Sunday, September 18, 2011

NAWMBA 2011 National Conference - Irving, Texas

The 2011 NAWMBA conference took place September 16 and 17 in Irving, Texas and it was a fantastic event. During these two days, attendees were inspired and empowered by learning the stories and listening to the advice of successful women in business.

Most of us, KD students, lead really busy lives as we try to juggle a full time job with our school and family responsibilities. It’s really easy to get trapped in the daily routine and not dedicate enough time to think about our career goals and what will be our strategy to achieve those goals. Events such as the NAWMBA conference provide a great opportunity to pause, absorb new knowledge, and reflect on what your next steps will be career wise.

The conference offered a variety of panels and workshops, covering all sorts of topics including: how to negotiate effectively, achieving work life balance, driving change in the organization, personal image, managing up, and exploring career options in finance, marketing, and technology among others. As awesome as it all sounds, I must say I was anxious about attending this event, since it would surely mean I would need to network.

I recently completed a 4-day backpacking trip in the Yosemite High Sierra area, and I can tell you that the prospect of carrying 30 lbs. of equipment while climbing more than 1,000 feet in rugged terrain and without access to showers or toilets, was less daunting than the idea of networking. Having said that, I’m thrilled to tell all those who feel the same way I do, that it’s not really that hard. From the moment you entered the Irving Convention Center, you could sense the really positive and welcoming atmosphere that would characterize the whole event.

During the course of those two days I met Jessica, an MBA student from Phoenix who had learned Spanish during a Peace Corps assignment in Honduras. We ended up having a great conversation in Spanish, Jessica was thrilled to practice it again after a long time and I was ecstatic to be able to converse in my native language.

I also met Heather Howell, who is the Chief Tea Officer of Rooibee Red Tea and she is also a board member of NAWMBA. Heather is an amazing woman who is really passionate about her work and about empowering women. She encouraged me to really take advantage of the conference by networking with other attendees, interacting with the panelists and to simply enjoy the event.

Karen, Angela, and Meredith; KD students at NAWMBA Conference

I also had the pleasure to meet fellow KD students Meredith Suffron and Angela Whiteside; as well as our brand new Director for Student Engagement: Sheila Morris-Watson. It was really exciting to get to know them during this conference, and it was pretty clear everybody was having a great time.

While it’s not possible to provide a full summary of the topics covered, there are a couple of topics I would like to highlight. First of all, the first keynote speaker was Karen Hough, and she talked about improvisation techniques and how to apply those in the workplace. Four key recommendations provided were:

  • Provide positive feedback at the same time you are offering suggestions to others. This will ensure people don’t focus only on the negative aspects they have to improve, but rather they can feel good about the things that are right, even if there’s room for them to improve.

  • Building blocks: recognize the good ideas contributed by team members and use them as a springboard to provide your own contributions.

  • Team equity: Recognize that teamwork is better than trying to do everything yourself. Being ready for anything sometimes means you have to give up control.

  • Oops to Eureka: when something does not go as expected, the best thing to do is to acknowledge it, take a deep breath and think of an alternative solution.

If you are interested in this topic, you can check out Karen’s website at:

There’s also a workshop I’d like to point out and it was “Fulfill Your Purpose – Pursue Your Passion” with Lisa Arie. Lisa spoke about the importance of knowing yourself and getting clarity on what you really want to accomplish, so you can start with the end point in mind.

She also explained that success is the result of work done in peace, and that every time we feel vulnerable it’s a great opportunity since it basically means we are being faced with the question: are you willing to let the status quo change?

Often times, we let fear paralyze us and we choose to stay in our current situation thinking that we’ll be safe and we’ll avoid risks. Well, Lisa explained how the word risk comes from an old navigation term which was used to point out difficulties you could encounter while you were cut off the land, such as a strong current. So, it’s a way of saying “pay attention”, but by no means should it become a reason for us to stop pursuing our passion, whatever that may be.

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