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Sandra E. Peterson - CEO, Bayer CropScience & Chairman, Bayer
CNBC.com | October 10, 2011 | 11:46 AM EDT

I am often asked, “How did you do it? How did you become the CEO of a $10 billion dollar international, traditionally German-led company?”

It’s a common question, considering I am the first American and first female to serve in this role. As I often respond, it’s not just about delivering the business results or having passion for your industry—it’s truly a dedicated balance between creating a collaborative spirit for your teams to thrive, and delivering outstanding results based on the needs of your customer.

Two distinctive activities supported my career success:

Taking on big challenges and risks. I’ve changed industries more than six times and held a variety of leadership roles. These opportunities allowed me to run very different businesses and turn each around by focusing on the marketplace and changing industry dynamics.

To do this, I was always willing to take on what appeared to be risky roles, but ones that I thought, given my passions and interests, I could do well at. The road to the top was never a straight line. Sometimes you need to take on challenges that are different, and with different organizations to get there. So when those doors were opened for me, I walked right through.

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