AVP and Chief Corporate Engagement Officer, OPCD and School of Business, Wake Forest University
1. How do you define success for yourself? What has helped you to be successful?
Doing work that is meaningful — where I can leverage my strengths, talents, abilities to positively impact others. My relationship building skills, willingness to adapt/change/grow, and ability to navigate ambiguity has always served me well throughout my career. As a leader, it’s impossible to be an expert on everything. What’s most important is to stay in a constant mode of learning and to assume you can always learn from others (regardless of age, level, background, experience). You’re only as smart as the people you spend the most time with!
2. Think of a time that you faced a challenge, obstacle, or roadblock. How did you get through that and what did you learn?
My current role is complex given that I lead multiple teams and initiatives for the OPCD and School of Business. In addition, there are multiple stakeholder groups (i.e. employers, students, alumni, parents, faculty, staff, and administration) who have competing interests, priorities, and needs. We experienced a major shift in investment banking recruiting timelines about three years ago. The banks (and some consulting firms) changed their recruiting timelines to begin during the sophomore year. This presented a major challenge from a career preparation standpoint. While this was a significant challenge for our team, we brought together key stakeholders (i.e. administration, academic deans, employers, alumni, staff) and developed a new initiative called the Pre-Wall Street Career Track. Two years later, we have about 40 students who have entered this program and successfully landed roles with the major firms including: Barclays, Bank of America, Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan, Jefferies, Morgan Stanley, Wells Fargo, and many more. I learned how valuable it is to engage your stakeholders and listen to their issues/concerns FIRST before coming up with a solution. Unless you take the time to listen and learn, your solution will most likely be sub-optimal and you may not have the buy-in needed for successful implementation.
3. Who are your people (either by name or role) who help you to be successful/confident/intentional/reflective/any other descriptor you want to use? And how have they helped you?
I currently report to two trailblazing leaders — Andy Chan (VP of Career and Innovation) and Charles Iacovou (Dean of the Business School). Both are extraordinary leaders and mentors who continually challenge me to settle for nothing less than excellence — personally and professionally! I’ve learned two very important things from them. First, it’s essential to find balance in your life and to make time for the things you enjoy outside of work. The second is don’t try to “fix” everything (or everyone :)). Ask for help… Be clear about what you need/expect and then get out of the way!
Last year, I invested in working with an executive coach, Sara King. I’ve always seen the value in engaging an external coach– primarily to have an experienced and objective perspective on leadership matters / organizational challenges. Meeting Sara literally changed my life. I know that sounds dramatic and all, but it’s so true. Sara has served as a true confidant, mentor, and friend. She certainly offered an objective perspective but what I gained the most was the opportunity to connect with someone who had no other agenda but to ensure my personal and professional success. Sara made it safe for me to go deeper and to authentically look at myself and to reconnect with values that have always been important to me. She helped me to address key issues that I didn’t even realize were getting in the way of my growth and happiness. While I’m still learning and growing in several areas, I’ve been able to shift a few attitudes and mindsets that have made a significant difference in how I show up (professionally and personally).
4. How did you find your people?
There are many people throughout my life who have helped to shape me as a professional and leader. I proactively connect with leaders that I admire and ask for their advice. No one has ever said no… 🙂
5. What advice would you give to Wake Forest students as they look for their people?
When you look for “your people,” my advice is to find those who can truly give you a different perspective. Also, don’t assume that only people in the exact industry/function you’re in (or want to be in) can help. Most people have very broad/deep networks and connections. The most important qualities that I look for are: 1) is this person doing interesting work that I’m curious about? 2) do they demonstrate a growth/developmental mindset? 3) will they be willing to tell me the truth (even when it’s hard to hear)?
Is there anything else you’d like to share?
It’s essential now more than ever to invest time developing your network and mentoring relationships. Given the pace of change and the overwhelming challenges we face every day, nothing replaces the need for authentic human to human connection. Seek to learn about others and value their experiences. And most importantly, when someone does give you their time, always demonstrate gratitude. The best way to do this is to let them know how the information they shared helped you.