Monthly Archives: April 2015

Inspiration Central: Four Questions for Madam Chair

By Minita Shah-Mara, Director of Diversity and Inclusion, Morgan, Lewis & Bockius

“The career advice I would give women is the same advice I would give any man,” says Jami McKeon, the first woman to lead Morgan, Lewis & Bockius in its 142 years. “Work hard. Be yourself. Dedicate yourself to excellence. Understand the value in building relationships and establishing personal networks early on. Be enthusiastic. And be gritty—have passion and perseverance.”

As global chair, McKeon sets the strategic direction of the firm—the largest in the US—across all 29 offices. She is a practicing trial lawyer, handling high stakes litigation and counseling Fortune 100 companies on complex legal and regulatory issues, including those related to mortgage, credit card, and trust issues for some of the world’s largest banks. We asked her to take a timeout to talk about her career.

Q: What was your career path to becoming chair?

A: “I went straight from college to law school to Morgan Lewis and have spent my entire career here. As a result, my career path was fairly straightforward. From the outset, I went into work every day committed to doing my absolute best, and that led to opportunities to do more. I became a partner in 1989, and was asked to take on some firm responsibilities. At Morgan Lewis, positions are about leadership and service, not glory. You have to be willing to put in the hard work and effort and to earn the respect of your partners. Over time, I was elected to the advisory board, and the compensation committee, and I was asked to go to San Francisco to lead the expansion and integration of our West Coast presence. While I was in San Francisco, I became head of the litigation practice. I ultimately spent eight years in San Francisco and moved back to Philadelphia a few years ago. In the fall of 2013, I was elected to be the firm’s chair, effective October 2014.”

Q: When did you first know you wanted to be a litigator?

A: “My path to becoming a lawyer was not a particularly auspicious one. There was no ‘aha’ moment. I didn’t have any grand plan. There were no lawyers in my family. I was interested in the law, politics and liberal arts, so law school seemed like a good fit. I was lucky to do well in law school and have the opportunity to interview at a number of strong firms in Philadelphia. I chose Morgan Lewis primarily because it was the place where I was most impressed by the lawyers on a personal and professional level. And it turns out I made the right decision.

“As far as choosing a practice group, I always knew I wanted to be a litigator. It may be related to the fact that I come from a family of performers—my mother and one of my sisters danced on Broadway—and we all were involved in performance in one way or another as kids.”

Q: What’s the secret to your firm’s thriving when many others are struggling since the 2008 financial collapse?

A: “Three things: 1) Culture—we have a collaborative culture where helping your colleagues is encouraged (in fact, expected) and rewarded. That also means that in tough times our colleagues stick together and do what is in the best interests of our clients and the firm rather than themselves.  2) Innovation—we are not afraid to try out new ideas in order to achieve the best results for our clients. Two examples are our eData practice group (which provides end-to-end discovery options for our clients in house) and our early adoption of alternative fee arrangements. 3) Fiscal Responsibility—we have always been fiscally responsible. We do not carry debt, which is unusual for a law firm, and we aren’t looking to pick up the next shiny new penny—we only do things when it makes sense and it is in the best interests of the firm and our clients.”

Q: What’s the best career advice you ever received?

A: “There is no such thing as paying too much attention to every interaction with every client.”

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“My First Mentor Changed My Life”

By Lakecia Gunter, Chief of Staff, Intel Labs

When I first joined Intel, my manager went out of her way to help me quickly build my network at the company. A 27-year veteran at the company, Pam Lusardi gave me a list of people to meet immediately and sent personal notes of introduction to start the dialogue. I affectionately call this initial small group of seasoned, smart and successful employees “my personal board of directors.” Along with Pam, they provided me with an invaluable insider’s view on how to get things done and navigate Intel’s large, complex landscape.

Pam signed up to be a key partner in my success, and because of the network she helped me build, I was able to make an impact early, setting me up for long-term career opportunities that I’d eventually pursue. Tragically, Pam died in a plane crash six months after I arrived at Intel, but she’s always been with me in spirit and I often reflect on how she gave so much of herself to help me and others.

To the Rescue!

