Meghan (Greenhalgh) Moin ’08, Operations Manager, Google

“I think Smith can help students understand that your hobby or passion is not always the best career path for you. I studied art history and had internships in the art world, but soon realized that just because I loved art did not mean I’d love working in a museum or auction house.”

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by: Kathryn Stuart ’08

Major: Art History
House: Comstock

Q: What do/did you see as the value of your Smith education?

A: Smith pushed me out of my comfort zone, exposed me to different types of people and ideas from what I’d encountered before and taught me how to think critically and communicate effectively.

Q: How did Smith help you prepare for your career (in business)?

A: Smith gave me a toolkit that I could bring into any role or situation at work. I know how to think about problems from all angles and clearly articulate the root issues and potential solutions. If I’m in a new situation, I can quickly synthesize information to get up to speed, and know how and when to ask for help. I can get things done with colleagues even when we don’t agree. And I develop relationships with other women (friends, mentors, sponsors) for support and coaching.

Q: What do you think are the biggest challenges for women in business today?

A: I can only speak for my own experience, but one challenge I’ve faced and have seen many female friends and colleagues deal with is learning to love criticism. I find myself re-reading this article a few times a year. As the author says, “Many women carry the unconscious belief that good work will be met mostly – if not exclusively – with praise. Yet in our careers, the terrain is very different: distinctive work, innovative thinking and controversial decisions garner supporters and critics, especially for women. We need to retrain our minds to expect and accept this.” Smith gave me confidence, but I’m continually working on growing a thicker skin.

Q: What should Smith College be doing to best prepare students for successful careers in business?

A: I think Smith can help students understand that your hobby or passion is not always the best career path for you. I studied art history and had internships in the art world, but soon realized that just because I loved art did not mean I’d love working in a museum or auction house. I wasn’t considering a job in tech until Google recruited on campus (I showed up for the free t-shirts, assuming they only hired engineers). Most of my friends were looking at jobs in non-profits or going to grad school. I didn’t really understand what kinds of jobs existed in business until I worked with the Career Development Center and started reaching out to alums whose jobs sounded interesting. As a student, it’s hard to wrap your head around what different jobs actually look like day-to-day and evaluate the trade-offs, so the best you can do is get hands-on experience (via Praxis or regular internships) and work the Smith network on and off campus to talk to everyone you can.

Q: What would you say is the most satisfying aspect of your career?

A: This is hard to choose, because I’ve had an incredible journey at Google. I’d have to say it’s tied among constantly learning and growing, building relationships with amazingly smart, passionate, kind and talented people and getting to see the world by working on global projects that required close collaboration with teams in many different countries.

Q: Additionally, I’m interested in hearing your thoughts about Smith starting a network specifically for business professionals; is it something you would have used (had it been available) when you were starting your career?

A: Yes, I think I would have definitely liked reaching out to other alums in business and having an easy place to find local people who could give me good advice. This would have been very useful, both when I was starting out and when I’ve hit bumps along the way. It would also have been a good way to make new friends when I moved to New York.

Q: What are you reading right now?

A: “Meetings With Remarkable Manuscripts” by Christopher De Hamel, which is bringing me back to my medieval art history courses.

Q: What was your favorite class at Smith and why? Did you learn something valuable that carries through today??

A: It’s hard to name one – there were so many great classes. I find myself thinking back to Craig Felton’s survey of the history of western art, which taught me how to really see art and draw a thread linking art across different places, genres and times.

Q: Did you (or do you) have a strong female mentor in business?

A: Yes! I’ve been lucky to have many strong female mentors. Some of them are Smithies, some are Googlers and ex-Googlers, but I try to think about it as a constellation of mentors who I can go to for advice depending on the situation.

 

Kate O’Brian ’80, O’ Media Strategies, Founder

Kate O’Brian comes from a family of “news people” and always knew she wanted to go into journalism. While still an undergrad, Kate did a summer internship at 20/20 at ABC News. They offered her a job, which she declined, choosing instead to return to Smith and graduate. They offered her a job once again after graduation, and she worked for many years at ABC News in different roles, living in cities all over the world. In 2013 she was sought out to head the newly forming Al Jazeera America and served as President until the channel closed in 2016. Since then, she has held a Visiting Professorship at the School of Media and Journalism at UNC Chapel Hill and recently started her own company, O’ Media Strategies, doing ad hoc private media consulting with former colleagues and contacts from her career in the media world.

