Deanna Strable, executive vice president and chief financial officer of Principal

Deanna Strable: Getting comfortable with the uncomfortable

In the early part of her career, Deanna Strable, executive vice president and chief financial officer of Principal®, spent moments in uncomfortable situations.

Strable joined Principal in 1990 as an actuary. In 1992, she took an assignment in Belgium, leaving the United States for the first time. Europe seemed years behind when it came to women in business, she says, and the role left her feeling lonely.

Then in her 30s, Strable became the youngest senior vice president ever at Principal. She often found herself in meetings surrounded by mostly male coworkers 20 to 25 years older.

In both situations, Strable created challenges for herself—in Belgium to meet people at an English-speaking church, at Principal to speak at least three times in every meeting—to get past that uncomfortable space. It worked, and gave her a vision for how she could help others clear their professional hurdles.

“You can be successful in your own way,” Strable says. “You don’t have to emulate someone else.”

You can be successful in your own way. You don’t have to emulate someone else.”

Deanna Strable, executive vice president and chief financial officer

Work and home fitting together

Strable talks about finding an organizational fit for your life. She had watched women with their guards up, rarely discussing family. Instead, Strable made it a point to tell stories about her family to coworkers. She openly juggled sporting events and kids’ concerts with her office schedule.

In 2005 when her parents were in a car accident that killed her father and seriously injured her mother, Strable shifted into caregiver, sleeping at the hospital for three months. Her honesty with colleagues made it easier to rearrange priorities as needed.

“I’m a down-to-earth executive,” Strable says. “I think I’ve helped people, especially working mothers, see that advancement is an option at Principal.”

No ‘right’ way to grow

As a mentor for young professionals and executives in the finance industry, Strable uses her experiences to help others find their career paths. She co-founded and led the first women’s executive leadership group (Women in Leadership) at Principal to develop talent and foster networking. She hopes to give them a “different image of what a successful businessperson can be,” and assure them that there’s no right way to grow.

She talks with young people who aren’t interested in career advancement because they feel they must change who they are. Strable reminds them to “be yourself at work. That’s why they hired you and have given you opportunities,” she says.

Strable is passionate that different perspectives at work foster better decisions and, ultimately, better business. If team members can bring their full selves to the office, she says, they’ll be more productive and happier.

“Encouraging diverse teams, and leading those teams, ensures everyone has a voice,” Strable says. “It’s the first foundation to making sure everyone finds their way to that fearlessness at work.”

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This document is intended to be educational in nature and is not intended to be taken as a recommendation.