I Risked My Comfortable Career for a Company I Deeply Admired — Now, I’m a Senior Leader

Sponsored by 3M

Photo Courtesy of 3M.

Photo Courtesy of 3M.

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Many of us wouldn’t risk a comfortable career to explore another, especially if you’re excelling in your current role. But Renee Dotson of 3M did — and calls it the “best career move” she’s ever made.

Dotson decided to leave her law firm and join the manufacturing company in 2011 because of the culture and admirable work being done at 3M. Since then, and with the support from her incredible bosses, she’s celebrated “one promotion after another” and shares that her first boss “literally moved out of the way” for her to advance into her first primary general counsel role.

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And she’s not the only woman at the company experiencing this level of success: “When I walk into this building, I’m surrounded by women who come from all different backgrounds and experiences — and we are thriving here! There are also a ton of opportunities for women to advance, and we celebrate that here.”

Dotson gave us further insight into her career at 3M, sharing her favorite perk about working at the company and the biggest reason why she’s stayed. Read what she had to say below.

How long have you been in your current role and what were you doing previously? 

After I graduated from law school, I started working at a large law firm. I met someone from 3M at a breakfast, who ended up recruiting me. I was very hesitant to leave the firm I was at, but I was really impressed by how much the lawyers at 3M loved the people and work being done there, so I decided to go for it. I joined the Office of General Counsel  at 3M in July of 2011 at a lower level and have progressed significantly since I started. It’s been one promotion after another since!

Tell me about your career path at 3M.

Probably the most significant moment in my career at 3M was with my first boss, Michael. He created a path for me so that I could naturally assume the primary General Counsel role of a division — he literally moved out of the way for me. Once I took over, it was extremely challenging, and I was dealing with really sophisticated legal issues. It was difficult, but it was a huge opportunity that enabled me to continue to grow my career at 3M, ultimately leading me to my role as Senior Counsel. 

What’s the most unique or interesting aspect of your job or company?

At 3M, you are truly a partner and trusted advisor to the businesses you work with; they really want your input and truly value your opinions. 

What is your favorite part about working at 3M?

Anybody who has a job that they love will say this — I have a great boss. Having a bad boss makes coming into work so challenging. Not every day is a great day, but I have an amazing, supportive boss and the best colleagues ever. I wouldn’t trade that for anything! 

What makes a great boss? What about your boss specifically? 

A boss should always create a supportive culture and environment. My boss, specifically, makes work fun. He is extremely trustworthy and believes in your ability to counsel your clients. I enjoy our group meetings and he always makes sure to include something in emails to make employees smile. 

What’s your favorite mistake?

Because I’m a very strong, independent person, I didn’t always deal with difficult people “the right way.” My reactions have come off as aggressive when really all I needed to do was find common ground, which I’ve learned to do since. 

What’s the one career move you’ve made that you’re most proud of? 

Leaving my last job to move to 3M was definitely my favorite career move — and everyone was shocked. I was doing extremely well at my law firm, so it came as a big surprise to everyone. Most thought if I ever left the law firm, I would move to a financial institution based on my experience at the time, so it was a big leap, but I am so happy with the decision. 

What is the biggest reason you’ve stayed at 3M?

The people,the quality of the work we do and my relationships with my clients and vice president are the reasons why I stay. The VP for my current division has been extremely supportive and is really in tune with me on a personal, ethical and professional level. 

What makes 3M a great place for women to work?

Every company talks the talk, but what matters is how employees feel every day when they walk into the building. When I walk into this building, I’m surrounded by women who come from all different backgrounds and experiences — and we are thriving here! There are also a ton of opportunities for women to advance, and we celebrate that here. 

What’s your #1 piece of advice for women who are looking to pursue a career?

Stand up for yourself. If you know who you are, don’t settle for half best. And if you know what you want to do, do it, because the man next to you (who may have half the experience you do) will if you don’t. 


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