Sitting at the Athenaeum amongst powerful, determined, and ambitious women from around the country, it was hard to not to feel empowered. The 9th annual Women and Leadership Conference aimed to inspire and embrace female worth in the workplace. This year the event featured Archana Sahgal ’99, a former Obama White House official and CMC alumna. A lawyer by training and social justice entrepreneur at heart, Sahgal worked as the Senior Associate Director at the Office of Public Engagement for the Obama Administration. After her motivating talk, I had the opportunity to sit down with Archana and further discuss her ideas on women in leadership today.
Q: What does leadership look like to you?
A: “Being a leader requires setting culture and setting tone. It’s important to cultivate the kind of work environment where everyone is able to flourish in support of a common mission. Ultimately, that is the kind of leadership I am drawn to and want to support. Traditionally, when we think about leadership, we look to the individual at the very top of the hierarchy Instead, there are different leadership models including the kind of leadership of supporting people to reach their full potential working together in service of a larger goal.”
Q: What is one piece of advice you have for young women entering the work place?
A: “The world can be harsh, and we have a long way to go in establishing equality and justice. I’d advise young women to find their inner resiliency. It is incredibly important to cultivate and nurture the ability to get back up after encountering a road block.
Q: In your athenaeum speech you talked about the discomfort many women associate with negotiating salary – can you explain this a little more?
A: There are plenty of barriers in this world to closing the gender pay gap so it’s particularly important to recognize that negotiating a salary is an art and a skill you can develop. In order to have a successful salary negotiation, it’s important to research industry standards as well as practice negotiating by conducting a role play and even develop talking points. Discussing money is often perceived as taboo which is why I’m grateful for the Women’s Leadership Workshop for providing hard skills like salary negotiation to CMC students and alum.
Q: What’s next for you?
A: “I’m committed to working in social justice realm. Right now, I am working as a consultant for a global foundation to deepen the #MeToo movement. It’s been incredibly fulfilling and exciting to be working during this “movement moment” to unlock resources that directly support feminist organizing and culture change. I’ve also been craving to build and create something; perhaps that is starting a fund or creating a new nonprofit or going deeper on an issue. One thing I know for sure is that I want to continue to try and have an impact and make a difference on the world.”
Sitting and talking with Archana really prompted me to think about my future and potential career path. As a woman, Archana’s messages about embracing self-worth and uplifting other members of the community really spoke to me. Indeed, thinking about women in the workplace more broadly in turn helped me think about my personal professional future. Perhaps what struck me most, however, were the numerous individuals who approached Archana amid our chat, eager to thank her for the earlier speech. Women at the conference were incredibly grateful to have someone advocate for women in the workplace – especially in male dominated fields like politics, government, and law. It became obvious, then, that Archana’s talk resonated with so many because it truly captured pivotal themes of self-worth and gender equality.
This February, the Kravis Leadership Institute sent a select group of KLI students to participate in the 2018 Hatton Sumners Leadership Conference. Hayley Giffin ’20, Rowan Mulligan ‘18, Linnea Uyeno ’20 and Michaiah Young ’18 trekked down to Austin, Texas for three days to be inspired to lead, increase their awareness about leadership and network with emerging leaders. This conference brought together more than 180 participants who were identified as a high potential leader by their respective schools from colleges all around the U.S. and Mexico.
Taking place on the UT Austin campus, the conference was hosted in partnership with the LBJ School of Public Affairs. Upon arrival, all participants were split into small groups of 15 individuals. This small group structure enabled students to go unpack leadership topics in depth and grow a strong group of close friends. On the first day, we all grew closer to our small group and had the opportunity to listen to Julian Castro, former Secretary of House and Urban Development and San Antonio mayor, talk about his journey as a minority politician.
The next two days consisted of a combination of personalized leadership workshops, small group team building exercises and inspirational talks.
“In the mere 2.5 day conference, they were able to facilitate genuine and collaborative connections between the students,” said Rowan Mulligan ‘18. Michaiah Young ’18 remembers, “One of the most unique things we did that I believe was one of the most valuable was express our appreciation and gratitude to fellow students. This was a rich and fulfilling mindfulness experience. It fostered deeper conversations and greater authenticity among us all.”
