An incubator of women leaders

Member Spotlight

  • 07/09/2016 8:35 AM | Anonymous

    Name: Jamie Kitano
    Job/Title: Senior Associate, Patent Litigation
    Company: Shook Hardy & Bacon LLP
    Industry: Legal, Patent Litigation

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

    Jamie: Don’t focus on the mistakes you make, but instead focus on how you can learn from the mistakes and move forward. I am grateful that the mistakes I made early on in my career as an associate were recognized by partners as common mistakes and turned into teaching moments. Once, I made a decision about how to utilize my team’s time on a particular project, but neglected to tell a partner I was working closely with. I inadvertently blindsided her when I mentioned it on the phone during a call with the client.  Fortunately, she wasn’t mad and let me know afterwards that I should have given her a heads up before the call.

    Q: What is the challenge that you are most proud of overcoming?

    Jamie: As a second year attorney at a large Bay Area law firm, I suddenly found myself managing an incredibly high-stakes patent litigation team as the associate leading e-Discovery (which is an early phase of litigation where each side requests and exchanges documents in an effort to prove their case or defense). I drew on my leadership and project management strengths to rapidly learn the technical aspects and manage a large team of contract attorneys, paralegals, and e-Discovery specialists, as well as more senior attorneys at my firm. This experience gave me confidence to say “yes” to new challenges.

    Q: Why did you choose to be a lawyer?

    Jamie: Early on I had an interest in both law and science. I was on my high school’s mock trial team, and I continued on as a freshman in college while majoring in molecular biology. Most of the biology students at UCSD were some variety of pre-health professional, but that never quite appealed to me.  I really liked strategizing over how our mock trial teams could put on our mock cases and advocate for a client. Mock trial helped me practice public speaking and thinking on the fly when the judge asks you a question or opposing counsel makes an objection.  Even though it was a mock exercise, the skills are the same that I use in my current role as a patent litigator.

    When I was sophomore in college, I was lucky to make a connection to the sister-in-law of the General Counsel of a Bay Area biotech company through an event for my brother’s high school class. They needed a summer intern to help run patent searches. Because of that connection, I interned there for two summers during college and learned about intellectual property. I enjoyed the idea of combining law with science, and then went to law school with the intention of practicing in some area of intellectual property. My journey to becoming a patent litigator is a great example of how important networking and connections are to find opportunities.

    Q: How do you approach someone who you may want as a mentor?

    Jamie: I like to go to lunch or coffee with someone who I have a particular set of questions for, or who I think would have great advice on certain issues that I’m dealing with.  For example, my questions often involve strategies for conveying my personal brand across my law firm’s different offices and practice groups or learning about their career experiences and advice for me. I also like to take advantage of formal mentoring programs at work as a way to find a mentor that knows the firm/company and can help you navigate internally.  Having a mentor within your organization can be very valuable, as they can give you advice on the various political and cultural issues you may not otherwise be aware of.  One of my formal mentors is the one that gave me the advice, “Don’t focus on the mistakes you make, but instead focus on how you can learn from the mistakes and move forward,” and she’s helped me navigate the moving forward part.

    Q: What are ways that you have balanced career, personal, and other interests?

    Jamie: I embrace technology and try to figure out how new apps or devices can improve my efficiency and keep me organized. My calendar (I use iCal) is one of my most used tools to maintain balance on a daily basis. I consolidate events into one calendar, color-code them, and schedule time to check things off my to-do list. Usually I find that certain tasks, both work and personal, don’t take as much time as I’ve allotted which helps me manage my time better in the future; and if something takes longer than I thought then that’s useful to know too. I also find that having a clear view of important work deadlines and personal events in a given week helps me to prioritize how I spend my time.

    My calendar is also a great tool to communicate with my husband so that we can stay on the same page with what’s going on in both of our schedules.  I might forget that he’s emailed or messaged me about an event because I don’t often search through my messages after the fact (and vice versa). But if I check my calendar several times a day, I usually don’t miss anything on it.

    Q: In what areas can you give advice to other CLUB members as part of the CLUB mentoring program?

