Pamplin alumnae gathered at the Richmond Omni on November 9th for Pamplin’s Annual Women in Business (WIB) event.  Students from Collegiate Women in Business, Finance for Females and PRISM also attended.  The theme was “Navigate and Negotiate” and featured networking and a panel of successful alumni, including Kim Adams, Tessa Anderson, and Starlette Johnson, and a male, John Ashbury, who is the President and CEO of Union Bankshares, the event sponsor.

Donna Wertalik, Pamplin’s Director of Marketing, moderated the discussion which began with the TEDTalk, “Know your worth, then ask for it” by Casey Brown.   Following panel feedback, the discussion continued via a variety of questions related to careers, professional growth, and personal insight and advice for the audience.

Kim Adams, Director of SOX and Accounting Policy at Union Bankshares, provided insight on how to remain confident when first entering the work-world.

“A piece of the best advice I have received actually came from one of my clients – he said ‘eat the live frog.’ I had never heard of it before, but apparently it is a Mark Twain quote,” Adams explained. “It means that when you’re thinking about something that makes you anxious or nervous, and you eat the live frog in the morning, that is the worst thing that is going to happen to you that day.”

In order to instill this confidence within each other, there are two major factors that come into play: mentors and sponsors. Tessa Anderson, Senior Assistant Brand Manager at Nat Sherman, spoke to her experience being both a giver and a receiver in this relationship.

“As people in the company come in, they are probably a little bit nervous and don’t feel qualified. It is important as somebody more senior to announce that person and give them the value that maybe they don’t see in themselves,” Anderson advised. “So, say that I am a manager, and I am announcing my new hire: ‘Meet Michelle, she’s from Virginia Tech, she is the foremost leader in social media, and she knows everything about this subject.’ Now, when she is in the meeting, she has that confidence and reassurance.”

Starlette Johnson, President of SBJ Advisory Group, asserted that women working against each other is a topic that is not being addressed within the field of business, even though it is happening everywhere every single day.

“Particularly, in my industry, because there are so few women at senior levels or even manager levels, I have time and time again seen how women work against each other instead of with each other. In many instances, they have ruined their careers along the way because they have tried to do it all themselves versus sharing,” Johnson said. “I think women have to remember we are all on a team and we have different positions to play, whether we are the only female on the team or one of multiple, but we are all going in the same direction. However, I think we still have a ways to go on that team sport mentality.”

President and CEO of Union Bankshares John Ashbury, was able to add his insights from a different perspective. He noted the importance of evolving as an individual throughout your career. Ashbury spoke of a time when his boss made him realize he needed to take his path into his own hands, under his own control.

“For around five years, I always wrote the same thing in my annual performance plan: ‘I would like to have a wide variety of experiences in a wide variety of locations.’ One year my boss said, ‘I can’t help you, you have to be more specific. If you leave this, you’re going to wake up at 50 years old, and you are going to keep having to be moved every 2 years, and you are going to regret it,’”. He also added, “It is not my job to define your career path, John, it’s your job,” And John thought to himself “he’s right, it is my job.”

The panel also discussed advice about the challenge of reinventing yourself, and how to best move forward into the field of business. Each agreed that two of the most important things to keep in mind are the ability to adjust and the ability to always be presenting the best version of yourself. There is no single model of a working professional-it is a constant evolution with every step of your career.

Before the event closed, John offered that Union Bankshares will host the event again in 2018.