For Linnea Uyeno ‘20, “The cool part about the conference was that students had the option to attend personalized leadership workshop sessions that fit their own leadership interests. I had the opportunity to attend sessions such as, The Power of Introverts, Team Leadership, and Virtual Leadership. My favorite activity was debriefing the Strength Based Leadership assessment. It helped me to understand how unique my leadership strengths were compared to others, and how I can leverage these strengths to effectively influence and lead people. I felt that the assessment can increased my own leadership self-awareness, and taught me that leadership is a reflective process that can be developed through self-observation.”
One of the most impactful experiences before students officially begin their first semester at CMC is the Welcome Orientation Adventures. Now, freshman have a second opportunity to reshape their CMC experience and identity through KLI’s Freshman Half Retreat. This year, KLI took students up into the frozen Pali mountains to learn about the “Science of Living a Happier Life”. It is far too common that second semester freshman feel disillusioned returning to college from winter break.Through the Freshman Half Retreat, freshman were able to gain the skills, mindset, and community to tackle second semester and prepare them for the rest of their college journey.
The KLI programs team designed the retreat to integrate specific skill sets such as strategies for time management and resilience with fun community building games. Through improv and creative exercises, freshman conquered their fears of failure and social anxiety.
“My favorite activity was centered around indicating stressors in our social and academic lives, and then doing fun improv skits to see the different ways to tackle the problem,” said Mimi Thompson ’21.
Additionally, the retreat also taught students how to genuinely connect to their classmates.
“Freshman Half taught me that happiness comes from being brave enough to be vulnerable. I know that being open to people can be challenging, but now I realize that genuine relationships are essential to happiness,” said Carly Truscott ’21.
Most importantly, the retreat helped freshman to envision where they wanted to take their college experience and to define their passions and purpose. In small groups, students had time to unpack feelings and talk about their hopes, goals, and dreams for the future. It gave the freshman the space and environment to write down and truly reflect about their passions away from the social constraints of CMC.
The Freshman Half bridged the gap in support systems, and gave freshman the ability to return to CMC with confidence.
“The KLI Freshman Half retreat helped me to feel more prepared to effectively tackle the issues that I will face in college. I now have the tools to better manage my time, focus my priorities, and care for my mental health,” said Elena Castellanos ’21.
At the end of the two day retreat, freshman left the experience feeling empowered and excited for the future.
“It was a motivating experience, which made me want to get back to CMC and put it into practice,” said Caitlyn Louzado ’21.
The campfire had burned out, but something special had been kindled during the retreat. There was a sort of inertia that filled the air with passion and compassion.
For many of us, leadership is nothing but a confusing concept that leaves us feeling perplexed when we don’t fully understand its relevance. It can also leave us feeling guilty when we don’t frequently implement it in our daily lives. We often underestimate our ability to lead due to insufficient exposure to formal leadership roles, unmet age requirements, or even lack of experience. However, you and I both have the potential to be successful leaders right now!
On February 2, KLI Academic Director and Leadership Professor David Day conducted a leadership development workshop in conjunction with the Soll Center for Student Opportunity called “Influencing and Leading Without Formal Authority,” which focused on the art and science of getting people to say “yes” to your requests.
Professor Day initiated the workshop with a few questions and caveats. He warned us that we would not walk away from this workshop being a super influencer. “If you take what you learn from this workshop, internalize it, and then practice it, you will be significantly more successful in getting people to say ‘yes’ to your requests.” He then raised two questions, asking us about what we hoped to gain from this two-hour workshop and the last time we tried to influence someone. Justin Rodriguez ‘19 noted how “we will be leaders at some point in our lives, so this workshop is serving as early preparation.” Professor Day agreed, but also made the distinction that “you are a leader even if you don’t have a formal leadership position.”
For many of us students, this is a welcome relief because we don’t always have easy access to formal leadership positions, excluding the positions offered in clubs and organizations existing on campus. Professor Day’s statement showed me that leadership development starts when you are ready. So why not now?
Good leaders can ethically persuade others to their viewpoints. Professor Day noted three achievable outcomes when trying to persuade someone: resistance, compliance, or commitment. Resistance occurs when a person opposes your request or influence attempt. For example, trying to convince your parents to buy you the latest iPhone upgrade, but they say “no”. Compliance occurs when a person agrees by doing what is asked. If we continue with the same example, then your parents would agree to purchase the iPhone upgrade. Finally, commitment occurs when a person enthusiastically agrees to the request, which could equate to a buyer happily agreeing to make a purchase. In this instance, it would amount to your parents physically purchasing you the iPhone upgrade. Yay!