Loss is a part of life, as we all know. However, it presents a particular challenge when you’ve lost a work colleague as organizations must address the immediate need to fill the void left behind and keep teams on track while at the same time giving employees time to mourn and grieve. And here’s where my network quickly became the major cornerstone of my career—and a lifeline. I experienced tremendous pain and trauma when losing Pam, who had become an amazing friend. I really began to feel like a ship without an anchor and honestly didn’t know how I was going to be able to make it at Intel without her.  But my network rallied around me and committed to help me accomplish the goals Pam had envisioned for me.

In our last one-on-one meeting, Pam advised me that I would be a great technical assistant (TA) to a senior Intel executive. I didn’t know at the time that she also shared this goal with my other mentors. Pam explained that a TA plays a vital role to an executive in that he or she becomes a trusted technical advisor to the executive, assisting him or her and the staff in defining the organization’s strategy and technology priorities and leading the charge for various projects and initiatives on the executive’s behalf. I was intrigued and decided that I should seriously investigate how a TA role would become part of my career path at Intel.

My Support System Comes Through Again

When a TA opportunity for Intel’s chief technology officer (CTO) hit the radar, several individuals in my network immediately reached out to me. What’s more, when they were asked by the CTO and his current TA who would be a good fit for the role, they all “wore my T-shirt” by advocating for me and communicating my interest, which provided me with instant credibility. Without their endorsement, I may not have even had the opportunity to interview for the job since I was unknown to the CTO and his TA. It’s important to note that when opportunities like this come up, one has to be ready to react quickly, and that certainly was the case here. I was one of the last candidates to interview for the role but ultimately I was the one selected.

Talk about a game changer in my career: If it were not for my network, I would have never been able to seize to this opportunity. If it were not for those valuable discussions with my “board of directors,” I may have never taken that risk to leave a perfectly good job where I was thriving to do something completely different.

My network has been paramount to my success in navigating Intel and in building a successful corporate career. I can’t underscore enough the importance of nurturing your relationships and strengthening those connections for the long haul—and paying it forward by mentoring others. As the famous Bible verse says, “A man that has friends must show himself friendly.”

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‘My Guiding Career Advice: Be There and Be Prepared’

By Barbara Baffer, Vice President of Corporate Affairs and Communications, Ericsson North America

Often it is the simple and basic life lessons that can grow your skills and accelerate your career.

As a child, my mother always impressed upon me the importance of getting a job and making money, which was especially important for me because I was a girl. I wondered, “How am I going to make money?”

Lessons from a Paper Route

At the age of 12, I applied for a job delivering morning papers in my hometown of Newport News, Virginia. But a young girl riding a bicycle filled with newspapers at 4:00 a.m. in the dark didn’t sit well with my potential employer. It was both my first rejection and my first experience in outsourcing. My younger brother got the job, and I became his subcontractor, proving that yes, as long as you can throw and hit the screen doors with the paper, girls could deliver papers just as well as boys. And maybe even better.

I showed up every day prepared to do the job, and I learned how to do it well. This “can-do” attitude helped me get and keep the job again and again—and later it helped me climb the corporate ladder.

Making the Most of Opportunities

Fast forward a number of years: With my mother’s voice stressing the need for financial independence still ringing in my ears, I found myself at Ericsson in the sleepy town of Lynchburg, Virginia. Employed as a project marketing specialist, I applied the same principles from my early work experience. I learned everything I could about the business and always showed up energized, well prepared, dressed for business and eager to step in where needed.

Opportunities came my way. When someone suddenly was unavailable for a presentation or a speaking engagement, I would be ready and volunteer. To be honest, I certainly wasn’t the most skilled or knowledgeable. But as in everything, the third or fourth time you do something, you get more confident and things get easier.

Moving Up the Ladder

As my career progressed at Ericsson, I became the vice president of government and industry affairs in North America, where I had to learn the intricacies of working with a wide variety of U.S. government agencies, regulators, legislators and lobbyists. I networked, and forged new relationships with my counterparts, from our customers and competitors. It reinforced the fact that preparation, credibility and trust will always be key to successful influence.

My work in Washington, D.C., resulted in a promotion to my current role as VP of corporate affairs and communications for Ericsson North America. In this capacity, I direct external and internal corporate affairs and communications, as well as the government and industry relations teams in Washington, D.C., and Ottawa, Canada. I report to the president and CEO of Ericsson North America and also manage our company’s charitable giving program.