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by: Kathryn Stuart ’08

Major: English Language & Literature
House: Gardiner

Q: What do/did you see as the value of your Smith education?

A: I see an internal value and an external value of a Smith education. Internally, the freedom to explore different subjects and different kinds of thinking without having to become narrowly focused right away with your studies is so valuable. I can’t say how important that has been because life is not linear; it’s all over the place. Externally, there is value in having a Smith degree because it’s an indicator that you are well educated. This may seem superficial but it isn’t always superficial.

Q: How did Smith help you prepare for your career in business?

A: Smith taught me how to think and how to write. I was given an incredible foundation upon which to grow. If you can write and think critically you are already on the path to success no matter what you do.

Q: What do you think are the biggest challenges for women in business today?

A: I think for most it’s moving up the ladder and getting and staying in leadership positions. It’s amazing to me that it’s still an issue today, but sadly it is. I was at Smith in the height of the heady women’s liberation era in the late 70s; we all left Smith thinking things were changing with women fighting for parity and pay. We’ve won a lot of battles since then, but it’s highly discouraging to see how much we still need to be fighting. I know that growth is still happening and women are getting ahead, but it’s not fast enough.

Q: What was the general feeling when you graduated – optimism?

A: We were very eager and ready to take on the world. Just half a generation after Gloria Steinem and Betty Friedan, we reveled in our young womanhood and what we could do and what fights we were fighting and winning. We knew there would be challenges but that we could face up to them. It was a time that nobody changed her name to her husband’s. There was no question that every one of my friends would continue working after having children. It was a very inspired generation, inspired by the women who came immediately before us and empowered us to carry on.

Q: How has the landscape changed for women in business since you started your career? How do you see it changing in the future?

A: The landscape has changed for the better in many ways with the exception of this last year, which has been a slap in the face. On a sort of governmental and legal basis things are better than when I graduated. On a final/bottom line basis I worry because of the anti feminist backlash; we’ve seen a lot of men this past year being able to say what they want about women’s lives without women being a part of the conversation.

Q: What unique skills do you see women bringing to the table?

A: I generally try to stay away from gender assumptions but I will say that I think women listen very well. A big part of being a successful manager is listening because that’s when you learn and can change the way things are done. To be clear, I don’t think it’s a zero sum game where women listen and men don’t; many studies have been done on this but there are of course always exceptions. But in general, I think being a woman gives you a different perspective on the world – whether its growing up learning what challenges lie ahead or through having children – women are able to look at things in a 360 way.

Q: What should Smith College be doing to best prepare students for successful careers in business?

A: Smith is already moving in that direction with the Lazarus and Connelly Centers which help to provide an understanding of what the business world is like and the basic skills that are needed, like excel and elementary coding. What I hope is happening is that young women are being introduced to all sorts of different businesses because it’s easy to think of business just as Wall Street or Silicon Valley when there is so much more out there. Getting women into a variety of internships is helpful; you have to know what you don’t want to do as well. If you don’t love what you do you won’t work really hard doing it. My internship at ABC News was a light bulb moment: not only do I speak this language but I really love it! That experience meant that I could focus. I knew I wanted to go into the news business.

Q: What are your thoughts on Smith starting a network specifically for business professionals? Is it something you would have used (had it been available) when you were starting your career?

A: It’s so important to reach out to people who can help. When I graduated there was no sense of how important networking is; we lagged behind men on that. Putting people together that have an intersecting point, and especially at a place like Smith where you do have a bond and a like-mindedness, it’s nothing except a benefit.

Q: What are you reading right now?

A: I just finished THE HOME THAT WAS OUR COUNTRY by Alia Malek. Alia actually worked at Al Jazeera and is a brilliant Syrian American journalist. She wrote a beautiful and important memoir about Syria today and her experience putting her grandmother’s apartment back together at a time when the war in Syria was in full swing.

I’m now into a novel by Korean American writer Min Jin Lee called PACHINKO, which was just nominated for the National Book Award for Fiction. It’s a sweeping multigenerational story starting in the early 1900s about a family on Korea and what happens to them over next 70 years. It’s a beautifully written novel. The great thing about not currently being in the news business is that I can read novels. It’s gorgeous.

Q: What was your favorite class at Smith?

A: I took a seminar senior year on the poetry of John Dunne taught by Joan Bramwell. It was just beautiful to be immersed in his poetry for an entire semester; it was like swimming in a beautiful golden sea. Since that time I haven’t had the experience of delving so deeply into a poet or author. I remember it so clearly. My other favorite was an Italian film class, which was really fun.

