Michelle Brann ’15 is a Chemistry and Math major. Passionate about astrobiology, she interned at NASA’s Ames Research Center her sophomore summer. In the summer of 2014, she was one of 10 students worldwide to participate in the NASA Ames Academy for Space Exploration 2014, a highly-selective program focused on leadership, team-building, and research. After graduating this May, Michelle plans to work at one the Department of Energy’s National Lab for one to two years before pursuing a PhD in Chemistry.
Day in the Life of a NASA intern (when not off site touring):
6AM: Wake up
6:45AM: Walk over to Mega Bites Cafe for Breakfast
7AM: Individual Research Project
11PM: Group Lunch (or Lunch Lecture)
12PM: Individual Research Project
2PM: Centerwide Colloqium Lecture
3PM: Individual Research Project
5PM: Cooking, Mingling and Dinner Lecture
9PM-12 AM: Group Project Work
1) How did you land your internship with NASA your sophomore summer?
I ended up at NASA Ames Research Center by simply applying online through OSSI, NASA’s One Stop Shopping Initiative. I filled out a general application complete with essays, letters of recommendations, previous work experience and then more specifically found projects that interested me. Principal Investigators (PI’s) read the applications, often upwards of 30 students for one spot and offer positions without further interviews. My mentor Oana Marcu, told me that I stood out based on my extensive previous research experience from my summers at Maine Medical Center’s Summer Research Program and IDEXX Laboratories. Not only did I have specific laboratory techniques required for the position, but I also had the molecular biology coursework biology from the coursework required as a prospective Biological Chemistry Major.
2) Could you tell us a bit about the project you worked on during your summer internship?
My project involves studying algae, more specifically the unicellular alga Chlamydomonas reinhardtii and its response to oxidative stress. C. reinhardtii is first unicellular member of the Volvocine lineage, followed by colonial species and the multicellular relative Volvox carteri, making this family of algae a good model for understanding the evolution of multicellularity in response to environmental stressors. Such work will help in the search of life outside Earth. Additionally, for astronauts to survive in outer space, closed life support systems are necessary to remove waste such as carbon dioxide, feces and urine and convert these bi-products into usable oxygen, food and water mimicking Earth’s environment. One possibility for regenerative life support is algae. Since algae are photosynthetic organisms, understanding their response to the environmental stressors experienced in space allows manipulation for optimal oxygen production. I hypothesize that there is a universal response to any environmental stressor recruiting signal molecules to generate a more specific response.
3) The NASA Ames Academy for Space Exploration is a very intensive summer research program. Could you tell us about some of the highlights of the program, and some things you learned?
The NASA Academy was honestly my best summer experience so far! The highlight was definitely the close interaction and tours of many Aerospace Companies as well as networking with NASA Academy Alumni. I learned how to give my 30 second elevator speech and the importance of being able to interact and work with those of all different backgrounds for my group project. I was fortunate to attend a private wine tasting with NASA Ames Center Director Pete’s Worden’s at his favorite winery as well as sit a dinner table with him and four others and ask him questions about his trips to abroad. Besides going to Nevada and Lake Tahoe, our biggest trip was a five day excursion to Southern California where I toured SpaceX, Virgin Galactic, Scaled Composites, Caltech and JPL. Although I signed non-disclosure agreements, a highlight was touching SpaceShip2 at Scaled Composites as well as seeing White Knight (the carrier ship) in addition to posing with a mock-up of the Curiosity Rover currently on Mars.
4) How did you discover your passion for space?
I was first introduced to space and its exploration in high school when I participated in the astronomy event for my school’s school’s Science Olympiad Team. I continued with this event for my remaining three high school years. During this time, I also studied the magnitude of Delta Cephei, a variable star, for three months as my science fair project. My current goal remains to connect biology and chemistry research with that space to explore fundamental questions and make it possible to search for life elsewhere. I enjoy studying space from a biological and chemical environment because it makes me realize how small we really are.
5) You entered Wellesley intending to be pre-med, but your plans have since changed. Did your internship at NASA influence this decision?
