Distinguished Stevens Alumnae Say Making Connections Key to Success

3/30/2012

In celebration of 40 years of women undergraduates, the Stevens Alumni Association hosted an “Alumnae of Distinction’’ panel, featuring five extraordinary alumnae who hope to inspire the next generation of female students.

One recommendation for success was repeated several times during the discussion: make connections.

“Find your connection’’ was the advice of SAA Past President and Genworth senior executive Mary Doddy ’80, who welcomed more than 65 alumni, friends, students, faculty and staff members to the panel discussion on campus this month. “If you walk around, I’m sure you can find your own ‘six degrees of separation’ in this room,’’ Doddy said, referring to the idea that everyone is approximately six steps away, by way of introduction, to any other person.

The five alumnae were invited back to Stevens to offer advice to today’s talented students and share their extraordinary stories of success. They were Angie Hankins ’95, a partner with Stroock & Stroock & Lavan, a nationally recognized law firm with practice areas in capital markets, intellectual property, labor and employment; Lisa Mascolo ’82, the Chief Executive Officer of Optimos, a strategy and enterprise IT solutions firm; Tammy Rambaldi ’92, director of information security and IT compliance at Johnson & Johnson; MaryAnne Rizk ’01, M.S. ’01, a senior director, partnership and alliance, at Medidata Solutions, and a faculty member at Stevens; and Yvette Vargas, M.S. ’88, managing director, head of talent, development and diversity at UBS Wealth Management Americas.

The panelists were asked how to define success and all shared a personal story about what success is in their lives.

“I define success as the impact that my work has done, and it can take a long time to see that,’’ said Rambaldi. “Success is also seeing what my team does and gaining the satisfaction in seeing them succeed.’’

For Vargas, success is a lifelong process. “Success is a journey that recalibrates itself. If I can go to work and make one person better at what he does, then that to me is a success,’’ she said.

The panelists offered their thoughts on strategies for women to succeed.

“Network,’’ advised Mascolo. “Make that connection. Interpersonal relationships are often overlooked. Most women miss the value of connections. For instance, I don’t play golf, but I go out on the golf course. Just because I don’t play doesn’t mean I can’t talk to people and just make my presence known.’’

Vargas echoed Mascolo’s comments.

"Peer relationships are critical. Do I go out of my way to make my peers successful? We get results through working with people. It’s about networking,’’ she said.

Mascolo also shared her three philosophies of life: listen to others, learn as much as you can, and read just about anything you get your hands on. “Reading any sort of literature opens your mind to ideas that you may have never had,’’ she advised.

Hankins shared her unconventional route to success. After high school, she enlisted in the Air Force and served for four years. She entered Stevens and belonged to the fencing team, the Stevens Technical Enrichment Program (STEP), Khoda and was a resident assistant. After graduation, she began law school at the University of Virginia. She made partner at Stroock in 2008 and today, among the more than 300 lawyers at her firm, she is the only African-American partner. Her success came from knowing what she wanted and also asking her supervisors how to attain it. “You have to push and ask for what you want. I asked about making partner (at annual reviews). I asked them, ‘What should I be doing to be partner ready?’ ’’ Hankins said.

The five women had some ideas on how to get more girls interested in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) courses. Vargas suggested getting the parents of young girls interested in Stevens, which would allow for talk of the Institute in the home. Rambaldi thought girls as young as elementary age need to be reached to nurture a love of STEM. Hankins suggested partnering with civic groups such as the Girl Scouts to create interest.

Rizk, who is working on her Ph.D. at Stevens, discussed the benefits of her Stevens education. “A Stevens education (allowed me to) springboard to the next level. A technical degree is a good investment. It opens doors. It allows you to take your education and navigate it to the next level,’’ she said.

Lynn Insley, the director of Stevens’ Office of Career Development, served as moderator of the event.