    Jamie: Don’t be too hard on yourself when one person says something disparaging or discouraging to you. It’s just one person’s opinion and it’s good to take it with a grain of salt. I recently got some tough feedback about my presentation style on a conference call and how one person perceived me as lacking confidence, and thus competence in the area I was speaking about. I beat myself up about it for a few weeks and tried to analyze my communication style every time I was on the phone, at a mixer, etc. to figure out how I could improve my communication skills. Shortly after that, I went to dinner with some women I volunteer with through the organization, Women in Bio. I’ve been volunteering for WIB for the last four years and am now the San Francisco chapter’s Sponsorship Committee Chair, where I lead the chapter’s efforts to raise enough money to support the organization’s events and programs. I had met about half of the women in person, but had only spoken to the rest by phone. When I met one woman in person for the first time, she said, “Wow!  I had imagined you as being much a taller and imposing woman based on your voice!”  (I’m only 5’2” on a good day). That reaction really opened my eyes to how individual people’s perceptions might be drastically different and how important it is to have feedback from multiple sources.

    Q: What do you like to do to unwind?

    Jamie: Exercise, be it my favorite gym or yoga class, or briskly walking hills in Noe Valley. I’m a huge believer in pets as a stress reliever and enjoy the company of my cat while unwinding with a glass of wine. Yoga is a wonderful physical challenge for me, and teaches me new things about myself – both physically and mentally – each time. I have scoliosis, and when I was a teenager I had a major operation to straighten out my curved spine. The operation essentially immobilized all of my thoracic vertebrae, so I can’t bend or twist from there. This makes a lot of yoga poses particularly difficult, or impossible for me to do (backbends are pretty much out of the question!). When I was just learning yoga, I used to push myself and struggle with not being able to twist or backbend, or side-bend. Gradually I learned that I needed to stop focusing on my weaknesses and start focusing on and cultivating my strengths – in my case, strength and flexibility in my legs and arms. I also learned to be grateful for the level of twisting and bending from my core that I am able to do.  These lessons aren’t just limited to the yoga mat; they’re applicable to my personal and professional life as well. Sometimes we are too focused on improving areas of weakness that we lose sight of our skills and strengths. Instead, I try be more balanced and focus on improving the skills and strengths that I already have.

    Q: Fun Facts:

    Jamie: I love to travel. My favorite trip to date was to Tibet and Nepal with my dad right after I took the bar exam. Most law students do a post-bar trip with their fellow graduates, but I had chosen to do a four year program (JD/MBA) which meant that the majority of the friends I’d made in law school graduated a year before me. My dad suggested a trek to the base camp of Mt. Everest – a lifelong dream I never knew about. Of course I said yes!  We spent 6 weeks traveling together across the Friendship Highway in Tibet and trekking up to Mt. Everest base camp. It was wonderful to spend so much time with my dad exploring the world. A few years after the base camp trip, we trekked to Machu Picchu together.

  • 07/07/2016 8:56 AM | Anonymous

    Name: Leedjia Svec
    Job: Director of Military Programs
    Company: NASA/Navy
    Industry: Science and Technology with a focus on international relations, STEM, and diversity.

    Q: From your perspective in Military Programs, what important trends have you seen in the last 5 years, and what do you foresee in the next 5 – 10 years?

    Leedjia: Infusion of smart and social technology. Big data, social media, and smart devices are being embraced by a wide spectrum of participants and for a wide variety of reasons. They will get more refined as computers and phones have done, to the point that it will be hard to imagine our life without them, personally and professionally.

    Additionally, diversity and inclusion are crucial to a successful workplace. The demographics of the workplace are changing and it is important to be inclusive so that all may benefit!


    Q: If you can share advice that you know now about navigating your career, what would that be?

    Leedjia: My favorites:

    “The mountain is always steepest just before you reach the top”. I never understood how people could quit at the last stage before an accomplishment until I was there myself – it feels like an infinite amount of time and challenge before you reach the summit, but having a good support network to believe in you when you have forgotten how (both personally and professionally, such as The Club!) will keep you from quitting.

    “A spectacular failure sets the stage for a spectacular comeback.”  I gave a talk to several hundred students and it did Not go well. I had awful reviews and I really didn’t want to face them again but I had just seen a movie where they were playing a game and the coach said, “go out there like the score is zero zero” and I thought, what if I never messed up? What if I approached them like they were a new crowd? So I went back out for a second talk and it went Great! They all applauded.

    “Ask! And offer!” It is amazing what you can obtain when you ask or offer your skills. Opportunities, internships, talks, nominations etc. I was given the advice to start speaking once, which I didn’t know I could even do, but I started asking people if I could give lectures (for free) and that led to a speaking engagement at West Point (paid) and the publishing of a text book chapter. I also asked/offered to research the effectiveness of training programs and that led to politicians and leaders using my work to influence social policy.