Q: Do you (or did you) have a strong female mentor in business?

A: Throughout my career there were women who were not overt mentors but they made a point to help me and other women. These women knew who I was and sometimes helped me without my knowledge by connecting me to other people, and I think that goes on a lot today. It’s so important for women to help other women, especially when trying to make your way in a challenging work environment. People don’t talk about it a lot but it’s there, the “this person helped me at this time and that person helped me at that time” kind of mentorship. Mentorship comes in so many different forms and that is something I tell young women I speak to – don’t necessarily look for one form because you will get something from different kinds of relationships in a myriad of ways.

 

Susan Goodall ’83, Freelance Editorial Development Consultant, Former Director of Editorial Development at Glamour Magazine

“My Smith experience gave me confidence. It taught me I could handle the rigor of hard work, and it taught me to be intellectually curious.”

 

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by: Kathryn Stuart ’08

Major: English Language & Literature
House: Northrop

Q: What do/did you see as the value of your Smith education?

A: I think it’s a mindset. A Smith education helps you cultivate your intellectual curiosity and your love of learning. It gives you a sense of possibilities and a sense of the power of the community; even now, you and I are talking because the Smith community inspired us.

Q: What do you think are the biggest challenges for women in business today?

A: Not surprisingly, I would say the biggest challenge is the wage gap, which is fueled in part by women’s reluctance to be bold and own their swagger before they feel they’ve earned it. This is something I think men tend to have an easier time with. Other than that, I would mention the challenge of balancing childcare and work, as well as the challenge of new technology for older generations.

Q: What unique skills do you see women bringing to the table?

A: Women are so often empathetic and take time to understand other points of view. Additionally, I’ve observed women being very collaborative in the workplace. When I started my career, I knew that working hard wasn’t going to be enough; I had to work smart. And I believe that women, personality-wise, have the inclination do that.

Q: What should Smith College be doing to best prepare students for successful careers in business?

A: There are so many great career development services at Smith now that weren’t available when I graduated. There are fantastic resources to help teach you how to manage your finances, dress for your first job, get the right internship; you name it. At Smith we learn how to be strong, capable, empowered women, but its sometimes hard to know how to transfer that from campus to the workplace. Learning things like how to negotiate and be good leader; that’s a different and valuable skillset that’s hard to come by without the hands-on experience at work.

Q: What are you reading right now?

A: I’m normally a fiction reader, but I’m currently reading ANTARCTICA by Gabrielle Walker. I started it before my recent trip to Antarctica and am finishing it now.

I’m also reading THE COMPLETE ENCYCLOPEDIA OF TREES AND SHRUBS by Eric Wasson because I’m working on my master gardener certification.

Q: Do you (or did you) have a strong female mentor in business?

A: I have had some amazing women colleagues. I had one colleague who went on to be the Editor in Chief of the magazine. She was always true to herself and held onto her opinion like a true leader should. She had a significant influence on me; she’s a great touchstone.

 

Sara Haines ’00, Co-Host of The View/Correspondent for ABC News

I’ve always been a hard worker, but Smith really nurtured and pushed my idea of work ethic. Being surrounded by amazing, driven, game-changing women inspired me and fed a fire within me that made me reach higher.

 

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by: Kathryn Stuart ’08

Major: Government
House: King

Q: What do/did you see as the value of your Smith education?

A: I’ve always been a hard worker, but Smith really nurtured and pushed my idea of work ethic. Being surrounded by amazing, driven, game-changing women inspired me and fed a fire within me that made me reach higher. This was paramount, especially because I was humbled at first by the academic rigors of Smith. I learned that I could do anything as long as I put in the work. I also gained a new perspective that the value is in the journey; it’s less about the letter grade you receive at the end and more about what you learn along the way that really matters.

Q: How did Smith help you prepare for your career in business?

A: I don’t know if it was generational or situational or something else, but I didn’t grow up in a time that I felt I was limited as a girl first or then as a young woman. But if there was a subconscious feeling of being limited it definitely was shattered when I walked into a new place with some of the most powerful, intelligent people I’d ever met, and they were all women; all Smithies! So, I think knowing that I would never set foot in that type of environment again and the mentality of “I survived the Navy Seals of Education” taught me that… I got this! I left Smith feeling empowered to take on whatever the business world brought my way.

