Why do you do what you do?

I'm glad I sweat the small stuff.

My mother, a Colombian immigrant, juggled several low-paying jobs to provide for the two of us. As a child, I split most of my waking hours between school and a sitter's home. Every two weeks, on my mother's day off, we'd catch up on each other's lives and complete chores together.

Going to the laundromat was my favorite as my mother took great pride in it. While pouring Downy into the washer, she would remind me that high-quality products achieve the best results. We spent modestly in other areas, but she wasn't willing to compromise on our laundry.

As a child, the scent of April Fresh Downy on my pristine school uniform was a constant reminder that I was loved, I was valued, and I was to strive always for excellence. I wore that uniform as my battle armor and marched bravely each day with the confidence those small details provided.

It is that confidence, that same feeling of invincibility that I strive to impart to women leaders today. Through seemingly small interactions – a kind gesture, a word of encouragement – I seize opportunities to mentor and develop others. These humble acts of service, I believe, carry the power to transform lives and ultimately the world we live in.

We're taught to focus on the big picture. But for me it's the smallest details that make everyday life smell that much sweeter.

— Shirley Cardona

Photography by Tony Deifell, MBA '02