Career Savvy!

Last night, I attended the Cork Savvy networking event hosted by The Metropolitan Board of the Chicago Urban League.  It was held at the beautiful Affinia hotel in downtown Chicago.  Cork Savvy was one of the most enjoyable and productive networking events I’ve attended in recent memory.  The evening began with a reception where professionals mingled.  The cacophony of voices I heard when stepping off the elevator was a sign of the exciting evening to come.  The dinner portion of the night was structured around a three course dinner with wine pairings and a speaker for each course. 

Ginny Clarke, renown executive coach, author and founder of Talent Optimization Partners introduced the evening’s program.  Just as we were to receive courses of food, we were also to receive courses of knowledge:  “Three Lessons at 30”, “The Mid-Life Career”, and “The Seasoned Executive”.

As our first course arrived, Mr. Phil Nevels, Co-Founder and COO of Power2Switch began an inspiring story of how taking a chance changed his life. From sending a brave email to his childhood crush confessing his long-time feelings for her, to branching out from corporate america and launching his own start-up, Phil is the embodiment of fortune favoring the brave.  The gift he shared with us was his honest display of self-knowledge, confidence and happiness.  Be happy.  Be happy.  Be happy.  He conveyed his  life’s motto with earnest enthusiasm and joy.  His speech left us energized and uplifted.

Our mid-life speaker was Dr. Victoria Holloway Barbosa, Owner of Millennium Park Dermatology and Assistant Professor at Rush University.  In this time of uncertainty where professionals are switching jobs and careers more than ever, she described herself as the opposite.  A person of certainty who knew their path as a child and rarely strayed from the plan.  From attending Harvard to eventually becoming a physician, Dr. Barbosa focused on excellence and being prepared for opportunities.  She shared three key messages: 

1) Run your own race.  Don’t live according to someone else’s schedule or path.  Chart your own course. 

2) There are things you will be innately good at and there are other things you will need to work very hard to master.  Leverage your innate talent but don’t rely on that.  Supplement it with new skills and the reputation of being a high performer.

3) Remember, that business is not philanthropy.  You may believe in civic engagement and giving back to the community but remember that business is about profit.  Being a success in business allows you to give back more. 

Another executive recently told me that she practices strategic volunteering.  Because her time is so limited, she has to combine business development with charitable activities.  So, she has focused her volunteer work on two major organizations which also provide access to corporations which are current or potential clients.  So, it’s business …but it’s volunteerism as well.

For the third course, our seasoned executive was Sandra L. Weicher, VP of Field Operations for Comcast’s  North Area.  Sandra focused on leadership: the value, the lessons and the benefits.  She shared her 5 tenets:

1. Leadership is exponential.

2. When you’re a great leader, people want to work for you.

3. Develop the talent around you.

4. Resolve people issues.

5. Leadership skills transfer to any job.

Then there are the core competencies she values most:

1. Humility.  Self-awareness and willingness to course-correct is very important.  It requires the ability to accept that things need to change and to be flexible and humble enough to take action.

2. Listening. It’s a skill that requires constant practice.  So does actually hearing the meaning of what is being said.

3. Be comfortable in the grey.  Things are rarely black and white.  Leaders often have to deal with poorly defined problems or organizational structures.  You will be looked to for direction by your team and confirmation by leadership and stakeholders.  Your confidence in the grey will provide the assurance your staff, leadership and stakeholders need in order to be confident in your abilities.

4. Conflict Resolution.  Don’t shy away from issues.  Ask yourself, would you want to follow a leader who doesn’t solve problems? 

5. Communication. Excellent leaders make communication first on their list, not last.

Sandra closed with the most encouraging of all statements: “if you can lead, you can move anywhere”.

I will definitely be attending more Metropolitan Board events in the future. 

If you were at Cork Savvy, I would like to hear about your experience as well.

If you are interested in attending upcoming events, the website is and the point of contact would be


Categories: Professional Development

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1 reply

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