Reflections on Episode 12 with Tish Berge, General Manager of Sweetwater Authority

You_got_this photo with podcast

What a great interview to round out our first season!  Before I get into my reflections, I want to take moment and thank Mel Butcher for putting together such a wonderful experience for our listeners.  When I had the idea to reflect on each podcast as a way to share the message with others, I had no idea how much it would touch my life.  Actively listening to these women for how our lives might align was a true blessing.  I invite you to take time to reflect as well; there is something about listening to a story…

In Episode 12, we hear from Tish Berge who earned a B.S. in Engineering from Harvey Mudd College and an MBA with a focus in Finance from the University of California. She has over 25 years of experience in the environmental industry, from private chemical manufacturing, to consulting, to public service. Currently, Tish serves as General Manager for Sweetwater Authority, a water provider in California.

As you know by now, I am fascinated by engineering and have a deep respect for public service professionals. Tish shares her love for the water industry and great pride she receives from making a product that we, the consumers, will always need.  I loved her conversation about Water being essential to Life and she enjoys making sure we have clean water…

I really appreciate her quote, “You can be feminine and strong… I think it does take a unique person to have the confidence to be able to handle it.”

Part of my mission is for women to feel comfortable being women, and I believe Feminine and Strong is the perfect definition of that.  I was just listening to Halle Berry on InStyle IGTV talking about when she felt most beautiful, sexy, and like a woman was when she was pregnant.  It pains me to think of all the engineering stories where they felt they couldn’t have a career and be a mom. Whatever Feminine and Strong means to you, I want you to have the confidence to be just that!  I can also relate to Tish’s quote:

“I remember trying on a lot of different personas. And maybe it’s because I didn’t feel like I had role models. I would try them on, and then they didn’t work. For example, back when I was in technical sales, I used to try to be a guy. I used to tell jokes like a guy, I used to hang out with the guys, do shots with the guys… I wish I could have found a way to get to know myself earlier better and get more comfortable in my skin, instead of bumping around so much as far as — what works for me?

I too have tried on several personas.  I used to think it was just the sales person in me trying to put the customer first.  Now I know, I just didn’t know what I liked, needed, or deserved.  I remember dressing up like some nautical golf pro (whatever that is) when I first accompanied my husband to the golf club.  I don’t know how he didn’t bust out laughing at first sight of me… I still laugh when I think about it.  I do think it takes some trial and error to know how to grow in our careers, but I think having a strong role model is key.  To find a role model as a woman in these male-dominated industries is hard…

But I plan on helping to change that! Join us September 26th in Chicago for our first annual Empowering Women in Industry Conference & Awards Gala and help #BeTheChange!


Reflections on Episode 10 with Shereen Yusuff, Production Petroleum Engineer

You_got_this photo with podcast

Shereen Yusuff… what a fascinating human!

Shereen is a Production Petroleum Engineer who has held positions in Project Management, Business Development and Customer Success through her 15 year career in Oil and Gas. Within oil and gas, she has worked on Production, Drilling and Reservoirs. This is a unique experience in the context of oil and gas professionals because she has worked on both the service and operator sides of the industry.
When listening to Mel and Shereen talk openly about Shereen’s life, I am again reminded about the power of storytelling! The talk of Oil & Gas took me back to my first time walking on a fracing skid (not in the field), I was fascinated by the equipment and this industry!   I recently found out my dad had been a Derrickman (A derrickman is a person who sits atop the derrick on a drilling rig to help guide the stands of the drill pipe into the fingers at the top of the lifting device.  He also worked on the piston pumps and diesel engines!) before I was born, and I felt a sense of pride rush over me!  It is a tough job, but very rewarding… so I’ve heard!  I was actually working on a media brand for the Upstream Oil & Gas industry when I faced my largest career struggle.  I had such high expectations for myself and my team, and I didn’t have the skills nor opportunity to manage the situation.  This is part of the reason I am so determined to teach these skills to the future generation.
I have been thinking a lot about Change and it’s power to increase or decrease an organization’s success. As I listened to Shereen’s story about facing culture change at an early age, I believe her quote “You must adapt” is the key to her success and ours!  We have to adapt to people, places, roles, and expectations.  I remember facing similar challenges and opportunities as a young woman in this challenging male-dominated industry.  I LOVE the challenge of this industry, and I’d like to keep the good while improving on the bad.  To do this, we must listen to learn and then use our voice.
Shereen has lived in many different countries and cultures.  Her stories reminded me of my time in college when I was the historian for the International Student Association!  I loved this group and it introduced me to many different cultures.  One of my tasks was to cover the “Flavor Fest” event. On this day, students showcased their culture with food and dancing… What’s not to love there! I remember the bellydancers and beautiful Indian clothes during the festival! ( I still want to be invited to an Indian wedding!)  I love fashion and any type of dancing… but I have a special place for Bolly which I learned from this amazing group!  I have never been to India.  My first time across the sea was to Australia.  This was such a transitional moment for me (22 at the time) as I planned the trip, secured the funds myself, and traveled alone.  When I was there, I faced adversity with the host family and had to adapt to my surroundings. I created a stronger relationship with my internship verses the family.   It was there my eyes were truly opened.  It was the first time I saw a room full of women all from different countries leading the meetings.  Similar to Shereen, I had a moment when I thought, “WOW! I want to be like her!”
Shereen’s story about a leading lady that impressed her with such graceful leadership reminded me of two women in the pump industry that stood out to me early in my career. With such  graceful presence, Janet Jessen and Gretchen McClain impressed me.  I didn’t have enough direct access to these ladies early in my career, but I still have their image of leadership in my mind.  Controlled. Graceful. Success.   I feel I have a lifetime to go to attain this level, but at least I was able to see them at the top, so I know it is possible.
I will close by restating my favorite quote from Shereen and the mission we are on today…
“You can do a lot just exactly where you’re at. Even if you’ve been in the company for 6 months. Even if you’re in college. Even if you are in school. Even if you’ve been at the company for ten years. It doesn’t matter what space of life you’re in, what your career path is, or where you’re at. I think you can make a difference no matter where you’re at…. You are a walking talking role model for all of the women around you. “
Join us and #BeTheChange!  Hope to see you September 26th in Chicago at the Empowering Women in Industry Conference & Awards Gala.

