Smoldering heat and sunshine greeted several Imperial College Business School representatives in Austin, Texas this past week as we arrived at Forté Foundation’s Let’s Turn It Up! Women’s Leadership Conference.
It was a historic event, marking the Business School’s first Forté conference since becoming a sponsor of the Forté Foundation earlier in the year. The Forté Foundation’s sole mission is to launch women into fulfilling, significant careers through access to business education, opportunities, and a community of successful women.
We were joined in Texas by top-tier MBA programmes from North America and around the world for this two-day event packed with motivational speeches, workshops, and networking geared towards accelerating women in business.
The conference kicked off with Millennial Workplace Expert and NYTimes Bestselling Author, Lindsey Pollak. She set the stage with a spirited keynote speech encouraging the audience to reflect on their personal brand and asked us to consider, “How do people describe YOU? . . . What is your LinkedIn headline?”
Take three words that describe you today and compare that to the three words you want to describe you. Now take the actions to get there, and believe in the art of the possible. Challenge your assumptions and set your aims high.
Key Elements of a Strong Leadership Brand according to Pollak:
- Visibility—Don’t be afraid to be BOLD!
- Differentiation—What makes you unique?
- Consistency—Shine EVERYWHERE!
- Authenticity—Be YOU, but the BEST you
Day one continued with a series of Career Insights and Industry Introductions giving us a closer look into the seemingly endless career paths, ranging from traditional routes such as Consulting and Investment Banking to less obvious options including Energy and Technology. The series highlighted what it means to be a woman in these industries and how to persevere and succeed in male-dominated fields and executive teams.
My key takeaway from these series? Know your worth and do not be afraid to ask for what you want. You might not have every qualification in a job posting, but that does not mean you aren’t capable. You never know unless you put yourself out there and take on challenges that will allow you to grow.
An expansive Careers Expo and Networking Reception ended day one, with representatives from over 50 companies looking to recruit female MBA talent. Companies included IBM, Google, Microsoft Surface (raffling away free tablets as an added bonus!), EY, Deloitte, J.P. Morgan, Citi Bank, Barclays, and many more.
After a tiring yet inspiring first day, our Imperial ladies explored the vibrant capital city of Texas—heading off for a proper Tex Mex dinner and tour of Austin’s popular 6th Street.
Day two of the conference kicked off bright and early on Saturday morning, focusing on Professional Development with workshops and panels composed of MBA Alumni and supporters from a vast array of backgrounds. The sessions helped the current and future students present to determine how they can navigate through their MBA journey and craft their desired career paths. Sessions ranged from ‘Find Your Voice and Make It Heard’ and ‘Empowered to Negotiate’ to being an ‘Interview Star’ and trailblazing as a female entrepreneur with founders from four successful start-ups sharing words of wisdom and advice.
During lunch, Power Pitch finals were held—a new addition to the annual conference showcasing female entrepreneurs and their business ideas conceived and developed as part of their business school experience. Four finalists pitched their ideas for a $10,000 grand prize. The winner of the inaugural event went to OrangePrint of Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management. OrangePrint aims to connect newly released inmates with job opportunities in the construction industry—simultaneously solving two issues that hit close to home for the founding team. This venture is targeted at the Greater Chicago Area and hopes to reduce reincarceration rates by easing the transition back into society and bridging the employment gap seen in a struggling construction industry.
Cindy Solomon, Customer Service and Employee Engagement Guru and Strategic Consultant, rounded out the event with a motivational speech on courageous leadership. Cindy’s long list of accolades include, but are not limited to, consulting for the who’s who of corporate and entrepreneurial America with clients as varied as The Mayo Clinic and Google, as well as, authoring two best-sellers, The Rules of Woo: An Entrepreneurs Guide to Capturing the Hearts and Minds of Today’s Customers and Creating a Culture of Courage. Her experience and passion exude beyond the pages of her books and biographies as she inspired the room of over 500 students with each and every witty, heartfelt line. She urged everyone to simply not have a seat at the table, but to have a voice at the table and be heard – have the courage to own your strengths and take control of your future.
I’m so proud to have been able to represent the Business School at this conference, an event that echoes our dedication to gender equality and women in business, and I’m excited to see how the Business School’s relationship with the Forté Foundation continues to grow.
We are women. We are leaders. We are the future. Let’s Turn It Up!
Nicole is a Full-Time MBA student, Social Leader, and Student Ambassador.