Catherine Pugh

A lot of people talk about the “entrepreneurial spirit”—traits you must have to make it as a businessperson venturing out on your own. According to a Business Insider article, the top three skills you need to make it as an entrepreneur are passion, resilience, and a strong sense of self. You have to really want whatever you’re striving for and you can’t be intimidated by other bright and powerful people.

But the truth is, people in any field can benefit from these traits. A strong sense of self, however, might be the most powerful make or break factor. The most successful people know their own limitations and seek out relationships with people who can bridge their own personal knowledge and skill gaps.

That’s the case for Catherine Pugh, the recently elected mayor of Baltimore and a former dean of Strayer College (predecessor to Strayer University) in the late 1980s. Pugh’s career is peppered with examples of passion, resilience, and self-assuredness, and built on excellent networks. “If you surround yourself with the right people and get them to buy in, you can get it done,” she said in Washington Post article. “It’s about learning what’s around you, who’s around you.”

It’s great advice from someone who has had led a remarkable career, holding roles ranging from Baltimore Sun editor, children’s book author, public relations and marketing firm founder, city councilwoman, and majority leader of the Maryland Senate; not to mention her roles at Strayer—campus coordinator and then campus dean of the Owings Mills Campus in Maryland.

“She’s a terrific leader—motivational, energizing, driven,” said Paula Khanal, current senior admissions officer at Strayer’s Owing Mills campus, and who was first hired at Strayer by Pugh in 1990. “She had a very positive relationship with the students here,” Khanal remembers. “She used to sit in the reception area of classroom buildings to greet students as they filed in for classes,” evidence of the importance the now-Mayor places on relationships.

Her passion and resilience, along with the formation of these critical relationships, led Pugh to where she is today.  “I’m in my dream job, and this is where I want to be,” she said in the same Washington Post article. “I’ll be here until this city becomes the greatest in America.”

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