Changing Jobs During Changing Times

The coronavirus has had a huge impact on our lives and it has changed the way we work in really significant ways. So what if you find yourself starting a new job during this strange time? Two of our WBC members have found themselves in just that situation, so we asked them to share a bit about their experiences. 

Kimmy Venter started a new job as Director of Communications for Ronald McDonald House Charities® of the Capital Region in late April.  

I truly never expected to make a change like this in the middle of a pandemic, but so far it’s been a really positive experience. The conditions were certainly not ideal to start a new job with a completely new team of people I wouldn’t be able to meet in person. Luckily, my new colleagues have been extremely warm and welcoming and we’re finding lots of ways to make remote connections right now. 

Before my first day “on the job” I came across this article which offers some great advice: https://www.themuse.com/advice/starting-new-job-remotely-coronavirus. Now that I’m more than a month into my new role, I think I can safely say that all the tips about communication are key. 

The article recommends learning how your team communicates. More specifically, I’d say learn how your team communicates during quarantine! In my last job, people were spread across multiple locations, so technology was a key part of communicating even before the coronavirus. In my new role, I’m part of a very small team of staff who usually work together in person from the same place every day. During normal times, I imagine there’s not a huge need for group chats, video conferences or even lengthy email chains, because the people who need to connect with each other have ample opportunity to do so face to face.  

Obviously, things are different in quarantine. I’m learning how my new team communicates under the circumstances. And I’m doing my best to share some of the tools that have worked for me in the past to help make this easier for all of us. That said, I expect to have a whole new set of norms to learn when I finally get to join my new team in person full time. I don’t know exactly when that will be, but I am definitely looking forward to it! 

Emily Dessingue started a new job as the Regional Philanthropy Officer for the American Red Cross of Eastern New York in the beginning of June. 

Similar to Kimmy’s answer, I never thought I would be switching careers in the middle of the pandemic, but I saw this as a huge learning opportunity.  

I believe 2020 has been the ultimate year for problem solving. We’ve had to quickly transition our lives, while trying to keep everything afloat and running smoothly. Admittedly, I was nervous to start a new career because I’m a hands-on learner, and now I was going to have to learn everything virtually. 

Luckily, the American Red Cross has done a wonderful job with making me feel comfortable and supported, given the circumstances. Our Chief Development Officer constantly tells our staff ‘don’t suffer in silence” and “don’t feel like you’re alone on an island.” I found that to be impactful because a person can easily feel frustrated, overwhelmed, or defeated when learning something completely new online. So, my advice is to constantly ask questions, do things in repetition, reach out for help and most importantly, be patient with yourself. You’re not going to learn everything in a day, week, or probably not even in a few months, but always try your best, have open communication and be a problem solver.  

Author: Kimmy Venter & Emily Dessingue

From Basic Networking to Something More

How do we make real connections when we network?

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I can still remember the first few networking events I ever attended, when I was new to the Capital Region and to the working world. I don’t think of myself as a particularly timid person, but walking into rooms filled with professionals who seemed to have this “networking” thing down pat, it’s safe to say I was less than confident.

I shook plenty of hands and exchanged plenty of business cards, but not many of those early interactions turned into any sort of strong connection. Looking back, I was pretty clueless — not only about how to network, but about what the point of networking even was.

Networking is defined as “the action or process of interacting with others to exchange information and develop professional or social contacts.” So…okay, I was interacting with others, exchanging information, and building up my Rolodex, but what was supposed to come next?

It took me a while to figure that out, and I’m sure the answer is not the same for everyone. But for me, the whole point of networking is not to see how many business cards I can collect or how many LinkedIn connections I can make. (In truth, I hate business cards!!) It’s to find people with whom I might share some common interests, ideas, or passions, in the hopes that we might develop a real connection over time.

As I was thinking about this subject, I stumbled across an article that captured my feelings almost perfectly. I can’t say I even realized I was doing this, but over the years, I’ve come to take a very similar approach to what’s described here:

Even at what would be considered “networking events,” I began to chat with people without considering whether or not they would be able to help me or further my career in the future. I strived to have really great, sincere conversations with people, rather than talking to as many people as I could. Sometimes conversations were heavily career-focused and that was okay, but I also connected with others on college experiences, favorite recipes, funny memes, and more. That change in perspective made “networking” so much easier and so much more fun.

