You Never Know Who You’ll Meet

Written on behalf of the PlushMoney Impact program by Charlsey Kellen

Networking.  If you are a business student, you hear this word at least one hundred times a day.  Whether it’s the latest networking seminar put on by your school, the importance of networking, how networking will get you your next job, the latest platform for networking, the list goes on and on. No one ever seems to explain what this mysterious “networking” word means though.  Why is what seems like just meeting people and making a good impression such a desirable skill?  Before this summer I wondered the exact same thing. 

This summer my favorite band was playing my favorite traveling summer music festival.  Needless to say, I was attending as many dates as I possibly could afford, which happened to be three.  Every day one of the sponsors held a contest where you could win backstage passes to see any band you wanted.  I made sure at the end of the first day when the festival was shutting down to go up to the sponsor employees and explain that I was going to be at all these dates just to see my favorite band and see if they had any tips on how to win the game.  They were more than happy to tell me everything that I wanted to know.  The second day rolled around and my friend and I easily won the game.  Unfortunately my favorite band played too late, so we were not able to see them.  The third day we stopped by just to say hello to our new friend that we had made at the tent.  She offered to put us on the guest list for a fourth date of the tour.  Upon arrival at the fourth date, not only were we on the guest list, but we had backstage passes.  All because we had simply been nice to these wonderful people working on the tour.

Upon meeting my PlushMoney Impact group for the first time, I was very excited to share an idea for a project I had been wanting to work on for a long time, but just had not been able to find the right people to work with.  To my surprise, everyone in the group was just as passionate about the cause as I had been. 

The point that I am trying to make, is that networking is important because in life it’s not just about what you do, it’s also about who you meet.  You never know what you  might share with someone or how the next person you meet will be able to help you in the future toward your goals.  So be kind to everyone you meet, and always make sure to say hello!

Calling All Emerging Leaders

Written on behalf of the PlushMoney Impact program by Kamesha Longsworth

I had the privilege of participating in the Ernst & Young Emerging Leaders Summit in Washington, D.C. from June 19-22. 250 students from across North America were invited to the summit and I felt quite an honor to have been selected. The experience was amazing. I enjoyed meeting and participating with a diverse group of students and E&Y professionals. The trip included many informative sessions and speakers on leadership, as well as opportunities to bond with my peers and the E&Y professionals. The seating assignments were aimed to help us meet as many E&Y professionals as possible from the geography we are interested in working. We competed in teams in a scavenger hunt all across D.C. on a record-breaking 100-degree and humid day. It was brutal, but hey, leaders are competitive and we sure did not take the competition lightly! To toot my own horn, out of the 250 participating students, I was one out of six students nominated to do an onsite video interview about the program and I gladly accepted this opportunity. All about branding yourself right?

The summit’s purpose was to strengthen our leadership skills, as we are Ernst & Young’s potential future leaders. However, the speakers wanted to make it clear that even if we do not pursue a career within Ernst & Young, that it is absolutely necessary to practice and have three important qualities as a leader: transparency, integrity, and inclusive leadership. The Global Vice Chair of Public Policy, Beth Brooke, spoke to us about these three qualities. Her professional background is impressive, including 31 years at Ernst & Young and working on a project for First Lady Hillary Clinton during the Clinton administration. The goal of this blog will be to summarize the amazing speech and extremely useful tips she presented.

Transparency simply defined means visibility, openness, accountability; it is more than the truth. Transparency is letting someone know who you are. It means you are not afraid, and that you have nothing to hide. As a leader, your actions better match your words.  You must be transparent. There must be nothing to hide so that people will trust you. This is critical to turning back the tide of corruption in the economy and government that we’ve experienced the past several years. Especially with today’s technology, everyone will know the moves you make. As Beth said, “sunlight is the best disinfectant.” It is necessary to be completely transparent from the start.

Integrity: “you either have it or you don’t,” said Beth. Integrity comes from the word integer; you cannot divide it. Integrity includes attitudes and actions, as well as your words. For example, some businesses and professionals discriminate in pay practices, but they are espousing integrity and diverse values. Their attitudes and actions do not match their words. Nothing is more important than your personal reputation. Always do the right thing and do not be afraid to speak up. Guard your integrity because it is your most precious possession. Also, if you are working for a client and you just cannot agree with something, standing up or speaking out (instead of always keeping your mouth shut) keeps your integrity in tact.

Inclusive leadership brings everything together. It is a new style of leadership that fuses transparency, integrity, and leadership altogether. Beth stressed that Ernst & Young wants all its employees to be inclusive leaders for there is an increasing need to work globally and across diversity. Diverse teams outperform homogenous teams every time, for they have the power of diverse perspective and will see so much more than a homogenous team. But the diverse team has to be well led, and a great inclusive leader bridges the diverse gaps to bring out the optimal solutions. A great competitive advantage is knowing how to lead in a world of difference. An inclusive leader has to believe in the group and must know how to lead a diverse group to reach optimal results and solutions. Ask yourself, do you make difference safe as a leader? Valuing differences is important as an inclusive leader.

Beth’s speech really made an impression on me. Inclusive leaders ignite creativity and innovation and as a leader that is what I want to do. I want to engage my teammates and respect their different values and ideas. You have to be who you are and give others the opportunity to be who they are. Only so will you get the most from different perspectives – if you are an inclusive leader and partner. Celebrate differences and you will reach better conclusions that way. Inclusive leadership ties in with integrity and transparency because in order for others to be who they are and to bring their best ideas forth, they have to believe in you as well for whom you are and they have to trust you.