    “It is amazing what you can accomplish when you don’t care who gets the credit.” (Yet don’t be shy in sharing your contributions!)

    “Being in the right doesn’t give you the right.” Someone may have been utterly wrong in behavior however, that does not give me the right to treat him or her that way in return. I have found it helpful to learn new skills in dealing with difficult people when my current skills do not allow me to be my best.

    Q: If you had it to do all over again is there one thing you would have changed? 

    Leedjia: For me- organizational skills, communication, speaking, technology fluency, and confidence in areas I’m less sure in. As a STEM advocate and mentor, I encourage others to utilize free resources and focus on these skills as early as possible. I learned in my international relations studies about the collective power of women, we have brought countries up from the ashes and so much more, I wish I had learned that earlier to know my own individual power.

    Q: What role has mentorship played in your career?

    Leedjia: Mentors and mentorship can take many forms- people of all backgrounds and professions have the capacity to be a positive influence. This influence may take the form of a single interaction to a lifelong connection, and it may be the spark to an achievement you never imagined.

    Q: What does leadership mean to you?

    Leedjia: Leadership is a vision that you inspire others to achieve; those who are led feel fulfilled achieving their goals and your goals at the same time. My favorite leaders did not have to yell, get angry, or be manipulative. They were caring, firm, passionate, and willing to give opportunities to all; they pushed the limits, positively.

    Q: What are ways that you have balanced career, personal, and other interests?

    Leedjia: I blend my personal and professional interests – for example, STEM.  I have started STEM programs at work and enjoy blogging at home (please check out and StylishSTEM on FB), meeting Bill Nye the Science guy, Nobel prize winners, receiving a White House invitation, things I never expected but fully appreciate personally and professionally!

    Q: Tell us something about yourself that is a fun fact.

    Leedjia: I lived on a sailboat and in a campground as a result of my parent’s professions.  I think this gave me a sense of adventure and desire for change that the military affords.

    Q: In what areas can you give advice to other CLUB members as part of the CLUB mentoring program?

    Leedjia: Happy to share my experience and expertise on the following:

    • Science Technology Engineering and Math (STEM) advocacy/education
    • Diversity, inclusion, equal opportunity advocacy/education, mediation
    • International relations- conflict transformation
    • Mentorship
    • Military
  • 06/08/2016 8:37 AM | Anonymous

    Job / Title: Management Consultant – Leadership Coach/Partner, COO/Co-founder and Author of ‘Til Now, a memoir about growing up in an addicted home and finding my way to recovery and reality.
    Company: theBATstudio and KWAD
    Industry: Business Management/Operations, Start-up Social Media and Social Connection, Lifestyle, Leadership, Self-help

    Q: From your perspective, what are the most important trends that will take place in your industry in the next 10 years?

    Maggie: The way we use and interact with social media has become isolating and promotes a need for constant validation that feeds on insecurity and that has affected the way we connect with people. Facebook was an amazing tool initially. Now it keeps us behind a screen seeking “likes” for the carefully staged, selected, and filtered images of our life. Is that really an authentic life worth living?! To address this problem of authenticity I have developed two apps, what’sbumpin for college and CUltr for everyone. Fundamentally, they are about social connection and helping users find and create ways to actually connect with other people that I believe is much needed. With CUltr you can add an event, make it public or private, invite people, and share the event on external social media to boost participation. You can also open up the app and see what is going on around you. With a quick click you let people know that you are “in” for something. I see it being a great tool for something like the CLUB, where we can load all the events coming up, create a CLUB group (and sub-groups), and then manage attendance, updates, programming, etc. through the app. For instance, rather than getting an email from my East Bay group coordinator, having to respond via email or through the CLUB portal, and then waiting to get an email update, instead I could receive an update via the app, click a button saying “I’m in,” and then if something changes, I get an immediate alert. As more and more people use the app, the machine learning kicks in to start making recommendations for events and activities based on preferences and anonymized behavior from other users. The goal is to give you more options to have in-person experiences, free of screens!

    Q: What have been the hallmarks of your success?

    Maggie: Refusing to accept the word “no” or that there is only one way to do something have been the hallmarks of my success. I grew up in an abusive home and was regularly told why I couldn’t do something. As I was growing up I was repeatedly told that I wasn’t smart enough, I wasn’t accomplished enough, I wasn’t sophisticated enough. It took me a while to realize that even though the path may be hard, faith, success, and patience is what my success is built on.