Preparing for Tomorrow

Outside of Ericsson, it’s also critical to be there and be prepared. I currently serve on the Board of Directors of CTIA: the Wireless Association Foundation, the Advisory Committee of the Alliance for Affordable Internet, and the Collin County Business Alliance. In 2014 and again in 2015, I will serve as the chairwoman of the Metroplex Technology Business Council Gala, and I’m a member of the Dallas Executive Women’s Roundtable. But one of my proudest accomplishments is mentoring other women at Ericsson, helping to empower and enable their professional growth.

Put into practice daily, sometimes the common-sense principles of life that we learn as children are those that will lead us down the road of personal and professional success throughout our lives. As I watch my teenage daughter grow into a woman, I hope to channel these simple concepts—and be the voice in her head that helps to build self-confidence, resilience and independence throughout her life.

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What Would You Have Done In Ellen Pao’s Shoes?

Ellen PaoThe upside to Ellen Pao’s lawsuit against venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins: It brought workplace sexism out into the open, making it part of the national conversation for several weeks. But even after the court ruled against Pao, women everywhere continued to talk about the subtle and not-so-subtle forms of sex discrimination that take place in the office. What’s the best way to handle them? Could Pao have stood up for herself more?

“I believe women shouldn’t have to consider whether they confront sexual discrimination; I believe they should only have to figure out the most effective way to do so,” says Norine Yukon, former CEO of UnitedHealthcare Community Plan of Texas and current board member for the Texas Conference for Women and several health care corporations. And that, of course, depends on the circumstances and your personal style. But generally speaking, here’s what Yukon and Victoria Pynchon, a lawyer and negotiation consultant, would have done in Pao’s shoes.

You are at a meeting and a man asks you—the only woman present—to take notes.

“I’m a lousy note-taker, so I can say in all honesty that I won’t take notes in fairness to the team.”—Yukon

“I have actually had this happen with a judge, and I responded: ‘I’d love to, Judge, but I’ve found that [a man in the room] is a far better note-taker than I am.’ After suggesting someone else, you could add an explanation, ‘Whenever I’m the note-taker I find it limits my ability to fully participate in the discussion.’ The key is to be respectful—and to praise something about the male replacement.”—Pynchon

You come to an important meeting and there is no seat for you at the table, so you’ll have to sit in a back row. Everyone else at your level is at the table.

“Good communication among team members is key, and communications are better when people can see and hear each other. Also, overt physical isolation can be more than symbolic and can impact decision-making. In this case, I would take a moment to scan the room and see who is sitting where, then pull a chair up to where I want to sit, squeezing in by asking folks to kindly make way. People will usuall find a way to make room for one more.”—Yukon

“Don’t let yourself be sidelined. Why? Because it’s difficult to be heard when you are sitting behind everyone else and it’s bad for your optics. Instead, ask the administrative personnel to please bring you a chair—don’t go get it yourself. You are an Alpha Dog, act like one at least until the revolution requires different behavior of the ruling class. But do remember to say please and thank you to the office staff.”—Pynchon

At meetings, you are constantly interrupted by men, or what you say is ignored.

“It is better to speak with the individuals privately first, and then if the behavior continues, call the offender out to his leader and to the group. I have always tried to not fight fire with fire, because that just ends up burning a lot of people. But I have to admit in some cases, the only way I could stop obnoxious male behavior was by sarcastically interrupting the interrupter.”—Yukon

“I’d say, ‘Excuse me, Joe, but I hadn’t finished what I was saying.’ And when they take credit for your idea, say, ‘Great add-on to what I was saying earlier, Joe; thanks for picking up where I left off.’”—Pynchon

You hear that a business dinner with important players is planned, and only men are invited.

“I would first try not to make any assumptions about the reasons I wasn’t invited. Then I’d go to the organizer of the dinner and ask how the invite list was put together. Depending on that response, I might ask to be included, or I might decide not to make an issue of it. You have to pick your battles because you can’t win them all.”—Yukon

“Go to the man you are closest to among invitees and say, ‘Hey Bob, I understand there’s a business dinner tonight with key players. I’ve got a half dozen questions for Harry, who I’ve become pretty tight with during the [case or some project]. It must have been an oversight to leave me off the guest list. Can you adroitly get me on it?’ This lets him and the group save face and consolidates your importance to the effort without having a confrontation about why you weren’t invited.”—Pynchon

On a chartered plane during a business trip, your male colleagues start talking about female porn stars and Victoria’s Secret models.