Q: What do you think are the biggest challenges for women in business today?

A: I think that a man is more likely to apply for a job or ask for a raise when he’s only 50% prepared, and I find that women sometimes choose to wait until they are surer of where they stand before taking action or asking for what they want. This is just from what I’ve observed with myself and my female friends. Communicating and putting in motion what you want in the business world and knowing your self-worth can be a challenge. I’ve never been a fan of arrogance or ego but I feel like I almost need to channel that attitude from time to time because I find that’s the voice men walk around with more day-to-day. It’s almost that type a mindset and the hesitation of “am I sure I’m prepared?” Men are quicker to just go for it. Therefore, they are swinging the bat more and hitting the ball more. It’s a cumulative effect.

Q: How has the landscape changed for women in business since you started your career? How do you see it changing in the future?

A: I’m lucky because the business I’ve been in my entire career is generally female dominant, so I may have sort of a skewed view. Apart from when I started in the Page Program at NBC, which had more of a corporate feel, my experiences at ABC News, Good Morning America and The View, all very female dominant places, have been really uplifting and empowering for me. I find that with every decade, the differences people talk about for men and women at work are fading. Strides are being made every day.

Q: What unique skills do you see women bringing to the table?

A: One of the biggest things I’ve observed around female leaders in workplace situations is that they tend to be more collaborative. Something I’ve always loved about working in a female dominant environment is that it feels like more of a team effort and everyone benefits from that.

Q: What should Smith College be doing to best prepare students for successful careers in business?

A: I think it’s important that young people be given the resources and opportunities to discover what they’re truly passionate about instead of what they feel they’re supposed to do to become what our society defines as “successful.” It’s also important when you start out not to feel entitled. Realize that you are lucky to be where you are and have the mindset that no task is below you. Don’t put judgment on tasks being asked of you. Put your head down and do the best you can do with the task ahead of you and success will follow. And you will always succeed if it’s something you love doing.

Q: What are your thoughts on Smith starting a network specifically for business professionals? Is it something you would have used (had it been available) when you were starting your career?

A: I think all the alumnae services are beneficial. The four years spent at Smith are only the beginning. Those life connections take you forward, whether it’s advice, wisdom, experience, or guidance. What the school does for you the moment you leave is a real value investment.

Q: What are you reading right now?

A: SINCE WE FELL by Dennis Lehane

Q: What was your favorite class at Smith?

A: I have three that are tied: The American Presidency, Political Theory, Changes & Challenges in American Education. I still think about them and quote experiences from the discussions/readings.

Q: Do you (or did you) have a strong female mentor in business?

A: Two of my best friends, Amy Robach, News Anchor at Good Morning America, and Erin Grau, VP of Operations for The New York Times.

 

Marilyn Carlson Nelson ’61

First, Marilyn Carlson Nelson ’61 helped grow the Carlson Company into one of the most successful hospitality and travel businesses in the world. Then she took on one of the world’s biggest problems: child trafficking.

 

 

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Nelson says that when she graduated from Smith, there were no female Fortune 500 CEOs. “When I came to Carlson, we had two women executives,” she said. “I created a meritocracy that offered training and career development for both men and women. Sure enough, with equal opportunity, women succeeded in equal measure.”

The Carlson umbrella includes Country Inns and Suites and Radisson, as well as restaurant chain T.G.I Friday’s. As CEO, Nelson doubled the size of Carlson and became recognized for her commitment to corporate responsibility. In 2008, she published her best-selling book How We Lead Matters: Reflections on a Life of Leadership.

Carlson led her company to publicly commit to fighting human trafficking. She implemented training for all Carlson staff to recognize potential trafficking behavior happening in hotels.

“I have always believed that business in the right hands, operating in the right culture, can be one of the world’s most powerful forces for good,” Nelson said. “In the end, making the right choices where business and human rights intersect often comes down to courage and leadership.”

In 2014, Carlson was selected as one of the Oslo Business for Peace Award Honorees for her work abolishing human trafficking of children. The White House also awarded her the Presidential Award for Extraordinary Efforts to Combat Trafficking in Persons. In 2015, Smith College awarded her an honorary degree.

 

Shelly Braff Lazarus ’68

When Shelly Braff Lazarus ’68 graduated from Smith, she had only a vague sense of what she wanted to do next. Eventually, she pursued a master’s in business administration from Columbia University because she hoped a business degree might exempt her from a career as a typist. She was one of only four women in a class of 300 at Columbia.