    I started my professional journey by going to community college and then transferred to UC Davis. Despite many messages to the contrary, I took my studies seriously and gave it my best. The old sayings are true about hard work and perseverance – there really isn’t a better formula for wanting to achieve something. I often had to work 2-3 jobs, I never failed to work, and I think that structure really kept me moving when it would have been easier to just take a break. I was also, honestly, often motivated by some fear. If I left school I would have to start paying back my loans and likely move home – I really didn’t want to do either of those things so I just kept working. One of the things that helped was the feeling that even if I made a mistake with what I was studying, even if I didn’t know 100% that this was the right path, nothing I was doing would hurt me – it would just be something that became additive to anything else I did in the future.

    With my apps I have heard it all from others and my own self-criticism! I have faced pervasive negativity from “you can’t succeed with a start-up” to “if you don’t go to Y Combinator you are doomed” to “if you don’t get success in the first 30 days, you’ll never get it”. I continually work to rise above and ignore this noise, acknowledge the difficulty of the goal, and regularly asked for help. Offering my full self is a great strategy to defeat my own imposter syndrome and the low expectations of others. For example, I find that it is really important to be honest with other people. If I am nervous during a presentation I will often acknowledge the feeling and this acceptance of myself helps others to accept me and appreciate my authenticity.

    Once I was speaking at a major technology conference in Canada right after Arianna Huffington. To say that I was so nervous to follow Arianna was an understatement. So, I opened my remark with, “I am a basket case folks. I love Arianna and am just gonna have to take a second to calm down. She is a very tough act to follow!” And everyone laughed. I relaxed and gave one of the best speeches in my career.

    Q: What is your recommendation for choosing a good mentor?

    Maggie: Be selective and follow through. Today relationships are not as meaningful. We go to an event, make a connection, get on Linkedin, and then abandon the relationship. To find a mentor you have to develop another strategy. I recommend finding someone who has something that you want – be it a position, a job title, a style or something else – and then connect, be authentic and ask them to share their experience with you. Most importantly, think about ways to make a relationship long term and mutually beneficial. It is also a good idea to use different mentors for different kinds of help you want. You rarely find everything in one person! Sometimes we are drawn to someone. If you do not have a connection right away, it is okay to say “I would love to sit with you for 30 minutes and hear you talk about what you do.” Sometimes we don’t have a particular question to ask or a problem to be solved, but these conversations yield a great response, deeper connections, and longer relationships.

    Q: What are the hallmark traits of a great leader that you have observed in your career? How important is developing a management style?

    Maggie: Getting to know yourself and being authentic are the hallmark traits of a great leader. And so your management style must reflect you and your values. Understanding what is important to you and how that fits into the work you do is a great place to start. Reflecting you and your values in how you manage helps you show up authentically and consistently to your work, projects, and social engagements!

    Q: What advice would you give to someone looking to grow in her career while making time for her family?

    Maggie: You can’t do it all! No one wants to hear this, but it is true. The sooner you accept this, the easier it gets to find some balance. If you want to be home at 5 every night to make dinner and spend time with your family, then you are going to sacrifice certain opportunities and vice-versa. Don’t judge yourself, but do take the time to understand what matters to you and then own your choices.

    Q: Tell us something about yourself that is a fun fact.

    Maggie: I spend 10-15 hours a week on conference calls. To prevent myself from “multitasking,” I knit during calls. It keeps my hands busy and allows my mind to be totally present for the call. But I only knit simple things so I don’t have to think about what I am doing – hats and scarves! It is a great way to keep my hands busy and my mind focused and alert.

    Q: In what areas can you give advice to other CLUB members as part of the CLUB mentoring program?

    Maggie: I don’t know until you ask – but please do! I am happy to listen and provide a perspective, that’s the best mentoring I know. There is no such a thing as amazing canned advice. We need to connect and develop a relationship. And then I have a shot at giving you advice that fits you and your goals.

    One quote that I keep close and refer to often is: “Feelings aren’t facts.” It may feel trite, but if there is one piece of advice that applies to everyone and in so many aspects of life, it is this – be authentic to yourself and give yourself the freedom to explore the reality of your feelings. Too often we act based on feelings and they may not be our truest guide in empowering our lives.