“I have been in many situations where inappropriate conversations were started. Almost without exception, I have been able to look these guys straight in the eyes and remind them that I am in the room and that the conversation should stop. Try not to be intimidated even if one of the guys is the boss. I also recommend personally following up with individuals who are ‘leading’ the inappropriate conversations.”—Yukon

“I’d say, ‘I’d love to give you a woman’s perspective on sex workers and soft porn but I’m afraid it would make all the guys uncomfortable’—thus making all the men uncomfortable. I guarantee you that they will change the subject and a few of the more conscious players will realize that making people uncomfortable in conversation is a two-way street, not a one way back alley.”—Pynchon

One day, you are informed that you are being moved to an office that is out of the way, toward the back of the building, away from the “power corridor.”

“Unless there is a construction or remodeling project underway that is causing physical disruption, I would take this as a potentially serious sign of a decision already concluded. To me, this is not limited to females, as I have seen it happen to both men and women who are either out of favor or who have been geographically demoted due to a new employee or new corporate structure. In any case, I would have a conversation with my boss to see what I could learn, and then I’d update my resume and start contacting recruiters.”—Yukon

“Never go with any ‘flow’ that marginalizes you. Instead go to a superior who has your back. Explain how the rearrangement hurts your group—so this isn’t about your ego—then say, ‘I’m happy to talk to HR myself but thought you might want to talk to Carol before I did. What do you think?’ In all of these conversations, you speak as a colleague from a position of power, not a position of weakness. You’re saying you can handle this yourself, but that you want to give a superior the opportunity to use her muscle.”—Pynchon

At the end of the day, our experts agree that speaking up for yourself is always better than keeping quiet. “It’s good to make an effort to grease the wheels of courteous social interaction,” Pynchon says, “but when people are being damaged, diminished or dismissed and polite conversation isn’t working, please feel free to make a ruckus.”

Just make sure that in your response, you “stay authentic, stay fair and stay true to your principles,” Yukon adds.

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Micro-Workouts: The Secret of Busy, Fit Women

Sure, hour-long workouts are great if you have the time. But for the other 362 days of the year, you need to exercise more efficiently. Hello, Micro-Workouts! “The idea, backed by science, is that if you work out smarter, you don’t have to work out longer,” says Chris Jordan, director of exercise physiology at the Johnson & Johnson Human Performance Institute and creator of the original 7-minute workout that was featured in the New York Times.

Fast Track to Health

The key is interval training: alternating bursts of high intensity activity with brief recovery periods. “One minute of vigorous exercise is approximately equivalent to two minutes of moderate exercise, so you can get the same, if not greater, returns in less time,” Jordan explains.

You can shave off even more time with the right sequence of exercises. “You’ll work harder and need less recovery time with each individual exercise if those muscles get a relief when you move to the next exercise,” Jordan says. In other words, you save time by overlapping recovery periods with your active minutes.

7 Mighty Minutes

So how short can you go with your workout and still have it count? “Some exercise—even a few minutes—is always better than nothing,” Jordan says. But for a complete body workout, he found seven minutes to be the optimal minimum.

His 7-minute training plan works all the major muscle groups and involves 12 simple exercises (think jumping jacks and wall sits). You do them in 30-second bursts, alternating with 5-second transition periods. The best thing about the workout: Jordan created it with the working person in mind, so it can be done in an office or cubicle—and you don’t need any special equipment or clothes. “I’ve actually done it in a suit, but you probably don’t want to do it in a dress or skirt,” he adds.

Get the free “Johnson & Johnson Official 7-Minute Workout.” (It includes more than 20 different body weight circuits for beginners to advanced exercisers.)

Beyond Calorie Burning

Microbursts are also a great way to boost energy throughout the day. “Imagine how you feel standing up and going for a walk after sitting for a while,” Jordan says. “That’s all it takes to promote blood circulation and push more glucose and oxygen around the body.”

To rev your metabolism, break up long periods of sitting with short bursts of activity such as standing and walking to the bathroom or up and down a flight of stairs. “Ideally, you want to be getting up for a couple of minutes at least every hour,” Jordan adds. Stuck in a chair during a marathon meeting? Try stretching your back and shoulders and discreetly raising your knees up and down under the table as though you’re marching. You will relieve tension—and may feel like you could hoof a real marathon.