I entered Wellesley pre-med because I knew that I was interested in science and it seemed the logical choice. At the time, I wasn’t really aware of all the different career opportunities available and saying that I wanted to pursue medicine was simply more acceptable than saying that I had no idea. After getting involved in research and meeting scientists truly passionate about their work at both NASA Ames Research Center as well as through Wellesley and MIT I realized that I am more interested in the research environment.
6) You’re currently continuing your project at NASA as your senior honors thesis in chemistry. Could you tell us more about your thesis work?
I am in a little bit of an unusual situation in that I’m doing an off-campus thesis at Wellesley with Professor Wolfson’s support. I worked on campus for both the fall and spring semesters, but with the financial support of the MA Space Grant Fellowship, I was able to return back to NASA Ames Research Center in January to use equipment not readily available at Wellesley. To test my hypothesis that the universal response to any environmental stressor in C reinhardtii involves recruiting signal molecules to generate a more specific response, I am exposing my culture to heat stress as well as removing metals from inside the cell and measuring signal molecules with a fluorescent tag.
7) Do you have any advice for other Wellesley women seeking careers in space research?
My philosophy is that you should always just apply for everything. Although it may seem as though at times there are very slim chances of getting selected, there is 0% chance if you don’t even submit an application. Also, space research and the space industry is being more privatized over time so there are still plenty of opportunities outside of NASA. Additionally, networking is key and I encourage students to never hesitant to start googling and send out emails.
8) What are you involved with on campus?
This year, I have been part of Chemistry Society while remaining focused on my senior thesis and applying for jobs. However, I spent my first three years at Wellesley as a member of the Varsity Golf Team, but I am recuperating from a shoulder injury that makes me currently unable to compete.
Ava Chang ’15 majored in Computer Science and minored in Economics. She graduated a semester early and is currently working at the World Health Organization’s headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland. Ava plans to return to the U.S. in June to begin working as a full-time Investment Banking Analyst in the Public Finance group at J.P. Morgan in New York City. In the past, she has completed business development and analyst internships at Encore HQ, Red Fields Partners, and J.P. Morgan.
Day in the Life (at WHO):
7AM: Wake up, exercise if I have time, eat breakfast
8AM: Head to work
8:45/9AM: Arrive at work and start checking emails. Do edits on country briefs that the Director General will be using during her visits with country officials.
10AM: Attend a meeting with another WHO programme to discuss the Global Induction coming up.
11AM: Begin doing research on “Best Practices” by international organizations
12PM: Head to lunch, usually in the UNAIDS building
1PM: Back in the office, continue doing “Best Practices” research
2:30PM: My supervisor sends in a report discussing mobility opportunities and asks that I edit it
3:30PM: Attend another meeting discussing the Global Induction
4:30PM: Back to editing the mobility report
5:30PM: Leave the office
Day in the Life (at J.P. Morgan):
7:30AM: Wake up and get ready for work
8:30AM: Arrive at work and check my emails, grab a quick breakfast downstairs
8:45AM: Meet with the team and discuss the edits that have come in overnight
9AM: At the desk running numbers for debt analysis for different scenarios and editing the PowerPoint accordingly
11AM: Send in the edits to the Associate. Do edits for another project discussing investment profiles for major healthcare systems.
12PM: Edits come back from first project. Start fixing, as we have a meeting at 1:30PM with the Managing Director. Grab a quick lunch.
1:30PM: Finish edits in time, and meeting begins.
3PM: Begin building new financial models suggested after the meeting. Run multiple scenarios and send results to my Associate.
5PM: Grab coffee with an analyst in my group.
5:30PM: Edits come in for a different client – quickly do them and send back to Associate.
6:30PM: Order Seamless! What should I get tonight…do some work, talk to other interns in the meantime.
7:30PM: Seamless arrives. Eating while doing some work. Calculating ratios for a few healthcare competitors.
8:30PM: Another round of edits come in for the first project. Continue edits on PowerPoint and run a new set of numbers.