Reflecting on Episode 9 of the Empowering Women Podcast with Taralinda Willis, Co-Founder & CEO of Curate Solutions

You_got_this photo with podcast

Taralinda earned her MBA from the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater with a focus on operations and project management. She has experience in large-scale public project management, overseeing the creation of a $94M multi-use facility for the state of Wisconsin, sales and account management at a performing arts venue, and customized client solutions as the owner of a consulting business. At Curate, Taralinda leads customer acquisition and business operations.

It was so refreshing to hear another CEO talking about the trials of running a business. It brings a truth to the profession when most of the time we are trying to put our best face forward to be our most effective advocate for the business. The truth is… it’s not all “sunshine and puppies” as she reminds us! Having said that, it’s very rewarding to have built a career in an industry you love with a mission you can be proud of every day!

The most notable quotes from Taralinda’s interview, I found are:

“If you’re trying to get contracts through, they might have a 20% success rate. So, when you get to 8 ‘No’s’ out of 10, celebrate that – because you know you’re getting close. You have to celebrate those and you also have to celebrate the small stuff and the wins. Being comfortable celebrating both sides is really valuable…if 8 people tell me ‘no’, then I will take myself to dinner and have a glass of wine.” “Fundraising is very similar to the sales process. It’s all about your follow-ups. It’s all about making connections with people and being able to share the vision.” “Building a company takes a village…so many people have had an incredible impact on me personally, as well as the company that have made us successful.” “You have to optimize for both the wins and the losses.”

I’d also like to highlight the summary Mel gave us with her statement “Letting go of the answer being tied to your own validity.”

I would, also, like to point out how helpful Curate could be to the Pump & Equipment industry. I have heard so many stories about vendors trying to get on an approved list or even know when bids are happening. I will have to follow up with Taralinda to learn more about this technology! I like the way she invests in “doing what you say you are doing.” Having her team vote on the municipal water polices is one of the examples she gives. This is truly inspiring.

I’d lastly like to comment on and thank her for qualifying the need for building a community of women. She talks about the need for women support groups and how important it is to have someone at the end of the day to talk to about the challenges. I will add that we must also celebrate our wins, together. Whether it’s a sale, a project, a prayer answered, or a job offer, this is life and we are the best at encouraging and celebrating each other! Cheers to more of that!

I normally close these reflections thinking… I hope you will come and celebrate with us at the Awards Gala on Sept 26th. I mean it…I truly hope to see you there!

Listen to more empowering women!

Reflections on Episode 8 with Ingrid Lindberg, Chief Customer Experience Officer

You_got_this photo with podcast

I just finished listening to the interview with Ingrid for the third time!  There are so many key points in here that I find it hard to leave anything out!  To start, Ingrid Lindberg is the founding owner of Chief Customer Consulting. She is the first person to hold the title of CXO, or Chief Customer Experience Officer. From the early age of 14, Ingrid began working full-time at a salon; she soon worked her way into retail, and then retail management at the age of 17. Leveraging her customer service experience, she took advantage of opportunities to catapult into the world of customer experience, which was really just becoming a thing when she got into it.

I hope all humans listen to this episode. There is so much to learn. Starting with how we raise our children… *if we decide to have them.  Ingrid’s parents allowed her access to many people and places at a young age.  They allowed her to be present and have a voice no matter her age or level of understanding.  This gave way to confidence and the belief that

“Your voice matters. Raise it. Own it. Use it.”

I believe that this courage and curiosity is decided at such a young age, which means we must be intentional in our parenting to make room for nurturing this confidence! I think this gives Ingrid the ability to stand firm in who she is and not conform.

