‘Be your own best advocate’

Lehigh students attending the inaugural Women in Business conference got heaps of career advice from those in position to know—highly successful alums, including Lehigh trustee Maria L. Chrin ’87, named one of the Top 100 Women Financial Advisers by the Financial Times, and Cathy Engelbert ’86, chief executive officer of Deloitte LLP and the first female CEO of a “Big Four” firm.

The conference, titled “Get Comfortable with Being Uncomfortable” and hosted by the Lehigh student group Women in Business, aimed to inspire students as they prepare to launch their careers, to help them build confidence and to make them aware of issues that leaders face.

“Be Your Own Best Career Advocate”—the title of one of the panel discussions—was a major theme of the conference, held March 24 at the University Center.  Students also were advised to seek out mentors and sponsors, to believe in themselves, to take risks, to be passionate about what they do and to learn to convey their passion and vision in job interviews.

Aware of the emotional toll that the 2007-2008 financial crises had on colleagues and friends, Chrin’s husband, panelist John Chrin ’85 ’86, also had some sobering advice for students: Not to define themselves solely by their job. “Your job isn’t you,” he said. “It’s part of who you are.”

The idea for the conference arose as Women in Business evaluated whether it was meeting its mission, which includes promoting members’ personal and professional development through activities and workshops, said President Ly Nguyen ’15. She asked, “Where’s our collective female voice?”  Nguyen  said the group was ready to “make some noise.”

Maria Chrin, founder and managing partner of Circle Wealth Management LLC, delivered the keynote address to a crowd that included male and female students, professors, trustees and alumni. Panel discussions followed. The panel on career advocacy was led by Georgette Chapman Phillips, dean of Lehigh’s College of Business and Economics, and another on “risk and return” was led by Regina Lewis ’91, a USA Today contributor and media trainer. There also were opportunities for networking.

In addition to Engelbert and John Chrin, panelists included: Jena Viviano ’12, a business analyst in the Capital Markets department at the New York Stock Exchange; Jennifer Malatesta-Johnson ’94, principal and life sciences industry sector leader in Deloitte’s advisory practice; Kim Bozzella ’89, managing director at UBS Financial Services and Cara Diorio ’07, a senior brand manager of the Americas for Marcolin Eyewear, which is based in Italy. 

In story after story, students learned how the panelists and the keynote speaker had launched their careers, met challenges and overcome obstacles.  But they were reminded by Maria Chrin, who came to Lehigh from Honduras, that each of them is unique and will have a unique path to success.

Chrin encouraged students to understand themselves and their goals. How will they measure success? she asked. How will they stay on track? Why are their goals important to them?

Chrin said she was encouraged by her grandmother to succeed and so became determined to learn about business. But as she looked for her first job after graduate school, a prospective employer seemed distracted by the fact that she was a wife and new mom. Resolute, she told him that she was going to work in wealth management, either there or at a competing firm. She got the job.

“If I didn’t believe in myself, why should he?” Chrin said. She advised students to turn their anger and fear into fuel so that they can get what they want, and to focus on things they can control, such as their attitude and their ability to connect with others.

Panelists encouraged students to find mentors and to be open to their feedback. In addition, said Engelbert, it’s important to find sponsors who will provide opportunities for career growth.

“You’re the sum of your experiences,” Engelbert said. “Nobody cares about your career more than you do.”

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