Wall Street banker, gospel singer, author and motivational speaker Carla Harris shared her professional insights and experiences to a packed house of women—and a few men—on the first day of Cloud Summit X in San Diego.
For the first time, a keynote speaker opened the annual session, which I have always considered “the real kickoff” to Cloud Summit X.
Harris, vice chairman of Global Wealth Management and senior client advisor at Morgan Stanley, shared what she called “pearls” with attendees, designed to help women achieve professional success.
She encouraged women to take risks. It shows you’re comfortable with change. What’s the worst that can happen if you take a risk and it doesn’t work out? You fail, but failure brings you experience.
Harris also emphasized always being authentic. The easiest way to penetrate a relationship is to bring your authentic self, she said. People will trust you, and trust is the most important thing in a relationship. According to Harris, she builds better professional connections when she shows all sides of herself, not just the banker, but also the gospel singer, the golfer and every other side.
“I bring all the Carlas to the table because I don’t which Carla will be the one to connect and own the relationship,” she said.
Following Harris’ talk, a panel of women in leadership positions shared their experiences with taking risks, communicating authenticity and many other topics that have propelled them toward success.
Sophie Deleval, president of Ingram Micro France, echoed the importance of authenticity and its link to self-confidence.
“Authenticity is linked to the fact that you know yourself,” she said. “Know your strengths, weaknesses and fears and accept them.”
Siobhan Dullea, CEO of MassChallenge, shared a time when she was not authentic and instead emulated someone she admired and got called out for it by this person.
“It was the most embarrassing and greatest thing to happen to me. Now I don’t know how to be someone else,” she said.
A challenge that many of the panelists have faced was making time to network. Performance can only get you so far, and networking is an important but often a forgotten part of the job. Many women don’t make time to network like men do, in favor of being present for their children.
To get around that, Shelly Bodine, chief of staff at SoftwareOne, said she used her lunch hours to network.
“It didn’t take away from my personal life,” Bodine said.
Gina Mastantuono, CFO of Ingram Micro, who moderated the panel, added that you need open dialogue with your children and spouse.
“Ask your children what’s important to them. Don’t guess what [events] they want you to be at,” Mastantuono said. “You cannot be all things to all people at all times. Sometimes work will take over. Sometimes family life will take over.”
The women also spoke about empowering other women.
“The biggest problem women have is confidence. We get into the workforce and lose confidence,” Cindy Kenney, president of the Western Region at Converge Technology Partners.
Several of the speakers said confidence can return if leadership gives praise and affirmation, which Harris noted doesn’t often occur in highly competitive environments.
The discussion also addressed diversity and inclusion in general. Mastantuono quoted a 2015 McKinsey study showed that there’s a 15% more likelihood of achieving above average results with diversity.
Dullea advises that the first round of applications should be as blind as possible, and in-person interviews should include a woman in the room.
IBM is already ahead of the game, according to Dorothy Copeland, vice president of IBM Global Business Partners. She said executives don’t get bonuses unless they hit diversity targets. She emphasized why it’s important to bring in male colleagues to promote gender equality and help change corporate America.
“Celebrate the way women communicate, which is different than men,” Copeland said.
For more Cloud Summit X and CloudBlue highlights, be sure to check out the event recap blog.