  • 06/03/2016 9:00 AM | Anonymous

    Name: Mary Fuller        
    Job / Title:  Chief IP Counsel
    Company: Maxim Integrated Products, Inc.
    Industry: Semiconductors

    Q: From your perspective, what are the most important trends that will take place in your industry in the next 10 years?

    Mary: An important trend I see is the shift to miniaturization. This trend is especially evident in industrial products that have now become consumer devices, such as computers that used to fill a room that we can now balance on a fingertip. These devices, enabled by technology and highly integrated semiconductor chips, have also become globalized and made available to people throughout the world, which trends towards a more level playing field. How? People generally have access to information via small, portable appliances no matter what their socioeconomic status might be. Transportable medical equipment can be deployed into rural villages, providing healthcare and medical diagnostics to folks in remote areas. This trend in technology advancement is opening new markets. For example, the One Laptop Per Child initiative developed a $100 computer for young students in developing countries that is rugged, durable, and portable — it can be used virtually anywhere.

    Q: If you can share one piece of advice that you know now about navigating your career, what would that be?

    Mary: Your network should include significant others. For example, in a genuine way, get to know your colleagues’ and boss’ significant other. Extend your interest, and network, to families and children as well. At a minimum, learn the names, year in school, hobbies and passions of the close family members of the important members of your network. A best practice is to meet them. Creating a personal connection will translate positively into the workplace. Where appropriate, think about engaging your significant other in networking opportunities as well.

    Q: What tips do you have for other women just starting out in your profession?

    Mary: Attitude is important — follow the positive. Resist the urge to dwell on the negative. Although it can be difficult, choose to make having a positive outlook paramount in your life. Equally important, put focus on being physically fit — take a walk, twirl your Hula Hoop, or ride a bike. Your body will respond as you bring your mental and physical selves together. Some advice? Integrate your physical activity with networking. For example, I love to bicycle and will occasionally ride with the guys, including some senior-level executives. It’s important for company leaders to see you as fit and vital.

    Q: If you had it to do all over again is there one thing you would have changed?  What is it?

    Mary: Even as a child, I inherently knew that education was important. Growing up, my family faced many obstacles, including significant economic challenges. In fact, out of three children, I was the only one to earn a high school diploma. Because we didn’t have much when I was growing up, in my early years I focused on making money.  Looking back, it is fair to say my goal was to gain a good education and make money. As a result, I did not follow my passions and actually put off things that were important to me. For example, I loved physics but determined that engineering would provide the potential of a steady income. So, I studied engineering, but frankly still find myself drawn to the beauty of pure science. I have noticed that women tend to put aside their passions — even for a short time– which can diminish their long term happiness and success. Everyone needs to figure out what makes them happy and focus on that.  If you work hard and follow your passions, you will always have enough money to be safe and secure.

    Q: What is your recommendation for choosing a good mentor?

    Mary: I recommend choosing many mentors…just think about the elements you want to gain. Is it a particular work style or is it a subject matter you want to know more about? Also remember you can learn a lot from men. Consider what you want to know, make yourself available, and adapt.

    Q: In what areas can you give advice to other CLUB members as part of the CLUB mentoring program?

    Mary: Think about your strengths and weakness. Look for mentors in your weaker areas and offer mentorships in the areas where you have strengths. In my experience, people are actually flattered when you ask for help and are generally happy to spend time with you. Be careful not to “over ask” and be clear on what you’d like to learn.  Asking for mentorship can be as simple as, “I understand you are [skilled at, accomplished at, or really good at] XYZ.  I am [struggling with, trying to get better at, or focusing on] XYZ.  I would really appreciate it if you could meet with me twice in the next two weeks to help me improve my XYZ skills.”

    Q: What are ways that you have balanced career, personal, and other interests?

    Mary: I hear people throw around the phrase “work-life balance” and talk about it like it truly exists.  Maybe it does for someone.  It never did for me.  Instead, I have consistently looked for “work-life fit.” I think that term is more realistic and accurately descriptive. From day to day, what takes precedence in your life can change depending upon what is happening at home vs. in the office. Is your child ill? Must you travel for a family wedding? Are you facing a critical project deadline? Evaluate what’s important and make it fit. True “balance” may not be achievable, but “fit” really can and does happen.

    Q: What do you like to do to unwind?

