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Lean In: How Successful Leaders Navigated the Career Jungle Gym

Posted Wednesday, June 26th, 2013

Programs & Events, Young Professionals Council, Member Submitted

Written by Julianne Reichert, Duane Morris LLP

Advancing in your career is no longer about walking up the career ladder; it’s about navigating the jungle gym and learning how to adapt your approach to your changing life and career. Over 200 women, along with a handful of men, gathered for a continuation of the Lean In discussion initiated by Sheryl Sandberg during her stop in Philadelphia two months ago. Moderated by 6abc’s Tamala Edwards, the panel was composed of three successful women from a diverse array of backgrounds: Bianna Golodryga, Co-Anchor of “Good Morning America” Weekend Edition and ABC News Business Correspondent; Michelle Lee, Regional President of Wells Fargo; and Judy Wicks, Founder of White Dog Café.

Among the topics covered in the broad discussion included confidence, criticism, mentorship, staying or leaving, and negotiating. In Bianna’s words, “Each successful woman sets her own path.” Following are bits of wisdom offered by the panelists to those carving out their own paths to success.

Bianna Golodryga:

“Hone every skillset that you think is a negative.” As a child, Bianna’s parents paid her $10 a week to speak Russian at home. Though at the time she didn’t comprehend the value of her Russian fluency, she has been able to utilize it in her television career and believes that knowing a foreign language is imperative in the global marketplace.

Bianna attributes much of her success to having confidence. Have confidence, even when you don’t know what you’re doing. Failure is going to happen. The key to ensuring that it’s not fatal is to have self-confidence. Take time and place into account when calculating risks. When dealing with criticism about failure, you have to carry yourself well and be willing to accept it. At the end of the day, you know when you don’t perform. Take time to digest the issue and confront it head on.

Be brutally honest with yourself to prepare for negotiations. List every bad thing and be able to respond by listing all of your accolades.

On the topic of mentors, Bianna offered that some mentoring relationships, like the one she has with her mentor, Maria Bartiromo, don’t result from a formal conversation – they evolve. She also offered a great piece of advice: “Piece together different traits that you see from others and use them to better yourself.”

Michelle Lee:

If Michelle could offer one piece of advice to young women, it would be to, “Lean in with substance, and add value to the conversation. Don’t just speak for the sake of being heard.”

When deciding whether to stay with a company, Michelle suggested engaging your employer and bosses. To learn others’ perceptions of you, ask, “What do I need to work on? What are my fatal flaws?” Even though you may have to leave to create a different perspective, issues will resurface everywhere you go. It’s important to understand what’s creating the perspective and to know how you can change it.

In terms of negotiations, know your value externally and plug into people with expertise.

Michelle disagrees with Sheryl Sandberg’s idea that you have to succeed first before finding a mentor. Go get a mentor. You don’t have to succeed first. Plug into networking groups in your company or industry. Michelle never had a formal mentor and suggests leveraging all of the people around you.

Judy Wicks:

Although you would not guess it now, Judy was a student who didn’t often raise her hand in class. As someone who did not let her past choices stall her, Judy offers this advice – “Take risks. Raise your hand.” On the topic of networking, Judy suggested that women should join networks with people of similar interests.

Judy offered an interesting point about displaying feminine values. According to her, efficiency is a masculine value, and nurturing is a feminine one. A balance must be made between the two. While the purpose of business is to serve efficiently, nurturing relationships with suppliers, employees, etc. is also vital. In her words, “Money is simply a tool.”

Closing Thoughts:

At the conclusion of the panel discussion, Bianna, Michelle and Judy offered one final piece advice on taking control of the past, present and future of our careers. As Michelle said, “Don’t reflect too much on progress. Ask, “Is this where I should be?” When you have a long way to go, stay focused on your future goals and direction.” Judy offered, “Balance your head and heart when making business decisions. You can’t leave your values at home when you go to work.” In Bianna’s words, “Keep climbing. There’s so much room for growth.”

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