It’s clear that resistance is the least desired outcome, so how do we increase the amount of compliance or commitment our requests receive?
First determine if you desire compliance or commitment, and then select which common sources of power and principles of persuasion are necessary in your influencer strategy.
Sources of Power
As a freshman student, I sometimes feel as though my skills and professional value get short changed due to my age. Nor my or anyone else’s value or leadership potential should ever be determined merely by age alone. Many sources of power and leadership exist. So if we cannot access formal authority, then we can use other sources.
For example, if you comprehend specific course material well, then consider tutoring for that subject. Once people realize your ability to solve one of their problems, they will be more likely to view you as an expert. As a result, your reputation as an influencer will grow significantly, causing more people to request your skill set in order to solve their problems.
Last semester, I tutored students in calculus 1 and 2, many of whom disliked their professor’s style of teaching or the dynamic of group tutoring sessions. It started by helping friends with practice problems to hosting large review sessions for midterms, which then lead to becoming an official math tutor—bear in mind that I am only a freshman. The moral here is that skills are an opportunity for you to exercise your expert leadership, while remembering the benefits offered by the principles of persuasion.
Principles of Persuasion
A lot of the time, we approach situations looking to receive a benefit rather than give without expecting anything in return. Science shows that people repay in kind, so why not make giving a part of your influencer strategy? One nifty tip that Professor Day shared with us is how to properly close a conversation after lending someone a helping hand. Instead of saying, “don’t worry about it” after helping someone say, “if the roles were reversed, I know you’d do the same for me.” This instills a sense of obligation in the person rather than letting them off the hook entirely.
People want more of what they don’t have. For example, when online stores announce that a limited supply remains in stock, people feel more inclined to make a purchase. We can adopt similar language when formulating persuasive propositions by telling people what they will lose rather than what they will gain from agreeing to your request. It is not unethical to frame things in a way that will grab people’s attention.
Many college students feel unqualified to hold positions of authority due to lack of experience or formal leadership roles. People defer to experts, and we are all experts in something; formal leadership doesn’t need to validate this fact. You can also build your perceived authority and expertise by first mentioning weakness in your request and then showing how the strengths behind the request will more than make up for any weaknesses. In this way, you not only can show you know what you are talking about (expertise) but also build trust with the other person.
When asking people to commit, get them to commit verbally or in writing. According to Professor Day, “people live up to what they write down.” This will make people much more likely to follow through on their promises.
Research shows that we tend to cooperate with people who are more like ourselves. Always look for similarities, give genuine praise, and provide compliments when attempting to influence others.
People follow the lead of similar others. It is a natural human instinct to fear being left out. Ethically exploit this fear by establishing the successful majority and showing the person you are influencing where he or she is currently situated in relation to the majority.
Many students have expressed to me sentiments of bewilderment in regards to understanding the underlying purpose and value of KLI. As a KLI student employee, I found this workshop to exemplify one aspect about what KLI actually does. Ignoring the obvious leadership aspect, it enhanced student’s ability to achieve success in the real word, which is relevant and applicable to students across all majors.
At the end of the day, we all have the ability to lead successfully, either in formal or informal capacities. However, this mindset begins with us believing it for ourselves. “If we don’t think we are leaders, if we don’t think we are powerful, then when we get into situations where successful leadership is required, then we are at best tentative,” said Professor Day, who then implemented a piece of his own advice. “I’ve invested my two hours into this workshop, but I know if the roles were reversed, you would do the same for me,” he jokingly concluded the workshop.
Sitting around Michael Grindon’s ‘76 Pacific Palisades patio, it was hard not to admire the greco-roman columns, perfectly groomed lawn, and impeccable pool. As KLI Journalists, Robert Cain ‘21 and I had the opportunity to attend the Kravis Fellows event hosted by entertainment legend, Michael Grindon, and his longtime friend in the industry, Gerry Sanoff ‘76.
