Written by Julianne Reichert, Duane Morris LLP
Be authentic. Be fearless.
These four words were the unifying theme to “Stories Behind Success: Women in the Workforce,” an annual program produced by the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce, and held at WHYY’s headquarters on a chilly December morning. Moderated by Maiken Scott, Host of WHYY’s “The Pulse,” the panel consisted of five sharp and successful women business leaders from a diverse array of industries: Lucinda Duncalfe, Founder & CEO of Real Food Works; Lindsey Glasglow, Project Engineer of Skanska USA Building; LeAnn Talbot, Regional Senior Vice President of Comcast; Tracey Welson-Rossman, CMO of Chariot Solutions and Founder of TechGirlz.org; and Shari Williams, Community Outreach Manager, SEPA, Marcellus Shale Coalition. Among the topics discussed included sacrifices, networking, branding and failure.
Most answers to the question about sacrifice were centered on the hot button topic of work-life balance. Shari and LeAnn believe in work-life balance and making time for personal and social commitments. LeAnn encouraged attendees to be 100% in the moment of whatever choice we make, even if that means shutting off our phone and computer to enjoy a quiet evening with the family. A self-admitted non-television owner, Lucinda believes not in balance, but in blending the complicated elements of our lives to make them work. Lucinda’s daughters have accompanied her on countless business trips, because that’s what worked for her family. Lindsey has learned that knowing what you want and planning for it are the two keys to prioritization.
“Your network is your net worth,” was wisely quoted by Lindsey, who tested the limits of her comfort zone by partaking in her first of many panel discussions. Lindsey understood the networking value of her participation. Throughout her career, Shari learned the value of building various networks by knowing what everyone does and making connections among them when appropriate. “Like a first date,” said Tracey, the key to networking is to “be genuinely interested in what others are saying.” Similar to Shari, Tracey also believes in connecting people in your networks when it makes sense.
LeAnn advised that the focus should be on building real relationships, not just collecting a pile of business cards. A strong believer in celebrating others’ successes and to setting aside networking on a regular basis, LeAnn has reached out to women not currently in her network to offer her congratulations, which has resulted in plenty of new connections and meetings. As a leader who dislikes the intentionality of networking, Lucinda believes that it should come “from genuine interest in people. Do it for the other person’s benefit, not yours.” Lucinda suggested attending a networking event with a couple of prepared questions that you can ask your new connections that allow them to do the talking.
Since omnipresence is impossible, managing your brand requires authenticity, openness and being your best self. As Tracey so aptly put it, “Your brand is who you are, not what you do.” If you lack certainty of your brand, ask those with whom you work closely, and be open to their feedback in case their perceptions do not match your own. Understand that some opportunities and connections happen organically and cannot be forced. Remember to be authentic and true to yourself, as other professionals will see through your façade if you are trying to fit into a mold. Having a deeper understanding of your brand will help you to be the best in whatever you’re doing, either professionally or personally.
The panelists offered some truly valuable advice for fighting fear of failure. When feeling afraid, Lucinda asks herself, “What’s the worst that can happen?” You fall. When you have the courage to look fear in the face, you will realize that the answer to that question is not nearly as bad as you may think. Make a conscious decision to put yourself in uncomfortable situations, whether it means attending an industry or peer networking event, contributing your thoughts in a company meeting or speaking up when you know something is not right. Failure is an essential part of success that teaches us great lessons.
There is no secret sauce.
Once the discussion concluded, the crowd split into small breakout sessions. This was an excellent opportunity to get to know Lucinda, Lindsey, LeAnn, Tracey and Shari and learn more about their personal stories, as well as their successes and failures. Quoting LeAnn, “There is no secret sauce for success; it’s hard work.”