10:30PM: Send edits back to associate. This took awhile because I had to make sure the numbers were accurate. Wait for a response in the meantime.
11:30PM: Associate comes back and asks for a few more fixes.
12:30AM: Send back edits to Associate who then sends it over to the MD. I start working on a few other less urgent projects.
2AM: Head home.
Q: How did you land your internship with WHO?
A: The internship process I went through was actually quite informal! I knew I wanted to gain experience within an international agency in healthcare but wanted to better understand how the agencies worked and what the specific programmes within them did. Thus, I sent a couple of emails to technical officers within various programmes at the WHO and asked if I could chat with them on the phone briefly to learn more about their work. On the phone, I emphasized that although I didn’t have a health background, that I was analytical, very interested in healthcare and the public sector, and hardworking. I then asked if there were any internship openings available at the organization. Many people talk about the recruitment process at international agencies as being similar to “sending your resume into a black box”, but there is always a way to put your name out there! Try to find them, instead of it being the other way around. There are so many candidates who apply and often times the process isn’t very centralized.
Q: What are your current responsibilities as an intern at WHO?
A: I definitely have a really wide range of responsibilities. This includes printing and picking up documents and handing them out during meetings, taking meeting notes and creating notes for the record, and editing documents developed by the document. On the more “analytical” side, I’ve created concepts for projects the department is developing such as guidance on “Best Practices” and country groupings, country briefs that describe health situations in different countries, and helped plan the development of the Global Induction for the Heads of Country Offices.
Q: WHO’s Country Collaboration Unit serves as a link between the WHO country offices and the headquarters and regional offices. What are some things you’ve learned from working with this group?
A: My favorite part of working with CCU is the broad exposure it provides me to the organization as a whole. As both a very technical and support-based group, CCU works with pretty much every programme (i.e. NCDs, health financing, Humanitarian Response, etc.) at the WHO. I’ve learned so much about how different programmes at the WHO work in different capacities and how the WHO also attempts to link these programmes together. WHO is currently going through a reform process that emphasizes efficiency and support at the country level, and I’ve seen firsthand how CCU is promoting this. I’ve come to understand how high level ideas are formed at HQ and how the process of actual implementation works in the country level. Because I’ve had interactions with employees at the regional and country level, I’ve also come to better understand the challenges they face, and the type of support they need from the international level.
Q: What are some unanticipated challenges you’ve encountered during your internship so far?
A: I don’t know if this was unanticipated, but definitely just how complicated international agencies can be and how much I had to catch up on! There are a ton of processes going on at the WHO and the UN (i.e. WHO reform, GPW, the MDGs, etc.) that I had to learn quickly about in order to understand what was going on at meetings and in the department (and to take sufficient notes). There are a ton of projects currently going on at the WHO that get quite technical that I also had to read up on (i.e. hiring processes, procurement, emergency response framework, etc.). It definitely wasn’t difficult to get briefed on these topics, but I just had to be sure that I asked questions before it was too late. An anticipated challenge I did have was going into the internship without a traditional public policy or public health background. The WHO is filled with people who have expertise in either (or both).
In terms of culture, I didn’t really have any problems. Geneva is such an international city, with a huge intern and expatriate community. You can also get by quite easily as most people speak quite good English. I’d still learn some basic French though because you are in a foreign country after all and want to speak in the local language when possible (and out of respect).
Q: How did your internship with J.P. Morgan last summer prepare you for your current internship with WHO?
A: To honest, my internship at J.P. Morgan was quite possibly one of the best experiences I’ve had in that it worked me to my limits. It was quite intense because of the hours I had to put in and the level of quality I needed to ensure in my work. At the same time I was also expected to network and meet new people. After my time this summer, I felt like I could do a lot of things. At the end of the day, doing well in an internship is about being committed and hardworking, being willing to figure things about, being passionate about the subject matter, and being a good team player. I felt like I learned all of these things during my time at J.P. Morgan and they translated perfectly into my time at the WHO.
Q: How did you become passionate about the financial industry?