    Mary: I have many interests — biking, gardening, reading, family, cooking, traveling, hosting students, enjoying friends, and with my husband, tending to four bee hives, working on our 1926 home, and maintaining a small vineyard (it’s so small I call it a “vinyette”) of pinot noir and zinfandel grapes.  It’s fair to say I like staying busy!

  • 04/21/2016 8:42 AM | Anonymous

    Name: Olga V. Mack
    Job / Title: General Counsel
    Company: ClearSlide, Inc.
    Industry: Enterprise Software, Saas

    Q: What have been the hallmarks of your success?

    Olga: I often joke that I chose a legal career over a career as a prima ballerina (the Russian equivalent of a top model) because it is a profession where one has more opportunities and becomes more valuable as she ages. Throughout my entire career, both as a business owner and a lawyer, I have been puzzled that the world still correlates intelligence, achievement, perseverance, capability, and other virtues with grey hairs.

    It is true that one has an opportunity to get more experience over a longer period of time and over a variety of circumstances. The real question is whether one actually takes these opportunities to live different experiences, or if one relives the same year and experiences multiple times in a lifetime. For many people the latter is true – they relive the same life and maintain the status quo year after year.

    This, of course, begs the question – why do we still correlate intelligence, achievement, perseverance, capability, and other virtues with grey hairs? More importantly, why do we expect so little from our young? It’s important to note that in many professions, such as law or finance, being in one’s forties is often considered “young.” In private and public board service, even for young consumer-facing companies, being in one’s fifties is often considered “young.” Youth is relative, which makes it even more clear that intelligence and similar virtues cannot be correlated with age.

    While I consider this relative fountain of youth a perk of the legal profession, I also think we should empower and expect more from our young. And certainly, factors like age – too young or too old – should never hold anyone back. After all, we are all adolescents in today’s life expectancy of nearly one hundred!

    Q: If you can share one piece of advice that you know now about navigating your career, what would that be?

    Olga: Any successful professional, including lawyers, in-house or otherwise, perfects the art and science of empathizing — the capacity to understand or feel what another person is experiencing from within the other person’s frame of reference or the capacity to place oneself in the shoes of another — with a client or advice recipient. This ability to understand the needs of the recipient should guide all communications and actions. For example, it should help to determine what to advice to give, how quickly, in which format, at what level of detail, and other factors.

    Also, most successful professionals learn that conflicts are a necessary part of life — personal and professional — that often compel progress, change, and evolution. In fact, it is my job as an attorney to deal with conflicts all day, every day. After about a decade of practicing law, I firmly believe that most conflicts should be embraced, managed, and defused, often quickly.

    Q: What does leadership mean to you?

    Olga: Leadership is a place of equilibrium where I am able to get to a win-win-win solution. For example, as a columnist for the Association of Corporate Counsel (ACC), an international organization of over 30,000 in-house counsel, I love sharing the stories of other achieved attorneys, often women. In so doing, I help other in-house attorneys to learn from the stories of other highly achieved attorneys and the local attorneys that are profiled receive international recognition. In the process I get to know, be inspired, and learn from the best in class professionals. That’s is a win-win-win solution.

    Q: Tell us something about yourself that is a fun fact.

    Olga: A few years back, when I was a very pregnant junior attorney, a male judge asked me during my trial, “Ms. Mack, how does being pregnant affect your ability to try this case?” Without missing a beat I told him, “Your Honor, as my stomach grows, my brain stays the same.” After a three second pause, I continued with a slight smile, “I wish it were the other way around.” Stopping the awkward inquiry and speaking up for myself was empowering. I went on to give the best closing argument of my career and win my trial. A day after my win I gave birth to my first daughter. When I met her for the first time I promised to teach her to stand up for herself, if only so she can be empowered to win. Almost two years later I made a similar promise after giving birth to my second daughter. These promises inspire me to aim high.

    Q: In what areas can you give advice to other CLUB members as part of the CLUB mentoring program?

    Olga: Always aim high, higher than you think is doable or even sensible. After all, in retrospect, which is how all achievements are judged by definition, they always look doable and sensible.

    Olga Mack was selected for the 2016 CLUB Incubator program based on her early successes, graceful ambition and refreshing philosophy on being a startup lawyer who isn’t afraid to embrace calculated risks. You can learn more about Olga’s professional background, awards and interests – including her work to ensure more female representation on corporate boards – at

  • 04/08/2016 9:02 AM | Anonymous

    Name: Katherine Mendonca

    Job / Title: Director, iOS in Enterprise, Channel Sales

    Company: Apple Inc.

