Be All You Can Be!

By Clarke, Caroline V. | Black Enterprise, February 1996 | Go to article overview

Be All You Can Be!

Clarke, Caroline V., Black Enterprise

SMART, ELEGANT AND GRACIOUS TO A FAULT, Joyce Roche has been a role model for countless professionals for more than a decade. In her much celebrated career at Avon Products Inc., she glided from one groundbreaking marketing opportunity to another, becoming a virtual case study in "rising to the top."

BLACK ENTERPRISE touted Roche's achievements in "21 Women of Power and Influence in Corporate America" (Aug. 1991) and in a February 1993 cover story featuring the nation's "40 Most Powerful Black Business Executives." Other business publications, including Business Week and Business Month, followed her rise.

By then Roche was Avon's vice president of global marketing. This represented an entirely new role within the $4 billion company and, at 45, Roche, who had already held every marketing job at Avon, saw it as one alive with fresh opportunity, challenge and bottom-line potential.

But when that opportunity turned sour, Roche found herself in an unfamiliar place: dissatisfied professionally, shaken personally and facing a future that was disturbingly unclear. Unwilling to let other forces dictate her fate, she resigned in August 1994. She wasn't pushed by Avon, nor was she pulled by a bigger, better offer. Roche simply decided, after a great deal of professional consideration and good old-fashioned soul-searching, that it was time to go.

"It takes enormous strength of character to say, `This is unsatisfactory, and I'm not going to put up with it. I am going to take charge and make a change,"' says career expert John Lucht, author of Rites of Passage at $100,000. Most people, at some point in their careers, feel this way, says Lucht. But few ever do anything about it.

Why? Because it seems too hard to make a change, and often, too scary as well. Taking a step as bold as Roche's and the other professionals profiled in this story is simply not for everybody (nor could many people financially afford it even if they wanted to). But making affirmative, albeit unnerving, career moves requires less daredevil mentality than careful, realistic planning and utter determination. And the reality is, no one rises to the top without taking such a step at some time, particularly in the devil-may-care job environment of today.

If you find yourself in the midst of a career crisis, or simply spinning your wheels in a job as you yearn for a change, don't assume you don't have what it takes to go ahead and break through. Says Lucht, "I have found that people have reserves of strength when needed that they didn't even know they had."


The decision to ditch a plum, six-figure position in a major corporation where one is highly regarded might strike most people as insane. But Roche's decision grew out of her realization that despite the great title and income (she had a six-figure salary with substantial bonus potential), her job did not hold the level of autonomy or responsibility she initially thought it had.

To say that this realization knocked Roche off course would be an understatement. As recently as two years ago, Roche, who joined Avon in 1973, fully expected to ride the company into retirement. She had been in Avon's top marketing job senior officer for marketing, U.S. - less than a year when the decision was made to make Avon a global organization. Roche, whose one career regret was that she never had the opportunity to work in a market outside the U.S. found the chance to head up global marketing irrestible.

Her new role, as she understood it, offered complete autonomy from Avon U.S. for both the development and management of global brands. When questions arose about those brands, Roche expected to have the last word. But by late 1993, her group's autonomy had been repeatedly challenged by the U.S. group. Conflict ensued and the global organization was altered so that the U.S. group became the lead market for global product development, thereby substantially altering Roche's role. …

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