Sharon Birkman is one of the Houston Business Journal’s 2018 Women Who Mean Business honorees in the Outstanding Business Leader in Professional Services category. Sharon spoke with Natalie Harms of HBJ about challenges she’s faced in her career, her biggest influences, and what most people don’t know about her.
Category: Outstanding Business Leader in Professional Services
Education: Bachelor’s, University of Houston; Master’s, University of Texas Harvard Business School
Years in the industry: 22
Boards and affiliations: Board of directors, Houston Public Media Foundation; board of directors, Goodwill Industries of Houston; Chapelwood United Methodist Church; board of directors for Escape Family Resources
What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced in your career?
Growing revenue while protecting Birkman through a minor and a major recession, making difficult but necessary organizational changes involving key executives and striving to navigate as smoothly as possible between the first and third generations of a privately held family business. Right now, I must add that cybersecurity is a very real threat and a daunting challenge for every company.
What is something professional women need to know that isn’t taught at school or in training?
Trust your instincts and intuition. Growing up at a time most women expected to work in the home, I underestimated how valuable my experience in managing the household, raising children and working a variety of part-time jobs had been. More than I’d realized, those years prepared me for being the guardian of the culture, for balancing the company financials and the confidence to better relate to employees and manage company morale. I think many women in leadership roles have surprised the business world with their common-sense emotional intelligence and their ability to be responsive while juggling multiple demands.