A: I was actually first introduced to the Financial industry at a pretty young age! My parents are both Finance professors and encouraged me to read up on the markets when I was young. My dad also loves doing investments so I was brought up in that kind of environment. As a result, I began taking Finance classes at MIT (15.401, 15.402) and also Accounting (15.501). I also worked at Red Fields Partners in Beijing my sophomore summer, working for a Wellesley alum who had a commodities trading and financial advisory firm. In the meantime, I had the opportunity to talk to a number of alums both on the phone and in person, and attend trips like Wall Street Warm Up that gave me a chance to better understand the financial services industry. I also applied and attended a few banking summits for women at BAML and J.P. Morgan. I ultimately went through the recruiting process and found entering the financial services industry to be a great opportunity that also provided a lot of options.
Q: How did you ultimately decide to accept J.P. Morgan’s full-time investment banking offer?
A: Ultimately, I felt like the position was a great opportunity. I definitely don’t know where I see myself in ten years (but hopefully working within healthcare or finance in the public sector), but believed that the position would open a lot of doors and be a great foundation. At the end of the day, employers want candidates who are hardworking, analytical, and passionate, and I think J.P. Morgan can speak for itself on these values. J.P. Morgan is a great bank with great people, and I really identify with its core values. I also felt that this position would provide great networking opportunities and introduce me to a number of different fields and positions at the bank. The salary also helps!
Q: As a Computer Science major who is currently working in public health but plans to go into finance, your experiences have been very diverse. What guided your decisions to pursue this path?
A: Being a Computer Science major was a really great decision – I learned some really necessary skills like being analytical and quantitative, figuring things out for myself when my code wasn’t working, working long hours and being persistent, and being creative. I find the tech world to be really interesting, but didn’t see myself becoming a software engineer. I’ve always been passionate about social impact and development, and actually ultimately see myself working in the public sector, either in healthcare or financing (and hopefully the impact of technology), and working in both headquarters and country offices to gain a mix of high level and fieldwork experience. This thought guided my path to work at the WHO this semester, and my time at the WHO has definitely confirmed my prior thoughts for the future. I plan on going into finance now for all the reasons described in the previous question. I realize I need a set foundation, a very strong work ethic, a network, and experience in Finance for my future plans, and I feel J.P. Morgan is a great opportunity for this.
Q: Graduating a semester early seems like an amazing opportunity to travel and intern before starting a full-time position, but the preparation to do so can seem daunting. How did you prepare to graduate a semester early, and do you have advice for other students wishing to do the same?
A: Definitely plan ahead! Make a schedule for the classes you’ll take every semester. If you do so, you shouldn’t have any problems. I’m so glad I was able to graduate a semester early and have a chance to travel and explore a different career path before beginning work full-time. It is also a good way to save money. I definitely encourage it!
Q: Do you have any advice for other Wellesley students seeking careers in public health or finance?
A: I’d say definitely get out there and talk and meet people! Don’t be free to cold call/cold email people you are interested to speak with, whether they are Wellesley alums or names on a really interesting publication that you’ve read. Next, be passionate and read, read, read. There are a ton of resources at your fingertips thanks to the internet. For recruiting purposes specifically, start early. Understand the recruiting process in finance and public health and think clearly about your responses to basic questions (i.e. why banking/public health, tell me about the markets) that really cater to your thinking and aren’t just generic answers. Think about what you can offer in your position that would better the organization. You don’t have to have a background in Public Health or have gone to business school to perform well. A lot of it you can learn on your own and you just need the motivation to do so.
Q: Prior to graduation, what were you involved with on campus?
A: Prior to graduating, I was heavily involved in Asian Student Union (ASU), having served as co-president, co-social chair, and first year liaison. I was also in Wellesley Women in Business as Social Media Chair. I was also a Computer Science tutor for CS111 and CS251, for two semesters.
On the 9th October, we held a summer internship panel, where upperclasswomen shared their experiences as interns in various industries, including technology, finance, government, consumer goods, non-profits and law.
