My book “The Road to Someplace Better: From the Segregated South to Harvard Business School and Beyond” is both a memoir and a road map. It’s about the lessons I learned - in and out of business school - on a journey to find my place in the world, a journey that took more than a few twists and turns and had its share of roadblocks.
I grew up on my family farm in rural Virginia, raised by honest, hard-working, God-fearing parents. Love was abundant in our home, but money was not. Discrimination was also plentiful in those days of segregation. Back then, the white kids rode a bus to their school while we black children walked two miles down a dusty road to ours. In 1958 at the age of 18, I was eager to strike out on my own. I was certain that my someplace better was New York City, the land of opportunity. Little did I know that the big city was not breathlessly awaiting the arrival of a black girl from the country armed with only a high school diploma and some fanciful ideas.For awhile, the only work I could get was as a maid and I could have stayed in the segregated South for that. I had to get back on the right track and that meant a better education. I enrolled in Howard University. There, a professor who became my mentor convinced me, a girl who had worn flour sack dresses in grade school, that I was “Harvard material.” In 1969, I became the first black female to earn an MBA from Harvard Business School. That should have been my golden ticket to the top of the corporate ladder, but it was not. I didn’t set out to make history at Harvard or being in, I just wanted to make a better life for myself. In doing so, I helped knock down some barriers for others. That has been one of the most gratifying aspects of my journey, because others who walked with me – my family, teachers, professors, employers - guided me on my path to success. They believed in me and most of all they helped me believe in myself. And when you believe in yourself, you can chart your own course with confidence. So dream big, act bold and don’t be afraid to blaze your own trail to someplace better. Who knows… your path may become someone else’s highway.
Causes Lillian Lambert Supports
American Cancer Society, American Heart Assn, Howard Universit, Impact 100 of Richmond