Sarah Robb O’Hagan – Conquer Yourself

Sarah Robb O’Hagan talks about proving your worth and pushing yourself in whatever you do because excellence does not discriminate.


I’ve had my ass handed to me a couple of times. I moved to New York, put all my credit cards fully maxed out. The little Kiwi. I don’t know anyone in New York. I turn up to the office at Virgin on the first day. I walk in and say to the front desk and I ask for the name of the person who had hired me. The lady behind the desk says she doesn’t work here anymore. I’m like, “Wait, what?” I walked into the bathroom and just bawled. I was like, “Oh, my God. I’ve put all my life on hold for this job and if anyone’s about to get fired, it’s going to be the person she hired.” At first, I was like, “This is really bad. They’re going to get rid of me.” That was when I was like, “I have no choice, but I’ve got to move quickly to prove that I have value I can add here.”

I spent a weekend with no sleep writing a marketing plan for the airline and organizational structure and I put it in an envelope and slid it under the President’s door. I still can’t believe I did that when I think about it. I was like, “He’s either going to think I’m a cocky … don’t deserve any opportunity or he’s going to see that I have value to add and I’ll do anything to hold on and be here.” I ended up not only getting to do all the work, but I actually got a promotion out of it.

It just never occurred to me growing up that, as a female, I couldn’t do anything that I wanted to do. Sometimes we can get all of the data in our way and use that almost as a reason to not take the step. I think for me, I just have worked in predominantly male industries the whole way through. It just … I’ve never even really noticed that I was the only woman at the table very often. I was just like, “Well, fuck. I’m here. I’m going to do the best I can and it’s up to me to outperform my peer group, whoever they are.”

I always tell people it starts with what blows your hair back. When you get up in the morning, what makes you go, “I fucking got to do this?” What really excites you? Combine that with what are your natural skillset, style, et cetera. You will be happy and fulfilled if you do whatever you do in your life off your own steam. Everyone else has got an opinion on what you should do, but if it’s not your dream, you’re not going to fight nearly as hard for it. You go figure out where is your mountain to climb. It’s not the summit we conquer but ourselves. Don’t look for shortcuts. Don’t look for people to give you handouts. Clear out the obstacles and go.