Unlocking Your Potential: Annual Conference Features Alumnae

2006 Women in Business logo.“Women do not have to change who they are to be successful,” said Pamela Strobel at the 3rd Annual Women in Business Conference in mid-February.

The all-day event, entitled “Unlocking Your Potential,” was hosted by the Women in Business Society and the Illinois MBA program. Among the attendees were MBA students, including members of the MBAA and the Women in Business Society, other graduate students, faculty, and professionals. The speakers, mostly Illinois alumnae, focused on educating women on how to be successful in the business world and effectively balance your personal and professional life.

Opening speaker Pamela Strobel kicked-off the conference, emphasizing in her talk that women need to learn to take more risks in the workplace. The Illinois alumna said that women need to be more self-aware and learn about their desires and skills and make decisions that take them out of their comfort zone. Strobel reflected on her professional experiences, highlighted by her work as executive vice president and chief administrative officer of Exelon. She attributed her own success to taking professional risks, seeking out great mentors, and always maintaining a good level of humor. “Be the kind of person who is fun to be with-one way is to be humble and learn how to laugh at yourself,” Strobel said.

Beth Donovan, the keynote speaker, had a similar theme. A marketing graduate of the College of Business, Donovan reflected on her almost 20-year career with Ford Motor Company. She is currently the North American group product marketing and planning manager at Ford for small cars and sport utility vehicles. She discussed the importance of creating and assessing personal and professional goals and finding an effective balance between work and life. “It is what you take along with you personally that really matters,” said Donovan.

Donovan also stressed the importance of effective communication in the workplace. She noted that in order to be successful, you should be a part of a community and work together to generate the best results for the company and its customers. “When people know what it is you want them to do-it goes for miles,” Donovan said.

The conference emphasized interaction between the students and the guests and professionals. In addition to the speakers, the conference boasted a choice of two workshops. Wanda M. Costen, an assistant professor at the University of Tennessee, led the “Overcoming Obstacles to Success” workshop, while Christine A. Merdon, vice president of program management for McKissack & McKissack, led a workshop entitled “The Art of Political Maneuvering in the Workplace.” Both workshops were interactive learning opportunities for attendees that focused on how to become successful in the corporate world.

Another panel discussion entitled “Work/Life Balance,” featured panelists Beth Donovan, Karen Kurek, Norma Lauder, and Joy Thomas who reflected on their personal experiences of balancing their professional and personal lives. The panel took questions from the audience that focused on how they were able to become successful and still maintain a fulfilling personal life.

Attendees mingled during the luncheon and networking portions of the conference. T.J. Houren, first-year MBA student, found these aspects of the conference to be the most valuable. “I enjoyed the interactive setting most, and learned a great deal from just being able to speak with people,” Houren said.

Overall, the conference was a success, and students appreciated its overlying message. Li Anne Foo, another first-year MBA student, was impressed by the overall quality of the conference. “I was very impressed by the quality of the speakers. They all had strong credentials and came from many backgrounds,” Foo said.