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I can honestly say that I look forward to networking now, because I’ve learned how to do it in a way that works for me. I’m by no means an expert, but when it comes to developing connections, here are a few tips that have worked for me…

Listen first, speak second.

I used to go into my networking interactions thinking first and foremost about my “elevator pitch.” What did I want other people to know about me, and how was I going to get that across? While I still think it’s important to have a sense of what you might want to say about yourself, I think it’s vastly more important to listen and let conversations flow naturally. I’ve realized that when I’m focused on listening (instead of thinking about what I’m going to say next) I remember a LOT more about the person I’m listening to. And the more I remember, the easier it is to strike up a conversation the next time I see that person out and about.

Find a common interest.

If you start with listening, it’s not too hard to find something in common with your new connection. I’ve hit it off with people over everything from college sports, to favorite books and TV shows, to a near-crazy obsession with my dog. An important thing to note here – your common interest doesn’t have to have anything to do with your job! There’s nothing like discovering someone else loves something you love to form the beginning of a beautiful professional relationship.

Sink your teeth into something.

One of my favorites things about networking now is that, most of the time, I do it in groups that I really love being a part of. Take, for example, the Women’s Business Council (obviously). I still meet new people at almost every WBC event I attend, but because I’ve really embraced my membership in this fabulous group, I feel infinitely more comfortable entering the networking scene. When I introduce myself to someone at a WBC event, I already know we have at least one common interest (promoting and supporting women in business!) and the conversation flows easily from there. This isn’t to say that anyone should ever close themselves off to new groups or experiences, but if you’re really passionate about something, go all in. New connections with other passionate people are sure to blossom!

Follow up.

This is probably the advice I have the most difficulty following, but it’s also perhaps the most important. It’s incredibly easy to leave a networking event and immediately get swept up in the hustle and bustle of work and life. I’m always exceedingly impressed by the people who send follow up emails just to say hello after we’ve exchanged business cards. I’ll admit, I never do this, and I probably never will, but we all have to find what works for us. For me, it’s goes back to listening and discovering those common interests. If I come across an article or an upcoming event that relates to something I recently discussed with a new connection, I can pass that along to keep the conversation going. If we bonded over a favorite TV show, I can reach out to ask for an opinion on the latest episode. And of course, we can connect on social media to continue sharing interesting things with one another on a regular basis.

As I said, I’m certainly not an expert on how to succeed at networking, but I have learned to like it a lot more just by shifting my perspective. This blog is a place for many voices, so please share your own tips in the comments below!

Women Volunteers Rock!

April 7th marks the start of National Volunteer Week, and here at the WBC, we simply want to shout out all the incredible women in business who are also making a difference by volunteering in our community!

Global estimates put the count of volunteers worldwide at over 970 million, and considering the hours that they contribute, we are talking about the equivalent of over 125 million full-time workers!! According to numerous reports, around the world and in the U.S., more volunteering is undertaken by women than by men. In fact, a survey conducted by the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) found that American volunteers tend to be female and married. The largest age group for volunteers was 35-44 and the volunteers surveyed were most likely to be parents with children under 18.

Think about that for a second — women with spouses and children to take care of are still volunteering more than most other groups of Americans. When you factor in the demands of jobs, kids, and other commitments, knowing that so many women still find time to give back to their communities is pretty awe-inspiring!

If you’re one of those female volunteers making a difference in the Capital Region, we’d love to hear more about how you’re involved and why you love it! If you’re looking for new ways to give back, consider one of these opportunities from our 2019 Adopted Nonprofit – The Epilepsy Foundation of Northeastern New York.

Here are some Epilepsy Foundation NENY opportunities:

Looking for a Few Good Men and Women to Join Our Walk to End Epilepsy Committee

  1. The Epilepsy Foundation will soon begin planning our 11th Annual Walk at Saratoga Spa State Park which will be held on Sunday, September 8th.  The “Walk to End Epilepsy” attracts over 500 participants annually.  Our volunteer committee meets once a month from April-September to plan for this event.  Volunteers are needed to secure raffle prizes, corporate sponsors and assist with day of logistics.  Our volunteers also help us spread the word to friends, colleagues and businesses to introduce new participants to the Walk.  The day includes lunch, children’s activities and much more!!  We are pleased to welcome our Event Partner, Fingerpaint, to our 2019 Walk to End Epilepsy.

