Unscripted: Unapologetically Ambitious with Shellye Archambeau

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NI Unscripted featuring Shellye Archambeau
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With more than 30 years of experience as a technology leader and strategist, Archambeau delivers a strong message to those with high ambitions: Never apologize for who you are. She joined us to share her professional background and explain what ambition means to her. If you are interested in learning more about Archambeau’s strategies for success, look for a copy of her debut book, titled, Unapologetically Ambitious: Take Risks, Break Barriers, and Create Success on Your Own Terms.

Ambition alone is not enough to achieve your aspirations. You have to be strategic. You have to be intentional.

–Shellye Archambeau, author, Unapologetically Ambitious
Video transcript:
Tell us a little about yourself.

My name is Shellye Archambeau, and I'm a board director, advisor, and author.

What is your favorite book?

My current favorite book is Talking To Strangers by Malcolm Gladwell.

Where is your happy place?

My happy place is wherever my grandchildren are.

Summarize your professional background and experience.

I'm just a young girl who grew up with the aspiration of running a company one day. And I ended up doing that—started out in tech, became a first African American tech CEO in Silicon Valley. I then went on to serve on corporate boards—some of the largest in the country. I advise companies and universities. I coach. I invest, and I support entrepreneurs.

Tell us about your book.

I wrote Unapologetically Ambitious: Take Risks, Break Barriers, and Create Success on Your Own Terms to really share strategies, approaches, and techniques to help everyone be able to achieve their aspirations professionally and personally.

What does ambition mean to you?

Ambition is a special word for me. People think ambition means that you want to conquer the world and take over everything, etcetera. That's not how I view ambition.

Ambition simply means that you have something that you want to achieve, something that you want to impact, something that you want to create. As long as you have an aspiration for something in the future, then you're ambitious.

One of the most ambitious people I have ever known is my mother. And she never worked outside of the house after getting married. So ambition shows up in a lot of different ways.

Besides ambition, what else do we need to reach our goals?

Ambition alone is not enough to achieve your aspirations. You know, people will tell you, “Oh, just work hard, put your head down, and it will all happen.” And the answer is, no, it won't.

You have to be strategic. You have to be intentional. There are a lot of people in this world. There's a lot of challenges in this world. And for most of us, the odds aren't in our favor.

So if you just do what everyone else does, you'll end up with what everyone else has instead of what you want and what you desire. So be ambitious but be strategic and intentional as well.

What sacrifices did you have to make to achieve your goals?

People ask me all the time, “Well, Shellye, what sacrifices did you have to make to get all the things that you wanted?” And I tell them, “Not a single one.”

And they always look at me. “What do you mean you didn't make any sacrifices?” I didn't. I made choices—hard choices, but choices. And there's a difference.

A sacrifice I view as something that you do completely for someone else. A choice is a decision that you make weighing all the factors. But you make it. You own it.

By making choices, you are [sic] actually keep your power so that you can move forward. Making sacrifices? You're basically giving up your power. Life is nothing more than a series of choices that you make every day.

Why do you not apologize for unconventional choices?

It really bothers me when I see people apologizing for who they are. Somebody will say, “Oh, excuse my accent. I'm sorry I have an accent.” Well, no. You have that accent as a result of your background, your history, your set of experiences.

Don't apologize for it. That says you're apologizing for who you are. No one should have to apologize for who they are.

You might apologize that, “Oh, I'm sorry. I'm not a good cook.” Why are you apologizing for that? We all choose what skills we're going to develop. We cannot do everything.

So by apologizing, you're acting like you should be perfect. And if you're not perfect, you have to apologize. There isn't a human being on the planet that is perfect. So do not apologize for all of those things.

Be confident in who you are. Because all of those experiences, all of that background makes you who you are. And it makes you the person who's capable to accomplish whatever you want to accomplish. 


Shellye Archambeau is an experienced CEO and Board Director with a track record of accomplishments that include building brands, high-performance teams, and organizations.  Ms. Archambeau currently serves on the boards of Verizon, Nordstrom, Roper Technologies, and Okta. She is also a strategic advisor to Forbes Ignite and to the president of Arizona State University, and serves on the board of two national nonprofits, Catalyst and Braven. She is the former CEO of MetricStream, a Silicon Valley-based governance, risk, and compliance software company. 

For more advice and insights from Archambeau, visit shellye.com.