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Exclusive Interview: DKNY PR GIRL Gets Advice-y

Alert TMZ! Aliza Licht, aka DKNY PR GIRL, has a past: The smart, funny and oh-so au currant voice on Twitter was once a science geek. “It’s true—I majored in neurobiology and physiology in preparation for medical school,” says Licht. But before she got there, she realized her true calling was for a career in fashion—and after a few years in magazines and almost 17 years at Donna Karan International, the senior vice president of global communications shares her career advice in her first book, Leave Your Mark. Here’s what she told us.


“Life isn’t a dress rehearsal—so you have to go for it. But it takes hard work and dedication and you might not always get what you think you deserve. It doesn’t matter. Handle yourself with professionalism and remember that in business, your personal brand is your greatest asset. Mind your reputation and the rest will come.”


“Never really believe you have succeeded. I am in the middle of my journey. I can always learn more and do more. People who get satisfied with their success get stagnant and ultimately get blown away by the competition. I am always looking ahead to what I can do next to grow as a person and to expand my horizons. They say in PR you are only as good as your last piece of press coverage. I think I have been trained to never rest on my laurels because of that.”


“I don’t believe in three-year plans or five-year plans. I believe in short–term goals. I believe that if you give 200% to what you’re doing right now, your next step will become apparent. There are many paths one can take and there are no wrong answers.”


“The relationships one builds at a company are the key to success. Having a boss that supports your growth is everything. Longevity is only possible when your job continuously evolves and you’re always learning.”


“It’s never too late to start over as long as you can handle the hard work and patience it takes to make a switch. It can be daunting and disappointing, not to mention costly, but if you’re really passionate about succeeding in another field, you can do it! To start, do the research on your chosen field and start educating yourself on everything you need to know. Next, canvas your network. Who do you know and who might your friends know? You will be amazed at how many connections you can come up with. Once you feel you are ready, try and set up as many exploratory interviews as you can. Assess what skills or assets you can bring to the job. How might your last experience add value to this new field? Last, be willing to start at the bottom with bells on. Your attitude is everything!”


“For me it is always about the community first and foremost. There’s a reason that it’s called social media. You have to be social! I believe in authentic engagement, in real time. I don’t use content calendars; everything I do is off the cuff. When you are speaking to people from all over the world, you have to find the common denominators so people can relate on global scale.”


“I think the DKNY Cozy is the most essential summer sweater you can own. We all know how the office air conditioning can make it feel like winter in July. With more than twelve ways to tie it, it’s the sweater you can leave on your chair and wear it a different way every day of the week!”

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Free Teleclass: Take Control of Your Financial Future

Manisha ThakorTake Control of Your Financial Future
Tuesday, May 19, 2015
10:00-10:30am PDT

DOWNLOAD SLIDES: Take Control of Your Financial Future

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Posted in Teleclass Signups, Financial Fitness Tagged |

How to Set Boundaries Without Feeling Guilty

Loder, VanessaHow to Set Boundaries Without Feeling Guilty
Tuesday, June 23, 2015
10:00-10:30 AM (PDT)


Posted in Teleclass Signups, Communication Skills, Life on Your Terms Tagged |

Podcast: Stand Out As a Natural Leader with Joanna Barsh

Barsh, JoannaWhat enables some talented people to rise to the top and live their full ambitions at work and in life, while others stop short?

No matter what stage you are currently at in your career, or what level of leadership you aspire to, this 30-minute talk will equip you with the tools to unlock your own “Centered Leader” and achieve more positive impact at work and outside it. Listen to the teleclass recording or read the complete transcript below.

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CFW SURVEY: ‘I Care’ and the Other Reasons You Do ‘Office Housework’

stock 853Editing a colleague’s report, taking meeting notes, refilling the printer paper tray—the non-job-description stuff you do at work to help someone, your team or the company at large has a name. “Office housework”—and as at home, the bulk of it falls to women, who mostly do it to little acknowledgment, let alone acclaim, reported Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant in a recent New York Times article. What’s more, they say, it’s another example of gender bias: Men are praised and rewarded if they pitch in, while women are penalized for not helping.

But is office housework that widespread a burden and do women do it because we have to? We asked our readers and a whopping 2,218 of you responded. You have strong feelings about the topic, ranging from resentment to bemusement. Here’s what you said: Read More

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