To join the committee, or learn more, please contact Jeannine Garab, Executive Director, at (518)456-7501 or jgarab@epilepsyneny.org

2. Looking for a Few Good Men and Women to Join the Epilepsy Golf Tournament Committee

The Epilepsy Foundation will soon begin planning our Annual Epilepsy Golf Tournament which will be held on Monday, September 23rd at Wolferts Roost Country Club.  The Golf Tournament attracts over 150 participants annually.  Our unique format features fivesomes and nine Par 3 holes, each offering significant prizes including $10,000 cash.  Our volunteer committee meets once a month from April-September to plan for this event.  Volunteers recruit new fivesomes, secure raffle prizes, corporate sponsors and assist with day of logistics.  The event includes a premium giveaway, food and wine tastings on the course, silent and live auction, in addition to lunch, dinner and an awards reception.

To join the committee, or learn more, please contact Jeannine Garab, Executive Director, at (518)456-7501 or jgarab@epilepsyneny.org

WIBW: Period. End of Sentence.

A 26-minute documentary about periods won an Oscar on Sunday. That’s pretty cool.

According to this brief profile from Glamour, Period. End of Sentence. is a short film which tackles the stigma around menstruation in rural India. It’s currently streaming on Netflix and it just won the Academy Award for Best Documentary Short Subject at the 2019 Oscars.

Rayka Zehtabchi, the 25-year-old Iranian-American director of the doc, talked with Glamour about how making this film changed her life, and what she hopes other people get out of watching it:

“Empowering women worldwide really starts with beginning, with opening up the conversation around menstruation. We can implement feminine hygiene, but first we have to break the taboo. I also want people to realize this isn’t just a film for women, it’s for men too. They’re 50 percent of the population, and men need to be having these conversations and championing the film just as much as women are.”

Speaking of breaking taboos, Zehtabchi is one of very few female directors nominated by the Academy – a point of frequent discussion when the Oscars roll around – but we love her take on the question of how it feels to be in this rare field:

“Why does it have to be so amazing? Why does this have to be shocking that I’m a female director and that I’ve made a film about a women’s issue, in a country we don’t think much about, and that the film is getting attention?”

That’s the voice of a woman we can all get behind on this Women in Business Wednesday! Take 26 minutes this week and check out Period. End of Sentence. Then leave a comment below to let us know what you think!

WIBW: Walking in Harriet Tubman’s Footsteps

T. Morgan Dixon and Vanessa Garrison are the co-founders of GirlTrek – the largest public health nonprofit for African-American women and girls in the United States. Their mission:

“To pioneer a health movement for African American women and girls grounded in civil rights history and principles through walking campaigns, community leadership and health advocacy.”

Last year, they planned a walk retracing Harriet Tubman’s path, hiking the path of the Underground Railroad over a five day period in March, covering around 20 miles on foot each day! In this recent post from ideas.ted.com, they share some of the lessons they learned along the way.

Our favorite on this Women in Business Wednesday:

When women stand together, they can accomplish anything.


The GirlTrek team at the conclusion of their walk on March 10, 2018, including cofounders T. Morgan Dixon (top row, far right) and Vanessa Garrison (bottom right, far right). Photo from ideas.ted.com, courtesy of GirlTrek.

Check out all the lessons and learn more about this inspiring organization here.

WIBW: The Love Story Behind the Brooklyn Bridge

It’s almost Valentine’s Day, which feels like the right time for a love story. And when that love story features a remarkable woman who taught herself civil engineering in order to complete the construction of the iconic Brooklyn Bridge, it only seems right that we share it for this week’s Women in Business Wednesday!

This ForbesWomen profile tells the story of Emily Warren Roebling, her husband Washington Roebling, and the product of their love — the Brooklyn Bridge. It’s a story rich with history, tragedy, inspiration, and of course, love.

It was two young lovers who eventually enabled the bridge to be completed, and the love of one woman, in particular, who devoted herself to finishing the project after her husband fell ill.

Read the whole thing and share it with your valentine! Here’s to all the women out there leading with love, just like Emily Warren Roebling!