 

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For a woman who wasn’t sure where she was going, she was already knocking on glass ceilings.

Several decades and many job titles later—none of them “typist”—Lazarus is now the former CEO and chair emerita of advertising giant Ogilvy & Mather. During her tenure, she was a leader in the advertising industry, building the brand images of such household names as American Express, IBM and Dove. She regularly appeared in Fortune magazine’s annual ranking of the 50 most powerful women in American business. She is also a recipient of the Advertising Educational Foundation’s Lifetime Achievement Award.

In an address at Smith in 2005, she said she fell in love with the advertising industry.

“I found advertising and I found a company that valued ideas over gender, that balanced hard work with humanity, a place that allowed me to be as successful as I wanted to be,” she said. “I didn’t go looking for the corner office. It found me.”

Lazarus, who has three children, has been outspoken about a work-life balance. Rather than asking, “Can I have it all?” she has urged women to ask, “What do I really want?”

 

Anita Volz Wien ’62

As a teenager living in postwar Germany, Anita Volz Wien ’62 navigated various languages, cultures and political ideologies. One could say she’s doing the same thing today.

 

 

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Wien is chair of the Observatory Group, a macro-economic and political advisory firm that monitors political and economic events on behalf of their investor clients. Wien guides investors to stay ahead of the curve on policy developments that may affect their investments again, working across languages, cultures and politics.

Wien, who is fluent in German and French, said that “understanding different cultures and speaking a foreign language are valuable tools both personally and professionally.”

These tools have served her well. Wien was a partner and vice chairman of the G7 group and served as senior vice president of Oxford Analytica. She led a 20-year career in brokerage, investment management and commercial banking, holding positions with European American Bank, Chase, and Lehman Brothers and was a partner of the merged firm Weiss, Peck and Greer.

At Smith, Wien majored in European history, and she said the college prepared her to succeed in business. “The richness of the environment and the number of individuals by whom I was surrounded for four years inspired me to find a field where I could grow and progress.”

Wien has sat on numerous boards and is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, the Economic Club of New York and the Women’s Forum. She is a trustee emerita of Smith College.

 

Dureen Shahnaz ’89

When she was a young girl growing up in Dhaka, Bangladesh, Dureen Shahnaz ’89 was taught to always give to others when she could. This sense of social responsibility has stuck with her—and ultimately culminated into a career.

 

 

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In 2011, after years as an investment banker and a publishing executive for Harper’sMarie Claire and Oprah, Shahnaz founded Impact Investment Exchange (IIX), Asia’s first socially responsible stock exchange. Among the companies listed on IIX are those that give micro-loans to female entrepreneurs in rural areas and provide low-income housing or sustainable food security solutions.

The IIX has gained strong international support for its social mission, including a grant from the Rockefeller Foundation. Shahnaz says her decision to focus on a social stock exchange rather than a nonprofit or charity organization was strategic.

“There is room for charities in the world, but I am interested in sustainable development, thus the interest in social enterprises—for-profit or not-for-profit companies focused on a social mission with a market orientation,” she said. “They need to be able to attract investments for which they can give a return and really show they can be financially viable as well.”

 

Mia Abruzzese ’87

Mia Abruzzese ’87 is always one step ahead. First, she popularized the walking shoe for New Balance in the early 1990s, just before the walking-as-exercise craze took hold. Then, while working at Stride Rite, she saw a gap in the children’s shoe industry for cute yet highly durable shoes. As a response, in 2003, she started Morgan & Milo, a children’s footwear company, and she hit her stride.

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“The children’s market was ripe for someone to address the needs of the successful, independent-thinking, fashion-conscious, thirty-something parent with young children,” Abruzzese said.

Turns out her instincts were right. The company’s shoes, which come in playful colors and designs and include clogs, boots and suede tennis shoes, are available throughout the country and even internationally.

In 2011, the company expanded into children’s apparel. In an interview with CircleUp, a crowdfunding platform for entrepreneurs, Abruzzese says the line has been growing ever since.

“We have really nice traction, great catalog accounts, and lots of independent retailers,” she said. “The apparel line has been very well received. And the apparel market is probably four times the size of the footwear market.”

She has strong advice for fellow entrepreneurs looking to dip a toe in the apparel market: “If you don’t love it, it’s never going to take off,” she told CircleUp. “You have to love what you’re doing and you have to love what you’re making and designing. That’s really what makes a difference, because it’s not easy.”