Apart from giving us the low down on their day-to-day tasks, our speakers also shared with us invaluable advice on the whole process – getting the job, picking a job to how to make full use of your experience. In case you missed it, we have summarized the 10 most important tips:
- Utilize your connections – whether it’s a family friend, the W network or cold-emailing people, never be afraid to reach out to people and express your interest. Networking is key for finding internships as an underclasswoman. And remember to follow up, keep in touch and thank anyone who took the time to talk to you!
- Don’t apply to everything – it’s not worth it. Pick and choose your battles carefully; only apply to those you are really interested in, and use unconventional ways to make yourself stand out, e.g. contacting any alums working there, because there are much better things to do with your time than sending your resume and cover letter to a black hole.
- Be ultra prepared for interviews – have a coherent narrative of who you are, think about your 3 best qualities and base your answers around them, know the company you’re applying to and keep up with the news! Also not everyone knows Wellesley, so you have to highlight your own unique set of skills and what you will bring to the company.
- Don’t be afraid of hard hours – yes they might be long, but if you like the job you will be able to deal with it! Don’t let this hinder you from applying.
- Get to know the people / interns you’re working with, even if they are your competition – learn from each other, become friends, encourage each other. The people you work with makes up so much of your internship experience, better to love them than to hate them!
- Make full use of the resources your company invests in you – from crash courses in investment banking to opportunities to meet clients to company catered lunches; learn it, eat it, breathe it. It will bring exponential returns.
- Ask questions. Your boss will much, much rather you ask than if you do it wrong and redo it. You will also learn so much more.
- Even if you hate your internship, you are learning very important lessons – about the industry culture, about working with people, about what you want in an internship / job. Any position will help you in the future.
- If you can’t get an internship, ask to volunteer / shadow someone, it will increase your chances of getting an internship there in the future infinitely.
- Do something you love and have fun! Find out where your passions lie and pick an internship that best adheres to that. If you haven’t figured it out what that is yet, don’t worry – remember, this is part of the reason why you’re doing an internship!
Getting an internship as a first year or a sophomore can be an intimidating process, but hopefully our internship panel made it easier. Good luck everyone!
When it comes to finding internships and jobs, there’s nothing more useful than listening to the advice of those who have been there and done that. On the 9th April, WWIB organized the Senior Panel, and it remains as one of our most anticipated events of the year.
This year, our speakers have gotten incredible offers in a variety of industries including investment banking, consulting (management, economics, strategy), technology, civil service, journalism and much more. Those of us looking to find internships received invaluable advice – from job hunting, the application process, what employers look for, industry culture to some of the personal challenges that they faced.
Starting the search for internships is often the hardest part of the process, but our seniors reminded us that although it may seem overwhelming, a little research is all it takes, and one find will lead to the next. They also reminded us to make use of the networks we have around us – from speaking with our Professors to utilizing the W Network. They reminded us how our incredible alumni network and impressive faculty is one of the biggest advantages of being at Wellesley, and this is particularly useful in this part of the process as there are so many people we can reach out to look for guidance and help during our search.
In terms of how to prepare for interviews and such, our seniors also gave us some very useful and specific advice. They said getting experience is crucial – be it small internships during winter or research projects with professor, the more and the more varied the better. However, even if we don’t have all (or any) of those, we should not feel inadequate because what we lack in some areas we make up in others. Prerana Nanda (’14) who’s going into economic consulting, wisely said, “Don’t apologise for what you don’t have on your resume,” because what we do have is what’s going to set us apart from other candidates. Moreover, instead of just listing everything we ever did on our CV, we should go a step further, reflecting on what we learnt, thinking about how those things connect and in doing so, create a coherent narrative for ourselves.
On the other hand, sometimes things do go wrong during interviews – after all, we’re just human and it is understandable in high-pressured situations like these. We should not get shaken, but always be prepared to acknowledge that we made a mistake, because companies focus on your thought process, and above all, they value humility because that is a reflection of your ability to work in a group, take criticism and make room for improvement.
