Julie Myers Wood has been a corporate attorney, run a large government agency, founded a business, sold a business, and now heads the company that purchased her company.

She definitely knows a thing or two about navigating through different worlds.

Wood, CEO of Guidepost Solutions, spoke recently about her career path at a meeting of the Capital Area Cornell Women’s Network (CACWN). While lots of people have bios, Wood has takeaways.

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Know what you bring to the table.

Wood talked about overhearing a conversation between two fellow first-year law schools with Ivy-league undergraduate degrees who were certain they were the smartest people in their class. (Enron, anyone?) Wood realized then that while she might not have the highest IQ among her classmates, she could outwork them. The point: there are different pathways to success, but the first step is understanding what you bring to the table.

Use what you have.

As a young attorney, Wood worked for a special prosecutor on a high-profile case. As one of only two women (and the youngest member of the team), she had the unenviable job of escorting a young, unhappy female witness back-and-forth to the bathroom. Funny thing happened along the way: the witness started to bond with Wood. Wood’s male colleagues took notice, and suddenly her opinion mattered and she was sitting in on high-level strategy sessions. Often who you are is as useful or more so than book learning, job title, or business know-how. Which is another reminder of why and how relationships matter in business.

Be open to new things.

Wood’s career has hardly been linear–but it’s been successful. She pointed out that much of her career happened because she was open to new opportunities that broadened her experience and opened even more doors.

You’re on a tightrope.

When asked about leaving government to start her own business, Wood pointed out that “you’re on a tightrope anyway.” The point: job security is largely a myth and there are pros and cons to everything. For her, starting a business was liberating. For someone else, it might be changing jobs or switching careers. Whatever your passion is, it’s important to take a chance on yourself.

Photos by westpark and Carolyn Jacobson.