Grindon and Sanoff, although both attendees of Claremont Mckenna College, officially met amid work at Sony Pictures. For 15 years, Michael Grindon worked as President of Sony Pictures Television International (SPTI) and has worked for prominent entertainment companies such as HBO and Columbia Pictures. He currently works for Legendary Television as President of Worldwide Distribution. Gerry Sanoff works as a freelance writing consultant and has enjoyed contracts with Sony, CBS, and NBC. Prior to entering the international arena, Gerry spent 12 years writing and producing TV shows in the United States such as Matlock and Police Academy. The two provided an in depth fittingly funny analysis of the entertainment industry and its constantly changing dynamic.
Indeed, hearing both Grindon and Sanoff describe their respective experiences managing and writing, captured two distinct paths in entertainment: Business/Management and Creative/Content Development.
Grindon began the talk with a question: Are we experiencing the Golden Age of TV or its messy, confusing future? From there, he talked about technological progress – most notably streaming services – and how the traditional TV production model has changed enormously over time. Indeed, he revealed – to a very surprised group – that the largest television viewing platform is YouTube, which receives over 1 billion viewing hours a day!
Sanoff provided another lens in which to consider the entertainment industry. Talking to the group, he emphasized the importance of cultural awareness. As a longtime entertainment writer, Sanoff currently adapts and remakes American TV shows for a particular foreign audience. He shared various funny encounters that chronicled his range of experience around the world. Sanoff also explained that the business is a tough one: “If you get beaten down, then you must get back up. In the entertainment industry, you must be able to take profound criticism because you will be rejected 80% of the time.”
Both Grindon and Sanoff emphasized leadership development and interpersonal connections as foundational to succeeding in the entertainment industry. Grindon explained that, “There are many challenges for a good leader. The greatest challenge in any particular situation depends on the type of leadership required. Leading men in combat will be very different from leading a group in a corporate environment. Key items to remember: define the goals for your team, make sure everyone knows what they are supposed to do and how to do it, be generous with sharing information and praise, and do the right thing whenever possible.”
Sanoff also shared similar sentiments and reiterated the role respect plays in effective leadership. He described often feeling alienated and never fully embraced by his international colleagues. Over time, however, he realized that by actively putting in effort to learn about different cultural traditions, norms, and values he could forge lasting bonds with his co-workers, regardless of their background.
After both speakers concluded their discussions, I was left with a sense of excitement and community. It was incredible to watch CMC alumni come together to discuss their career paths and future goals. Grindon and Sanoff were so open to questions and offered current KLI students advice on their professional pursuits.
Robert, my co-journalist explained that, “Coming from CMC as a Media Studies major, I know my field is very underrepresented; but, the opportunity to see and interact with a CMC alumni who is thriving in the media-entertainment industry gives me much hope for the future.”
As someone broadly interested in writing and the entertainment industry, this was an incredibly eye-opening and informative experience. I learned about the varying kinds of work in the industry and was pushed to think critically about what it is I truly want to do with my life. Michael Grindon and Gerry Sanoff epitomized the CMC values of working hard and pursuing one’s passion, and helped provide me with a tangible idea of what future in the entertainment industry might look like.
My experience as a research assistant at the Kravis Leadership Institute for Professor Ron Riggio was a fundamental part of my development not only as a student at Claremont McKenna College (CMC), but also as an investment banking summer analyst at Cain Brothers.
It seems like yesterday that the Class of 2018 sat down for a sophomore class dinner at the Athenaeum. At this event, I met Professor Riggio and explained my interest in research and the Kravis Leadership Institute. Shortly after, I started working as a research assistant. While I did not have explicit experience in leadership studies, Professor Riggio saw my potential. Cain Brothers also recognized my potential – the potential to grow and develop not only professionally, but also personally.
It has truly been an incredible summer experience. From contributing to a live sell-side deal and helping with creating a winning sell-side pitch book, and managing the initial client due diligence process in preparation for an upcoming kickoff meeting with Rob Fraiman, the President and CEO of Cain Brothers, I have experienced a tremendous amount of growth. The skills that I have developed at Cain Brothers such as the ability to take criticism, adapting to a quickly changing environment, developing self-awareness of my boundaries and learning to say no, are skills that I have continued carry on in my academic career at CMC. But what genuinely resonates with both the Kravis Leadership Institute and Cain Brothers is the mentorship. At the Kravis Leadership Institute, Professor Riggio and Professor Julie Christian from the University of Birmingham, England served as remarkable mentors. At Cain Brothers, I found the same type of mentorship from both junior and senior bankers.