Most of all, our seniors reminded that no matter how daunting the process seems now, we will all get through it. They told us to remember that by being a Wellesley student, we already have a leg up, and that our professors, the CWS, so many our alumni and they themselves are always here to help. Thank you so much seniors!
When we think about a successful business, we often just think about a business which maximizes profits and minimizes costs. However, in the age where we are becoming more aware of the multiple social problems, such as global warming or income inequality, social ethics is an important area of business that successful entrepreneurs must consider. During Business Ethics Week this year, WWIB brought in Professor Sandra Waddock from Boston College’s Carroll School of Management to share with us her insights on how to make a difference in the real world.
Professor Waddock reminded us that our world is increasingly out of balance as firms seek to profit maximize. She suggested that the 2007 financial crisis reminded that the free market ideology is flawed, which is why we need to focus more on human interests instead of financial interests if we want to continue seeing real growth. Human interests include social issues such as environmental preservation and fair trade.
Some might think that companies are alleviating this through Corporate Social Responsibility. However, Professor Waddock suggests that this is merely “window dressing” and “corporate cologne” to make companies look good. Even though companies have corporate social responsibility initiatives, they are still selling sugar water, using child labor etc. To really make a difference, we must build a global standard for non-financial gains for corporations. The Global Compact, launched with the support of 47 companies, created 10 principles such as human rights, labor rights, sustainability and corruption. Today there are 10,000 companies in the Global Compact, 7000 of which are huge multinational companies. However, there are 70,000 multinational companies in the world so the initiative does not tackle all problems, and more must be done.
Professor Waddock’s talk gave us a lot of food for thought. She reminded us that we can all be difference makers and starting changing world. Difference makers are not ego driven, or visionaries even – they are system thinkers with strong, core values who take small actions and steps and over time, help to make a difference. Their vision is grounded in action, in actually doing something. We can all can do this if we are willing to take action. We just need to find an issue that we are passionate about, work on it, take action, and make sense of it later.
On the 24th of February, WWIB, in conjunction with the Wellesley Business Leadership Council and CWS, was honored and delighted to welcome Denise Brosseau (’82) back to campus to celebrate the launch of her new book, Ready To Be A Thought Leader?
Denise’s book teaches readers how to become a thought leader using a 7-step framework – from how we notice problems, build solutions, to how we can gain momentum in advocating those ideas, and finally, how to build a community of people amplifying those ideas more widely to create a movement.
In fact, Denise’s own story is a fascinating and inspiring example of a thought leadership journey. After spending her early career in the tech industry, Denise found her passion in women’s leadership and entrepreneurship and has dedicated her career to encouraging more women’s voices in leadership across a variety of realms – politics, the corporate world, non-profits and start-ups.
She co-founded and became the first CEO of the Forum for Women Entrepreneurs, a non-profit for women who were raising venture capital and she co-founded Springboard, a venture conference and accelerator that has led to over $6 billion in funding for women entrepreneurs. These experiences led to her found the Thought Leadership Lab in 2008, which specializes in building the visibility, credibility, and thought leadership of executives, social entrepreneurs, and CEOs. Eventually, Denise desired to share her rich experiences and observations in this book, helping women everywhere make their voices heard.
As an alumnus, Denise also offered a lot of valuable advice for us as Wellesley students. She encouraged us to make use of any and all opportunities we come across – to start taking charge and asserting ourselves. She also reminded us to make a note of all the ideas that go through our heads – write it down, develop them, and pitch it to someone. Moreover, she reminded us of the importance of networking – not just meeting people but checking in with them because our network is one of our most valuable assets. Denise also encouraged us as women to start claiming and asserting ourselves, but also work to amplify other women’s voices.
Opportunities come at the least expected moments and in the least likely places. To quote Denise, “It is important to be ready for when you’re not ready.” We should equip ourselves with the tools to pitch our ideas, have a voice – whenever, wherever. Those are, without a doubt, the first steps to becoming a thought leader and an agent for positive change in the world.
The Intercollegiate Business Convention, presented by Harvard Women in Business, took place on the 5th October 2013. We are very excited to see Wellesley’s growing interest (especially from underclasswomen) in business, and we were even able to subsidize the tickets to this unique event.
