How do you get “a seat at the table”? This was the question posed by keynote speaker, Cydni Tetros at the Northern Virginia Women in Business (WIB) reception held on Thursday, March 30th.

Over 100 women – including alumni, featured guests, and roughly 20 students – gathered in Reston, Virginia to network and connect with fellow Hokies. Derick Maggard, executive director of Pamplin’s Apex Systems Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship connected WIB to Tetros, and sponsored her presentation.

With that question and theme in mind, Tetros applied personal experience to explain the idea from a new perspective.

“How you get a seat at the table? I took a different angle on that,” Tetros explained. “I don’t think about how to get a seat at the table, I just assume I have a seat at the table. What does that actually mean? What are the things a woman can do to really help her get value out of a specific position in an ecosystem so she can drive to success?”

Aside from an array of work experiences and entrepreneurship experiences, Tetros is also founder and President of Women Tech Council, a nonprofit with more than 10,000 members in its community. She holds a master’s degree in business administration and a bachelor’s in computer science from Brigham Young University.

Elizabeth Mitchell recently found her seat at the table as Assistant Dean of Advancement for the Pamplin College of Business. This was her first Women in Business event since her formal appointment to the new position in late January. Although Mitchell is new to Blacksburg, she is a veteran in the higher education world, having worked in the industry for 25 years.

“One of the things that really attracted me to Pamplin was meeting women like Associate Dean Kay Hunnings. The strong commitment to support women in business and the presence of strong female leadership in the college is very evident,” Mitchell continued. It’s really important for women to help each other and to create and build these opportunities to network.”

The evening was hosted in a unique office space offered by Lifefuels, a tech startup geared towards delivering personalized, functional beverages to on-the-go consumers. CEO and Co-Founder, Jonathon Perrelli, graduated from Virginia Tech in ‘95, and has been an active alumni member – especially in recent years. As a member of the board of the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (APEX-CIE), he has hosted and sponsored events and alumni dinners in the past. Perrelli was excited to host another Hokie event, and to welcome Women in Business to his space for the first time.

“Anytime I can get involved with or do anything to support entrepreneurship in and outside of Hokie Nation, I do. When those efforts combined and when it came to support Women in Business – the opportunity to host an event was a no-brainer,” Perrelli said. “I enjoy bringing extra energy into this space that already has so much energy, so we were glad to be able to host.”

The event was additionally sponsored by AccelHRate, an HR executive search firm led by another Hokie alum – President and CEO, Kim Shanahan. Throughout the evening, Shanahan was able to share information about a local volunteer organization, Women Giving Back, in hopes of spreading awareness to the female community of Virginia Tech alumni in Northern Virginia.

After industry-based discussions, personal conversations, new connections and old reunions, the evening closed with a strong purpose in mind: both Women in Business and the Hokie Nation as a whole strive to motivate women to secure their seat at the table.

“I am really passionate about making sure that we leverage the economic impact of women and the impact they have on all of the ecosystems that surround us,” Tetros said. “With women representing more than 50% of the workforce, what we need is to make sure that we are building these cultures of inclusion and making sure that companies are giving women those opportunities. That includes making sure that we are really building high performing teams that leverage the talent of everyone around the table.”