While there were challenging times, my experience at Cain Brothers was unbelievably rewarding. It taught me the importance of realizing the bigger picture and of maintaining your authenticity as a person. CMC cares and Cain Brothers cares as well. During my last year at “Camp Claremont”, I am looking forward to continue building my acumen in finance and accounting and enjoying all of the experiences senior year has to offer.
About the author
Born and raised from Las Vegas, Tierra Patmavanu is a senior at Claremont McKenna College. After graduating from CMC in May 2018, Tierra will work as an investment banking analyst with the Mergers & Acquisitions team at Cain Brothers in their San Francisco office. This past summer Tierra interned at Cain Brothers as an investment banking summer analyst. As an Edward J. Sexton PPE Fellow, a Robert Day School Scholar, and a 2017 CMC Nominee for Harry S. Truman Scholarship, Tierra will graduate with a Bachelor of Arts in Economics and a Sequence in Financial Economics from CMC’s Robert Day School of Economics and Finance.
Over Thanksgiving Break, I interviewed Kyle Weiss ‘15, a recent CMC graduate and former Kravis Leadership Institute employee, to inquire about his career history, CMC education, and his definition of the meaning of success. Co-founding FUNDaFIELD, “a non-profit organization, run by students, dedicated to enriching the lives of less fortunate kids in the developing world through sports,” he has made strides in making a global impact through innovation and forward-thinking.
His past experiences highlight unique aspects of the CMC education and challenges conventional views of success.
The atmosphere of CMC is extremely career-driven. From perfecting your resume and acing interviews to selecting accurate career interests on Handshake and reaching out to alumni, CMCers are trained to pursue success as early as their first year of college. But what exactly is success, and how is it quantified?
I have observed a common theme at CMC: students declaring a major and pursuing a career path strictly for financial gain. CMC advertises expertise in certain majors and industries—consulting, economics, financial services—and many students feel compelled to follow them for the simple reason of it leading to the highest paid salary. When I asked Kyle about this topic, he noted how CMC students pursue a career because their views of success align with that of former students, societal expectations, or CMC norms that funnel students into specific industries without them thinking twice about their decision.
“Saying some CMC students equate money with success is true, but I think reality is more nuanced than that. I think that many CMCers equate success with success, and by that I mean they equate the image of success with success. They all want the big brand-name job. They want the familiar feeling that comes along with the next accomplishment,” Weiss claimed.
But even with clearly defined career paths, CMC students still experience immense pressure to succeed, as Weiss states that “more of the challenge with CMC is the pressure. There is so much pressure that students turn to well-defined paths because they see how other students before them equated that particular path with success.”
Unfortunately, this ideology forces students to choose majors and careers based strictly on narrow interests, leading them to disregard questions like “what do I actually want to do? Do I want to work in front of a spreadsheet all day? What kind of impact do I want my work to have?,” as proposed by Weiss
It’s not all about the dollar bills. Of course, we all want enough money to comfortably support ourselves and future families; but if the pursuit of success blurs our vision with dollar signs, then is it really worth it? Is all the money in the world worth sacrificing career fulfilment?
In Kyle’s case, he founded FUNDaFIELD in order to better the lives of children in the developing world by “enriching the lives of less fortunate youth and providing soccer fields and equipment to African schools.” “By utilizing the therapeutic power of sports to support the rehabilitation and recovery process in post-conflict and post-trauma regions around the world,” he built sustainable change in areas that needed it. FUNDaFIELD has raised over $500,000 to date and built 10 soccer fields in three countries.
Kyle’s success with FUNDaFIELD shows how small, meaningful actions eventually result in a positive outcome for both the giver and the recipient. If you are persistent and intentional, they just might “spiral into wonderful opportunities,” Kyle explained
Looking back at his CMC experience, Kyle regrets not having more appreciation for the GEs, because he now realizes the importance of “seeing things through a bunch of different lenses. The world is changing too fast to narrow in on one skill. Depth is still critical, but breadth gives you the ability to dynamically react to any situation.”
I wanted to know what makes Kyle get up in the morning; what motivates him to pursue success? He responded with a list that did not include the word money: making an impact, traveling, meeting new people, constant inspiration, learning new things, exposure to new ideas, strong relationships, and building something out of nothing. Discover what makes you get up in the morning, and pursue that rather than zeros on a check. I think you will be surprised at how often the two intersect.