This year, the conference featured three keynote speakers, including Julie Greenwald, Chairman and COO of Atlantic Records, Kat Cole, President of Cinnabon Inc. and Maria Eitel, President and CEO of The Nike Foundation. Our attendees were particularly drawn by Kat’s story – how she started off as a waiter at Hooter’s, dropped out of college for work, and eventually, through her hard work and keen observations, became the youngest corporate executive at Hooter’s. But her story does not just stop here. Even after gaining success, she decided to go back to school, hoping to connect her “real world experience” with theory. Her passion for learning and never-ending quest for self-improvement makes her a great role model. She urged attendees to take initiative in everything we do, ending with the quote, “If not now, when? If not me, who?” Many attendees commented that the keynote speeches were “amazing” and “really inspiring”.
Moreover, the talks and the Career Fair gave attendees insight into different areas of business. The speakers held a diversity of positions from a wide range of industries in the business world, from consulting to tech to retail. This allowed students to explore a variety of interests in multiple areas, which is very helpful for undergraduate students since this is a critical time for them to decide how they want to begin their careers.
The conference also offered a rare opportunity to talk and network with the speakers in the breakout sessions. These sessions are more specific and more intimate in many senses, which lets attendees have direct conversations with speakers and ask them questions that are directly catered to their interests. Many of our attendees agreed that “hearing from panelists that are my age” was engaging and informative and everyone walked away with much practical advice.
IBC is a great platform for students interested in business and women already in the corporate world to reach out to each other – sharing experiences, opportunities and tips for success. It is also an excellent opportunity to network with women in upper-level business positions. And it is precisely these reasons that it is one of WWIB’s first and most anticipated events every year.
[WWIB was pleased to invite moderator C.A. Webb ’97 and speakers Professor Olga Shurchkov ’01 (Economics) and Professor Linda Carli (Psychology) for a conversation about “Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead,” Sheryl Sandberg’s new book. “Lean In” is a book about how women can empower themselves to take charge of their career and realize their ambitions. It is call for women to start challenging assumptions and stop being afraid of “having it all” in order to realize their true capabilities. Below, you will find summaries of the event’s main talking points.]
Female Work Style – Research shows that women generally thrive in roles that value verbal communication and are low-stress, which may involve “softer” deadlines and more flexible hours, among other things. The combination of greater verbal communication and stress relief is so effective in helping women become more competitive in their positions that they actually outperform men, even in areas such as mathematics, where men are generally considered superior. Indeed, the gender gap is the largest for high-stress occupations, such as financial analysts and hedge fund managers. In jobs with greater flexibility, the gender gap is virtually nonexistent. Studies further show that when given more time to perform tasks, women will improve the quality of their work, whereas men may make more mistakes. This can be interpreted to show that women are more concerned with the quality of their work, so they make sure their answer is correct before moving on to the next problem. On the other hand, men are more concerned with the quantity of their output, so given more time, they try to complete more problems without regard to the quality of their work. Given women’s preference of quality versus quantity in their work, the government, in the future, may attempt to create more jobs specifically for women that especially value quality.
Negotiation – At the negotiation table, men tend to evaluate themselves with an exaggerated sense of self-worth, while women have a more accurate self-appraisal. Should you, as a woman, follow suit and aggressively promote yourself to snatch up that pay raise? If you do, be prepared to be called “obnoxious” or “bitchy” by your fellow women. “When women act like men, even women don’t like them,” says Professor Carli. It’s a challenging line to walk, balancing between modest and overconfident, and we all must learn our own best approach.
Leadership – Women are often stereotyped as warm, kind and nurturing, while men are stereotyped as assertive, agentic, and strong. Women and men alike often unconsciously associate leaders with the traits of the latter. So how should “Wellesley Women Who Will” react to this psychological phenomenon? Certainly don’t become an autocrat, or try to “act like a man,” as suggested in Lean In. Professor Carli advocates for a gender-neutral leadership style called transformational leadership. Such leaders are future-oriented problem-solvers who are willing to help subordinates develop. This is the style of leadership that leads to advancement, and it doesn’t require you to act like a man, which is something you may be punished for doing in the workplace.