Other tips from Beth Brooke:

  • Advice: always ask questions and why you’re doing what you’re doing.
  • Be yourself; it will allow others to be themselves too.
  • Use the platform in which you have access to make a difference.

To be a leader who makes an IMPACT, be sure to remember “ILT” – Integrity, Inclusive Leadership, and Transparency.

Learning Something New Everyday

Written on behalf of the PlushMoney Impact program by Niki Cyrus

There has been a few words bouncing around ever since PlushMoney Impact has started. Leadership, community and safe space. I never thought I would learn this much in a short period of time. My grandfather was a professor at University of Tehran, he once told me when I was 5 years old that he will forever be a student and learns something new everyday. I am learning so many new things from PlushMoney Impact community that is MIND BLOWING! I want to share these random thoughts that I’ve been having at night before I fall asleep.

There is a difference between just simply leading a group of people and creating desired action by choice. Until maybe 10 minutes ago I didn’t understand the difference. Getting people excited is a challenge! excitement is what that creates desired action and creativity. There is no equation or certain rules of leadership that people need to learn. Not something that you can learn by reading a book. You learn it through that moment that you created action and excitement in someone without demanding anything or setting a deadline. There may many entrepreneur around the world that are never discovered because of wrong leadership skills.

I had an amazing experience during the 4th week of our program. I learned that in life there is no making mistake without consequences. If I don’t study for a test, then I could fail. If I don’t show up to work, I’m fired. There is not that much room for messing up and making a mistake in the real world. However, I am lucky enough to be part of this community of amazing girls that would help me better myself. To me PlushMoney Impact is my safe space. I know I could make a mistake without any harsh consequence.

The Art of the Presentation

Written on behalf of the PlushMoney Impact program by Maree Bandrowczak

Last week, my father, the VP of Avaya Data Solutions came to speak to our community about the art of giving presentations. He has always been a very charismatic guy, and as a kid, I would always see him slap a presentation together 30 minutes or so before going on stage and presenting like a rock star. He had 20+ years’ experience; I had none, but we were related, so I should have the gift of the gab, right?

Well, you can only imagine what happened, when in the 7th grade I started researching for my presentation on the French Revolution an hour before it was due. I think the only thing I was successfully able to relay to the class was that the revolution took place in …France.  That was pretty embarrassing, but the next day a 6th grader spent the entire snack-time with toilet hanging out of her pants, so I was off the hook. But I did learn two valuable lessons that day. Lesson one: practice your presentation. Lesson two: kids are mean (but so are adults, so see lesson one)

All of the girls in our community are extremely busy.  trying to balance the weekly demands of this program with internships (at Goldman Sachs, AT&T, Merrill Lynch, Ernst & Young, Nordstrom, just to name a few), and a personal life, so we are all about stretching our valuable resources.  Work smarter, not harder is the motto that we have come to adopt.

In keeping with this motto, Steve came and spoke with us about the systematic approach he takes to giving presentations, which I will share with you here. These are his awesome tips, but the 75% of you all who are skimming will credit them to me, which I’m personally okay with.

Tip 1: Presentations have a beginning, middle, and an end, like a book. Start off by telling your audience exactly what they are in for, better yet, build a slide to go along with this, so that people will get excited about your topic and be ready for what they are about to hear. Then, detail everything that was on your agenda, and keep the story rolling, don’t diverge too much because people will get confused. When you are speaking, it’s often hard for people to make the jump from point A to point B on their own, so lay it out for them. Lastly, conclude by reiterating the point of your presentation, you want it to stick.  

Tip 2: Establish your credibility up front: why should people listen to you for the next thirty minutes, when they could be taking a refreshing afternoon nap? If you are talking about cats, and you happen to have 10 of them, the first couple of minutes are probably where you want to share this little tid- bit. Yeah, your audience will now think you’re crazy, but at least they’ll believe you, when you say that cats actually have 10 lives.

If you don’t have a ton of experience in the topic you are talking about, then you can also establish this credibility by proving yourself as an expert in the area. If your presentation is on Bill Gates, but his invitations keep getting lost in the mail, then you can start off with some unique facts about him, that hopefully no one else in the room knows. Now your audience is willing to listen to you. Please don’t start off with Bill is the founder of Microsoft, unless you are presenting to five-year olds, in which case it’s probably best to establish your credibility through candy.

Tip 3: Know your audience. If you’re asked to give a presentation on cars to a group of engineers, and then asked to give that same presentation to the sales department, you need to make some modifications. Your engineers are going to want to know what the engine looks like, but your sales people are going to want to know one thing: how fast can this go?

The same advice holds for all different demographics. Last week, my dad asked our group of 20-year-old girls what John F. Kennedy was known for. He got two responses: women and blank stares.  He probably should have kept his audience in mind and choose a more modern example.

Tip 4: Keep the energy up! A lot of people present from behind a podium. If the speaker can barely stay awake during his own presentation, I’m surely not. If you need to do a song and dance up there in order to keep your audience engaged, it must be done. I once interned for a company where the CEO would get up in front of the entire office, yell, jump up and down, and just make a fool of himself on a weekly business. Everyone loved it! and he always got his point across. Your first job, as a presenter, is to keep your audience awake.

Tip 5: Tell a story. The easiest way to relate to your audience is through a story: it keeps people interested and they will have an easier time remembering a story and then relating it to one of your point,  than simply a  list of facts.  

Tip 6: Your slides are only 30% of your presentation. No one is going to walk out of the room impressed by your slides. They came there to hear you speak, not read.