Brooklyn Bridge at night

WIBW: Revisiting Rosa Parks

How much do you really know about Rosa Parks? Dolly Chugh is a contributor to Forbes who writes about race, gender, diversity, and inclusion, and her latest post – published on what have been Rosa Parks’ 106th birthday – reveals some fascinating truths about the story most of us (think we) know…

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Photo: Associated Press

According to common knowledge, “Rosa Parks was an elderly black seamstress on her way home from work in 1955, who declined to give up her seat on a segregated bus in Montgomery, Alabama because her feet were tired. This spontaneous action sparked the Montgomery Bus Boycott and the civil rights movement, giving this usually docile woman an accidental place in history.”

But in Parks’ own words:

“I was not tired physically, or no more tired than I usually was at the end of a working day … No, the only tired I was, was tired of giving in.”

Read more of the truth about Rosa Parks – and why it matters for women in business today – here.

Women of Excellence Nominations Due January 29!

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If you’ve been thinking about nominating someone for a 2019 Women of Excellence Award, now is the time to do it!

The WBC’s Women of Excellence Awards honor a select group of women whose personal and professional character, conduct, service, leadership and achievements have contributed positively to the Capital Region. To get a better understanding of what these awards mean to the women who receive them, jump back to this post from 2015 WOE – Emerging Professional award recipient Kelsey Carr.

Our driving force in the WBC is to inspire excellence together. Help us recognize the women in the Capital Region who bring these words to life with their personal and professional contributions to our community!

Nominations must be received no later than 5 p.m. on Tuesday, January 29, 2019. Click here to submit yours, and save the date for the Women of Excellence Awards Luncheon on May 30, 2019 at the Albany Marriott.

Announcing the 2018 Women of Excellence

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We are thrilled to announce the recipients of our 2018 Women of Excellence Awards! Congratulation to this year’s honorees:

Distinguished Career
Nancy Martin
GE

Excellence in the Professions
Gretchel Hathaway, Ph.D.
Union College

Excellence in Management
CMSgt Amy Giaquinto
New York National Guard

Excellence in Business Development
Rayn Boncie
Things of My Very Own, Inc.

Excellence in Business
Christina Wolfe Snyder
Wolfes Cleaning Services at The Falls

Emerging Professional
Gretchen Meyer
Gretchen Meyer Financial

These six amazing women will be honored at the 27th annual Women of Excellence Awards Luncheon on Thursday, May 31, 2018. Click here to reserve your tickets now.

Read more about the Women of Excellence selection process in last month’s blog post featuring Kelsey Carr, a 2015 Woman of Excellence and current co-chair of the Women’s Business Council’s Women of Excellence Committee. Stay tuned to the WBC Voice Blog to learn more about the women joining the prestigious ranks of the Chamber’s Women of Excellence this year!

Then & Now: The Evolution of the Sports Bra

Have you ever thought about what life was like for active women before the invention of the sports bra? I, personally, took the thing for granted, until I saw ESPN’s mini-documentary on the subject earlier this year.

If you missed it, it’s worth 10 minutes of your time to watch: http://www.espn.com/espnw/video/16986423/

You’ll hear from three women – Lisa Lindahl, Hinda Miller and Polly Smith – about how they came up with the idea for the Jogbra. How before this invention, lots of women were simply didn’t participate in sports because it was either too uncomfortable or too embarrassing for them.

You’ll learn how the Jogbra came into popularity on the heels of Title IX, a piece of legislation widely considered to have had “a greater impact on American women’s sports than any other development in American history.” And how the sports bra just might be the next most important development for women in sports after that.

Pretty wild when you stop and think about it, right?!

The sports bra has been through quite an evolution since the Jogbra (just watch the ESPN video to the end to see what I mean). Nowadays, most women know the value of a good sports bra. And hopefully no girl is discouraged from athletic endeavors because she doesn’t have the right support.

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Today, a sports bra ad from Under Armor reminds the world that women are unstoppable. And it sure doesn’t hurt to feel comfortable and supported while you’re taking on the world. So kudos to the innovative ladies who invented the Jogbra. They saw a problem that was limiting women’s potential, and they invented a solution for us all. 40 years later, it’s nice to see how far we’ve come.