congratulations – you aren’t bored. You are interesting. Enjoy that.

20. Leverage your intellectual advantages, and especially take advantage of the fact that you do not get distracted by the opposite gender. You would be shocked at how much time men waste on this topic.


Jessica is a public speaker, strategist and published author on creating end-to-end culture design solutions in healthcare, higher education, governments and large corporations. Her clients include Microsoft, Zappos, Roche, AT&T, Pfizer, L’Oreal, US Bank, Babson College, and many others.