Prominent alumnae panel shares insights on career and personal success

3/27/2014

 

Embrace your leadership style, and don’t be something that you’re not.

Make sure people at work know your accomplishments.

Don’t “Lean In”— jump in.

Five highly successful Stevens alumnae offered this advice, and reflected on success in their careers and lives, their time at Stevens and lessons learned, at the annual Alumnae of Distinction panel on March 19 at Stevens.

More than 40 students, alumnae and staff attended the Stevens Alumni Association-sponsored event, which featured alumnae panelists who hold prominent leadership positions in several industries and fields. They included: Priyanka Bawa ’04, chief of staff for North America Securities & Fund Services head, Citi; Moushmi Culver ’00, executive director, Business Consulting, and chief of staff, Merck Manufacturing Division, Merck; Grace M. Kelly, M.S. ’01, deputy chief executive officer, State of New Jersey Civil Service Commission; Marybeth  Lynch ’00, co-founder, Giving Hope Network, a charity which serves children with autism and disadvantaged youths; and Tammy Rambaldi ’92, director, Information Security and IT Compliance, Johnson & Johnson. Beth McGrath, chief of staff and director, community & state relations, for Stevens’ Office of the President, served as moderator.

McGrath opened the discussion by asking the group what they’ve learned during their careers that they wish they had known as students. Rimbaldi told the audience that her first job was a true “leap of faith,” and she has learned that this is OK.

“Your first job is not your last job,” she said. “You really can’t make a bad decision,” as this experience helps you learn what you like and what don’t like, job-wise.

 Meanwhile, Kelly wishes that she had known the benefit of keeping in touch with her “brilliant” Stevens graduate school classmates, who could have provided professional resources and job contacts. And Lynch would have followed her dream early on to study abroad first instead of getting so wrapped up in the senior year job search.

 “At times, it may seem that everyone is doing a certain thing—but that may not be for you,” she said. “I wish I had remembered my dream.” Later, during graduate school, Lynch did fulfill her dream by studying for a semester at London Business School.

When asked about differences in leadership styles between men and women, Culver and Bawa offered distinct perspectives.

Culver has observed that men tend to be more confident in corporate America and are more likely to go for jobs that they’re not totally qualified for, while women may hold back if they don’t meet all of the qualifications, she said. “I can bring an insight that men cannot,” she said, including an ability to multi-task well – something this mother of two does well. She and other panelists did say that management ranks are becoming more diverse, with more women and minorities represented.

But Bawa said that experience and personality—not gender differences—matter most when it comes to leadership style. Women must make everyone aware of their accomplishments and examine what they like about other people’s leadership styles and try to emulate that, she said.

Rambaldi noted that there’s a growing awareness that not everyone has the same leadership style, and women must know their weaknesses but mostly embrace and capitalize on their strengths.

These women had much to share about how their Stevens education has best served them—and what they wish they had experienced at Castle Point.

Stevens requires students to work in groups and this experience of working cooperatively and finding team members’ strengths continues to serve her today, Culver said.

For Rambaldi, skills that she learned more than 20 years ago at Stevens – problem-solving, analytical skills – are ones that she still uses, she said. One thing that she wishes she had learned earlier — the need to influence others and constantly sell and advocate her ideas at work.

When asked what keeps them up at night, these successful women proved that they have many important things on their minds.

Lynch, who calls herself an “aspiring mom,” is wondering how family life will work in a global market where business is conducted 24/7. She is saddened when she sees women who have chosen different career and life paths criticize each other.

“That really breaks my heart,” she said. “People are doing the best they can. We all get out of bed trying to do the best we can.”

These five women had much to share regarding the skills—beyond the technical skills—that have helped them in their careers and in their lives.

Bawa pointed toward the ability to work within a team—and to ask for help when you need it. Playing to her own strengths, and to each team member’s strengths, and learning what truly motivates people have benefitted Rambaldi.

Lynch spoke of many skills that can help anyone on their career path and through life, from the ability to truly listen, recognizing your own moods and how they affect others, quieting your “inner critic,” continually learning, and giving back through volunteer work.

“Be in the practice of gratitude,” she said. It’s fun, rewarding – and it can help you develop new skills and contacts.

The panelists later took a number of questions from the audience, among them how they balance work and family. All panelists agreed—you must ask for and be open to help.

“You’re never going to have a ‘balance,’ ” Culver said. “You have to figure out the right integration.”

Audience members praised the women for their advice and insight.

“They each seemed to have a different path. I loved hearing their stories and how they got there,”
said student Reeba James.  This busy freshman was also encouraged to hear that the tough classes she’s now taking will pay off for years to come.

“It does come together and it does help you,” she said.