Holy Cross Women Reflect on Innovation and Careers

Annual Women in Business Conference attracts diverse points of view

November 20th, 2013 by 

From left, Christie Cannone ’14, Lauren Esposito ’14, Brooke Levine ’15, Molly Jolly ’88, senior vice president of finance and administration for the Los Angeles Angels, MaryAnn LaShoto ’16, Patricia Feraud ’15 and Sydney-Zeferina Pugliares ’16 at the Women in Business Conference. Image by Rob Carlin

By Christie Cannone ’14, Lauren Esposito ’14, Patricia Feraud ’15, Brooke Levine ’15, Alexandra Schiffman ’15, MaryAnn LaShoto ’16, Sydney-Zeferina Pugliares ’16

More than 180 alumnae and students attended the eighth annual Women in Business Conference titled “Innovating Your Future: The Evolving Careers of Modern Women” held Nov. 2 on campus. Throughout the day, attendees had the opportunity to attend panels, network, explore ideas, and seek advice from fellow Holy Cross alumnae. As student assistants who helped organize the conference, we offer the following highlights.

SVP shares career advice in keynote
The day began with keynote speaker Molly Jolly ’88, senior vice president of finance and administration for the Los Angeles Angels. Jolly started the day with inspiring remarks and powerful messages. Jolly’s advice for women to keep in mind throughout their careers:

1. Develop a strong knowledge of subject matter in your respective field
2. Stay true to yourself and your values and
3. Success is not a straight line.

What does it really mean to “lean in”?
Women have had a significant role in the modernization of the business world, and consequently have witnessed a changing workplace culture. In today’s world, that change is evolving at an accelerated pace. In keeping with the conference theme, alumnae provided insight to the successes and challenges that come with dynamic innovation. In the afternoon book discussion, Holy Cross alumnae and students came together to talk about Sheryl Sandberg’s much-talked about book “Lean In.” Cristina Baldor ’07, business manager at the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, led a conversation on the difficulties of balancing work and family in the 21st century.

Should I pursue an advanced degree — and when?
The question of whether or not to pursue an advanced degree is one that both students and alumnae consider, often with much uncertainty and hesitation. In a panel discussion, “Are Professional Degrees Really Worth It?,” Maura Herson ’90, director of the MBA and MSMS Programs Office at the MIT Sloan School of Management; Beth Fiore ’07, credit analyst at Standish Mellon Asset Management; Ramona McFall ’08, sales operations manager at Cheetah Medical; and Maura Murphy ’03, vice president and portfolio manager at Loomis, Sayles & Company, discussed some of the benefits and drawbacks of going back to school to obtain an advanced degree, specifically a Master of Business Administration. Each panelist briefly covered how and why they made the decision to seek an MBA, followed by a discussion on relevant influential factors such as cost, time management (enrolling full or part time), the “right” time to return to school, and benefits of earning a higher degree such as title and salary. The panelists unanimously agreed that when working in a business oriented industry, an MBA degree is imperative in order to advance. Fortuitously, they said, many employers cover the cost, whether in part or whole.

Holy Cross alumni network provides edge
The strong Holy Cross alumni network is beneficial not only to graduates, but also for current students. In a presentation titled “Networking … Leveraging Your Purple Pride,” Pamela Ahearn and Megan Chester in the Career Planning Center highlighted the various ways in which Holy Cross graduates and students can use the College’s connections and resources to their advantage in career exploration, networking, and pursuing a job or internship. The specific emphasis placed on the social networking site LinkedIn generated many comments from alumnae and students in the room — pros and cons and proper social media etiquette, among them. The role of social media is now commonplace among Holy Cross students and alumni, and the Career Planning presentation addressed the multiple facets of such technological influence — of which will only become more and more relevant in future years.

How to stand out in a crowded marketplace?
Presenters made it clear that the job market is very competitive and the need to stand out from the rest of the crowd through proper etiquette and preparation is essential. It is vital for students, especially as they build credibility and a strong reputation, to show up to every opportunity with their ‘A’ game. Mary Donahue Quinlan ’76, Eastern Advertising director at Cosmopolitan Magazine and president of Career Prep Consultants, provided insightful tips on resume writing, interviewing skills, networking techniques, and establishing a career direction in her panel “Launching Your Career.” Her eye-opening presentation emphasized the importance of communication with employers and the necessity of taking charge and following up. Students must have the “if you want it, you go get it” attitude to achieve distinction. Students must show employers how they can be profitable assets, easy to work with and team players. Quinlan’s invaluable suggestions have already inspired us to evaluate our personal goals and start preparing for future job opportunities.

Can women have it all?
In today’s age, there is no such thing as “really having it all” — the perfect job, the perfect family, and the perfect lifestyle — as Sheila Cavanaugh ’81, a former senior vice president at Fidelity Investments, and Megan Fox-Kelly ’99, associate chaplain and director of retreats at Holy Cross said. Success should not be seen as perfection but joy. The Entrepreneurship forum and the “Can Women Really Have it All?” panel both emphasized that the key to success for the modern woman is flexibility. Just like running a new business, in order to have a family and a career, you cannot do it on your own — you need a support unit. Participant Gail Radcliffe ’78, president of Radcliffe Consulting, Inc., said the support she received from her husband allowed her to pursue her dreams of starting up her own company. A major takeaway from the panel and the forum is that life is not a straight path and adaptability, flexibility and tenacity are necessary to achieve personal and professional goals.

Save the date! We hope to see you at next year’s Women in Business Conference scheduled for Nov. 1, 2014 in the Hogan Campus Center.

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