“I was 20 years younger than any of my peers, at best. I didn’t fit the mold at all. I have not been very good at packaging myself into one of those female execs who disappears. I don’t do that… I’ve not played a lot of those roles that female executives have, where they either try to conform to that boys club or frankly just try to disappear as a human…. ”

She also faced adversity being raised in a single parent home and had to help provide for her family.  I have a similar story where my mother was a teacher and had to go back to school to get a nursing degree to be able to care for her 4 children. This also fueled me to get a degree where I could take care of myself no matter what… I think this goes into many career choices, and the silver lining is that we can change, grow, or start a new challenge at any time of our lives.

I love how Ingrid combines her work and her degree in sociology to follow her passion of learning more about people.  Like me, she finds humans so interesting and set out to study them. I know this passion is why she was so successful in customer service. Jumping into leadership at an early age, she was faced with many uncomfortable moments where she is lucky to have been given an early understanding of how much her voice mattered.

I am so thankful for Ingrid and how she speaks her truth.  She worked very hard to build a successful career, and this gives her the freedom to overcome many fears we face as leaders in male-dominated fields…”There’s so much fear that drives silence.”

I think freedom gives her the strength to stand up in situations like this one:

“I don’t know how to do things like say, ‘Oh Joe, that’s a brilliant idea. Thank you so much for coming up with it.’ I say things like, ‘Joe, I’m sorry you felt like you had to restate something I said 20 minutes ago. Would you like me to be clearer next time?’ ”

May we all strive for this level of bravery. Especially when it comes to the ownership of our ideas.  If we don’t standup for ourselves, we will lose out.

For this next part, I am thankful for Ingrid giving us the opportunity to discuss this.  I can remember having dinner with colleagues and it being assumed that I would be dismissed after dinner as the men would move venues and continue to network… It was like something out of the Titanic movie where “she talks of the men retiring to brandy and cigars”.  I, like Ingrid, will not be “dismissed.” The next few quotes may shock some, but I can assure you this is the world we live in.  If you are around top leaders, you will be put in these uncomfortable settings and you will have to decide how to manage it.

Like Lynn told us, you will need to be prepared to know your boundaries… This will be different for all of us, but know you have the right to sit at the table if you choose to. You also have the right not to…

“Corporate America has been built around the support of the fraternity, from the places where “deals are done” to the business that is done over brown liquor and cigars. The fraternity was built to help men get from one stage to another is one that seems impenetrable for women… Fraternities have built a certain kind of toxic business environment of insiders and exclusion. I questioned the assumption that I should try to join.”

“When I was managing a team of all men who would invite me to lunches, but would never take me to Friday night happy hour… so I followed them once. And walked straight into the strip club that was three and a half blocks from work. And sat down with them and said, “hey, I’m a part of this team and if I have to sit here to remind you I’m a part of this team, then I’ll sit here to remind you that I’m a part of this team.”

This reminds me of a conversation I had recently that started with the question, ‘How do you decide who to hang out with at business events?’  The response was “ I am very particular about who I go out with.  I have to trust them completely”.   I believe this is where women need to invest their time growing their network.  We need to have the same “I’ve got your back or I’ll protect you” peer group that the men in our network have… It’s worth studying.  I am not saying we all need to start meeting in the red light district, but we should continue to meet and grow in trusting each other.

We can continue this conversation around building trust in a peer group – let me know if you’ll be at any upcoming events and we’ll see if we can Connect with Purpose!

On to the next episode

Reflecting on episode 7 of the Empowering Women Podcast

You_got_this photo with podcast
I really enjoyed the last two episodes because they opened my eyes to additional career paths that are meaningful and have an element of responsibility to our communities.
Drena’s story makes me feel like I am getting something right in terms of leadership. Fascinated that STEM careers can include things like makeup counters which I do spend time at from time to time.  So many areas to talk about, but I’ll focus on these areas: Mentoring, Leadership, Belief.
One reason Drena was successful in her career was because she actively seeks mentors and sponsors strategically along her path. As she looked to grow in an area or skill, she would look to a leader in that space to sponsor or educate her in the skills she needed.
I loved how she discussed how her career was mostly influencing others’ behaviors. She discussed how influencing is basically done through storytelling and listening for pain points or problems that can be solved.  Communication is key to the success of a business.  The better we can communicate with others, the better our workforce becomes.
I believe her leadership style aligns with mine. I am also very focused on continuous learning.  I call it continuous improvement, but I see the only way to improve is to learn from our failures and successes.  She also asks people to stretch.  I am always pushing my team outside their comfort zone while focusing on building strengths.
“Tackling today’s challenges” – I make sure my team is involved in the strategy of our company and consistently check in with them to make sure they are working on something they are passionate about.  I believe we are all more driven when we feel we are making an impact on something we care about in our core being.
This was probably my favorite quote Drena stated:  “As a leader, we must trust our own voice and opinion and stop undervaluing it or playing small.”  I still struggle with this, but I am improving.  I am thankful to Drena for sharing her challenges so I feel less alone in those feelings.  Thank you, Drena!
I also wanted to highlight the importance of being bold and having the courage to (like Drena says) “Make the Ask.”  Whether you are trying to climb the ladder, obtain hands-on experience, just get an Ally! Go ahead and ask for it.