Marko Liu wants to change China with his leadership research. He recently joined the Kravis Leadership Institute as a visiting scholar from Beijing, China for the next 19 months. So why exactly did Liu trade the bustling streets of Beijing for the quaint roads of Claremont, California?
Liu’s journey to Claremont started in 2010 when he was working in a human resources consulting firm in Beijing. While at his time as a Talent development consultant, Liu found a hole in the leadership development field. One day he was providing executive feedback to a CEO, and the CEO said that although his advice on leadership was valuable, it had come too late for individuals at his age (45 years old). At that point, Liu started to think about the importance of earlier development in leadership.
“I kept thinking about what he said. Leadership development may be a lifespan process. I [searched for] research on this topic. I found that there were few researchers with developmental psychology perspective on this topic,” Liu said.
What Liu stumbled across was a 2011 issue in the Leadership Quarterly Journal, focusing on the longitudinal studies of leadership development, written by prominent leadership scholars, Professor Ronald Riggio, Allen Gottfried and David Day etc. The Fullerton Study program that began in 1979 with 130 one-year-olds and their families confirmed Liu’s suspicions.
“In 2014, I decided to quit my HR job and transfer my career to academic research on this topic. I applied for a PhD and went back to the Beijing Normal University to focus on the combination of developmental psychology and leadership”
As Liu dug deeper, he realized that there were only a few research studies connecting early family environment to future leadership potential. Academics have not even differentiated how they define and measure leadership in earlier developmental stages differently from in adulthood.
“This topic needs to be explored continuously. I am planning to do some research to clarify the measurement, influential factors (parenting behavior etc.), and intervene strategies for the youth,” Liu said.
Liu hopes to bring leadership development research and practices back to China.
“In the U.S., from early childhood, parents, teachers, and society emphasize leadership. They try to improve kid’s self-identity as a leader, in order to help them to learn how to lead themselves, influence others and even change the world. In China, the current emphasis is on academic achievement. Leadership in China is still an emerging topic. However, in recent years, modern parents and teachers are starting to realize the importance of leadership development for the youth.”
As the need for more leadership development services grows, Liu hopes to spearhead the movement with the groundbreaking research he is doing at Kravis Leadership Institute.
“I have a dream to start up some programs in China to put my research into practice. I want to coach and guide Chinese parents and teachers to develop and cultivate youth leadership [skills] scientifically. There is a growing need for it in China.”
Liu believes his leadership programs could shape society through business. One day Liu hopes to have the bigger impact on society by developing the Chinese leadership cultivation products around his research.
“If a business could do this kind of thing, I think it would be a great help for society through the development of the next generation. Later on, I want to start some programs to influence the government and the education system, so that they do some leadership curriculum in schools. My graduate advisor in China is a consultant for the Chinese education department. I can probably influence the government to do some leadership programs all over the country. Once I do this, I will feel a great sense of achievement and value,” said Liu.
Doug Peterson always took the jobs that no one wanted. Now he has the job that everyone wants. He is the CEO of one of the most influential companies in the world, the S&P Global. His unconventional career journey has taken him all over the globe, and it started here at CMC.
“When I was at CMC I knew I wanted to do international business, but I had no idea what that meant or how to get there. I was a math and history major.”
While studying abroad, Peterson learned Spanish and discovered his passion for experiencing new cultures. During his 26 years at Citibank, Peterson spent more than half of his career offshore.
“I worked as a banker in Argentina, and as a country manager in Costa Rica and Uruguay. I also was in Japan as a regional CEO.”
His journey to the top was not an easy one. In fact, many people questioned Peterson’s decision to move his career to a small country like Costa Rica.
“I always tried to take the jobs where I was going to learn the most. In Costa Rica, I learned how to manage people. It gave me the opportunity to learn about things that were way outside my comfort zone. It was not a typical career path, but it gave me humility.”
In 2004 his unorthdox career path made him the perfect candidate for a larger role at Citibank. Peterson was sent to Japan to improve Citibank’s relationship with the government. After successfully mitigating tensions, Peterson was ready to lead a global company and he became the CEO of S&P in Nov 2013.
“[Looking back]the progression of my career sounds very logical, but it was not. Sometimes you don’t always have to take the jobs that seem like the ‘cool’ jobs that everyone is taking and [wants].”
If there is no “logical career progression”, what is the secret to becoming a CEO?