Family – Women are not afraid of leadership, rather, they are afraid of how their lives will orient when they decide to start a family. Right now, American parents are more involved in their children’s lives than ever before. Unfortunately, anyone who completely retreats from her career for family will find it difficult to get back into the same career trajectory as before, and it will be virtually impossible to make up for the lost income. Therefore, it is important to choose a spouse who will truly be a partner, and let partner do partner’s part, says Professor Carli. “Some men may enjoy doing domestic duty, so don’t deprive them of it.”
We will leave you with Professor Shurchkov’s words: Be happy with your choices. As an economist, she does not look back in regret, but only looks forward to make decisions that maximize her happiness. And so should you, whether it means leaning in at work or at home. What is your path in pursuit of happiness? Are you leaning in?
Article written by Becky Huang
[WWIB was pleased to host designer and former Glamour cover model Katiti Kironde for the event “From Cover Girl to Fashion Veteran” on April 18th. Katiti graciously shared stories about her life and work for companies ranging from Laura Ashley to TJ Maxx. Below is a summary of some of the major topics of the discussion in Katiti’s words.]
The Story Behind the Cover
I am from Uganda in East Africa, and my dad was ambassador to the U.N. He was very friendly with the American ambassador to the U.N., Adlai Stevenson II. At the time, Adlai was dating a woman who was the Editor-in-Chief of Mademoiselle magazine. She told me about Glamour’s annual Best-Dressed College Girl contest, and said that I should enter. So I did. I submitted three outfits that I had designed and made myself on my sewing machine. I sent them in, and learned later that I was one of the winners. Glamour hosted a celebratory event for the other nine winners and me, and we had a wonderful time. During the event, the beauty editor told me, “You know, we think that you should be on the cover.” And I said, “Ok.” At the time, I didn’t understand what it all meant; I was 18. So they took me, photographed me, and put me on the cover. It was quite something; the reaction was amazing. It was the best-selling issue to this day. But, truthfully, my interest was always in fashion and design. Modeling was not something that I wanted to do. So, I went to Harvard to get a liberal arts education, and I graduated. Later, I got married and had three children.
The Benefits of a Liberal Arts Education
Whatever you do, having a liberal arts education is like having a ground underneath your feet. I’ve learned how to think critically and ask questions. Recently, I’ve taken business classes at a graduate level. I noticed that a lot of people take the information they learn and spit it back. They never analyze it and think about it from different points of view. When the course was over, the instructor told me that I was an extraordinary student because I grasped the material and applied it. Even doing a simple job like grave-digging or pushing garbage, you’ll do it better if you’ve had a liberal arts education because you’ll be more strategic. You’ll find a way to do it more efficiently. I cannot begin to tell you how I would never switch up my Harvard education to have gone to an art school.
What She Wishes She Had Known
I wish I had known that it’s not easy. A lot of what design is, is solving problems. I’ve learned to use my mind-mapping skills to solve design problems. Design is not as easy as just deciding to make something pretty. No, it’s not. You have to think of all the things that go into how you make it pretty. The picture is just the beginning; I wish I’d understood that.
Her Favorite Job
The job I loved the most was with Laura Ashley because the company was so geared toward original design. At TJ Maxx, it was much more about copying the design of more popular brands. At Laura Ashley, you could really work with people to create something new and beautiful. They had fantastic resources. There was a room full of vintage linoleum from which they would take patterns to make beautiful fabrics. It was very creative and experimental.
The Democratization of Fashion
Fashion has gone on the web, and it has become completely democratized. There is a lot of work to be done, and a lot of jobs to be had at places like RueLaLa.com and Gilt.com. These flash sale fashion companies are becoming a major part of the fashion industry; they’re no longer just ways to sell previously-unsold clothing. And they’re also dramatically changing the outlet store industry.
Article written by Emily Grandjean