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Pursuit of Success By A Single Working Mom

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Two individuals joining together as one and, quite possibly, even expanding their family with the birth or adoption of children.

The new union usher's in the emergence of new life with certain values, beliefs, priorities and a bright future filled with love and possibilities.

Until - - it doesn't. 

Today’s guest is Shelmina Abji, a high-achieving professional who shares her journey from childhood in Tanzania to rising through the ranks at IBM as one of the highest-ranking women of color at IBM all while raising her children as a single parent.

Shelmina, who is a now a global empowerment speaker and former IBM vice president, shares the raw truth of the emotions of her experience, her key steps for successfully keeping her career on track, the resources she leaned on in navigating her journey and at the end of our conversation she offers one extraordinary piece of advice if she had a chance to 'do-over' her her journey.

This interview is from my archives and it's one of my favorite 'replay with a purpose' interviews.

Enjoy the interview.....

Q:    What do you attribute your success in advancing your career while raising two young children as a single parent?

A:    It started with my desire to succeed. My definition of success at the time was that I was going to provide for my children, to provide for the well-being of my children, to provide a secure future for my children. It was about education. It was really important that I be able to provide my children with the best education that was available to them. I wanted to retire without being a burden on anyone. It was a very limited definition but it worked for me because at that time, it drove me to become who I am.

Q:    How was  the journey for you to get to that mindset of ownership? Did you need help in that or did you get there pretty quickly? What was that part like for you?

A:    I completely agree with you about setting your mindset. What I believe, what I tell people is energy goes where attention goes. It didn't happen right away. I was devastated. I had to first find myself and my own truth and my own sense of confidence to get to that point. I had to do a lot of inner work. I think it's really important for women to realize that if you want to be able to take care of the wellbeing of your children, it has to start with your own well-being because you cannot give anyone what you yourself don't own. If your brain is not clear, you will not be able to define success and what that means to you.

Q:    What were some of your other lessons in addition to taking care of your mental health, your well-being?

A:    I learned to simplify my life. I learned to say no to many things that didn't really matter in the grand scheme of things. I really learned how not to waste time. And then I also learned how to do more. I was fearful, I was angry and my daughter reminds me that, you know, a busy mom was better than an angry mom.

Q:    Was there a particular tool you used to help you on that focusing at home, you're at home, at work, you're at work?

A:    I read a book. It was by Stephen Covey called, Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. I really believe that, you know, when you need help and when you're open to messages, angels come your way, messages come your way, books come your way when you are seeking, it comes to you. I cannot become a victim of my circumstances. I must control how I allocate my time. I must get myself back together. I took care of allowing myself to become energetic, to become calm, to become peaceful before I even started my day.

Q:    How did you manage the expectations of your boss and colleagues when you were faced with competing forces between work and home?


  • managing my own expectations
  • know what your value is
  • Accountability

Q:    What did you learn about yourself in this delicate act of balancing between a mom and a high performing professional?

A:    What I learned was that I was capable of accomplishing a lot more than I had ever imagined when I was present in the moment

Q:    What role did relationships play?

A:    Relationships in my opinion is the underlying principle for success. I don't really discuss relationships. I live relationships. No relationship is small enough.

Q:    If you were granted a do-over, particularly  during the trying times of trying to navigate your career and your role as mom, what would you have done differently?

A: I would have learned to more gratefully accept the situation that I found myself in. I would have shortened the timeframe of being paralyzed by fear. I would have focused more on what can go right versus what can go wrong. I want them to know that they don't have to suffer for as long as did. it is possible to get over it and to gratefully accept it and to not become a victim of your circumstance. When you become positive, you draw positivity into your life. And so the change has to start within. And the sooner you change, the faster you will be on the road to success.


If you are in pursuit of success as a single parent, I’d love to hear your response to this questions ‘what was most helpful for you in hearing Shelmina’s journey?’

Send me a voice message on Instagram at Tuesdays with Coach Mo or send me an email at [email protected].

Coach Mo Knows: (a tip, a coaching question, and a bit of inspiration)


  1. Connect with Shelmina Baji:
  2. If you want to achieve the best version of you, then put your strengths to work in moving beyond your current challenges. Complete the Cliftonstrengths assessment and discover the talents that you possess for owning your strengths:
  3. Check out a free webcast on Franklin Covey's site (7 Habits of Highly Successful People):

Coaching Question

Are you ready for a coach?

As Shelmina referenced,, if given the opportunity to do over her journey she would have sought personal support sooner so that she could be successful and move through her emotions faster.

If you are experiencing challenges of moving yourself forward, then consider the support of a coach to help you create a plan for accomplishing your goals. Take the quiz and find out!



“Self-esteem is the ability to see yourself as a flawed individual and still hold yourself in high regard.” 

~ Esther Perel, therapist, author, speak who explores modern relationships


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