“Don’t expect that you are going to get something immediately. Take the jobs that no one else wants where you can adapt and build skills. There is value in always finding value [in every job you do].”
But there’s more to the formula than that. A CEO must have that ‘je ne sais quoi’ leadership presence. In fact, when Doug Peterson talks, you can feel the room warming up from his charismatic charm. For Peterson, this leadership quality was developed by learning the psychology behind management and through experiential learning.
“I [like to tell people] to study psychology, if they really want to know how an organization works and how people tick.”
Peterson shared his secret four part leadership model: vision, integrity, accountability, and communication. He stressed communication as the most important trait a CEO can have.
“In order to deliver your vision, build integrity, and an approach to accountability – you have to communicate. Communication is the glue that holds everything together.”
Peterson believes that the liberal arts education of CMC prepares students to be strong communicators. However, Peterson wishes that CMCers would focus less on securing jobs only at coveted firms like Goldman Sachs, Google, or McKinsey and expand their horizons.
“All of a sudden you get tunnel vision. You don’t even know what it means [or why you want that job]. I guarantee there are people out there that say they want to be an investment banker and they don’t know what investment banking is. One of the most amazing things about being in college for four years is the opportunity to experience so many new things.”
As a grand finale to Impact CMC Weekend, the Kravis Leadership Institute concluded with a noteworthy career panel. Sitting at the table were Semantify VP of Product Strategy & Marketing Arjun Dutt CMC ‘07, First Data Product Manager Claudia Raigoza CMC ‘14, Skyview Capital Private Equity Analyst Don Swan POM ‘15, Assistant Director of Development of Valley Performing Arts Center Maria Paredes ‘09, and Glenn Hickerson CMC ‘59.
To begin the panel, Raigoza mentioned how none of the panelist found themselves in their intended career paths. Dutt talked about his dream of becoming a child development psychologist, and Swan shared his love for sports business. Now, they find themselves working in product innovation and private equity, respectively. Swan told students to keep their eyes open to different opportunities, because “I never thought I would find myself working at Skyview in private equity.”
Hickerson, who retired from the aviation industry working in various management roles, told students to “follow their passions wherever they may take them.”
How students discover these passions led to the next round of lively debate amongst the panelists.
Paredes referenced how she struggled between choosing chemistry or art as a major due to the disparity in hourly wages. This led to her first point: knowing your values. “You must decide what you value most,” she claimed.
Dutt also noted that students should constantly seek out mentors positioned not just within their desired career field but also outside of it. This, he argued, “allows you to exhaust all of your options and experience different roles in order to accurately gauge your interests.”
But even after undergraduate students find their passion, how should they situate themselves in positions likely for success?
Paredes listed some skills such as creativity, leadership, and grit that campus recruiters look for in their hires. Hickerson argued for strong quantitative skills and a little economic understanding. Dutt reaffirmed the need for strong quantitative skills, but also professed how “it’s never the same two or three skills” that he looks for. He zeroes in on students who can view situations from unique perspectives. For example, he highlighted how he once hired a theatre major at his tech company for a data analytics role because of the applicant’s theatre training primed her with the ability to think on their feet, which is invaluable during meetings with clients. The lesson here is figuring out how to take what you learn in the classroom and apply it elsewhere.
But what role did failure play in the current success of the panelists?
Raigoza led with “failure is not the opposite of success, it is an element of success, because everytime you fail, you get closer to success.” Swan added that students should “take on failure with a new lens.” Dutt provided a more practical example, because he is currently involved in a startup that is on the precipice of almost going under. He revealed that his biggest fear right now is that he may not be able to make the next payroll, since the company has run out of funds, and isn’t generating enough revenue to break even. But in light of this trial, he still managed to acknowledge how important it is to learn from failure rather than dwell in it.
During an interview with Raigoza, I ask her to describe her career journey in one word. She said, “bashert,” which is a Jewish word that means everything happens for a reason or meant to be. We tend to label failure with a shameful reputation, but Dutt, Raigoza, Swan, Paredes, and Hickerson are all proud to be products of failure and perseverance. They prove to us that we can’t let fear of failure define our lives or our will to succeed, and as Hickerson put it, “don’t be afraid to take risks… look for opportunities even if it involves a little bit of a risk.”
After hearing all of this advice, I not only feel more confident about facing failure but also more prepared to jumpstart my career. Are you?