    Industry: Technology


    Q: From your perspective, what are the most important trends that will take place in your industry in the next 10 years?


    • IoT (Internet of Things) – Many more connected devices creating an overwhelming amount of data driving amazing efficiencies in business and in our personal lives.
    • Computing will be ubiquitous as more applications / platforms / devices leverage the “cloud”.
    • The growth of the wearable device industry will expand dramatically as a multitude of sensors / materials become miniaturized and embedded into many objects we wear. And in turn, creating more data!

    Q: What have been the hallmarks of your success?

    Katherine: I have had the opportunity to be a part of two very different industries at the beginning of industry tends, working with Aveda at the beginning of the natural personal care industry and more recently with the mobile computing industry. In retrospect, I see that it is important to pay attention to information and opinions of those knowledgeable within the industry to help one foresee the trends and then find your place within that journey (if it is indeed something that you find interesting).

    Identify and align with smart people to work with and be open to suggestions and recommendations that will be helpful to your career. Many times, the best advice comes from unexpected places! And then, once you have a strong sense of your interests, abilities and commitment, do not let naysayers deter you. If I had taken the advice of those that were not vested in the success of others I would have found myself left behind. 

    Q: If you can share one piece of advice that you know now about navigating your career, what would that be?

    Katherine: Be fearless. Don’t be afraid to seek advice, take chances, and look for opportunities. Hope is not a strategy and having a plan is key to guiding you on a path. For example, when I moved to the Bay Area without a job and a notion that I wanted to change my career path I worked with a career-counseling agency to ascertain transferable skills and possible new industries. Through this assessment process, I was able to solidify a plan to transition into a new industry. And lastly, develop your intuition, or as I like to call it, your sixth sense. There will be times when your sixth sense will help you make the best decision by blending the facts and the nuances of a situation.

    Q: How important is developing a management style?

    Katherine: A consciously developed management style is critical, much like a conductor is to an orchestra. When you leverage your strengths as a manager (listening, identifying strengths in others, building a diverse team, etc.), you will better understand what you can bring to your team and how to enable individual team members and the team as a whole to find a rhythm.

    If your strengths are not apparent to you, take the time to leverage the myriad of tools available (for example, The Gallop Strengths Finder or The DiSC Assessment). Engage with someone that can help you identify and leverage your strengths into your authentic management style.

    There are many “management styles” that are effective; just know what aspects are the best for you and will leverage your strengths. A few aspects I find imperative are clearly communicating the strategy (of the company, product, program, etc.) so that the team members understand their contribution. Strive to eliminate unconscious biases (gender, age, ethnicity, etc.). And be the resource that removes obstacles for your team so they can succeed. 

    Q: What role has mentorship played in your career?

    Katherine: I have had the benefit of several very positive mentors over the years. In these relationships I had a great deal of respect for these mentors and felt that they were invested in my success. Due to this mutual trust, I understood that they could see aspects of my capabilities that I was unable to see in myself. This perspective allowed me to find strength and confidence to follow through on my goals. When others see your strengths and can offer positive direction, this provides a sense of empowerment that one cannot always find in ones self.

    Q: What do you like to do to unwind?

    Katherine: I love living in the Bay Area and enjoy exploring the treasures all around us from museums, to wineries, to urban hikes around San Francisco discovering new vantage points and aspects of the city. As much as I love meeting new people and being out and about, I find that I recharge my batteries by retreating and making quiet time for myself. It’s soothing to me to test out a new recipe or read the many magazines I subscribe to. I also make time for exercise to clear my mind and move my body!

    Q: In what areas can you give advice to other CLUB members?


    • Changing Careers: how to assess transferable skills / strengths. Having made this transition myself, I am confident that transitioning careers is possible with appropriate planning and patience! 
    • Leveraging mobile technology in business
    • Ability to help others take a broad problem / topic and drill down on specific, actionable aspects. As a seasoned sales person, I am able to listen for and identify disparate components of a problem, break them down, and build a strategy to meet a desired goal.
  • 02/02/2016 8:44 AM | Anonymous

    Name: Michelle Garrison
    Job / Title: Group Director, Corporate Applications Engineering
    Company: Synopsys
    Industry: Software for Electronic Design (also known as Electronic Design Automation)

    Q: What is the challenge that you are most proud of overcoming?  Explain.

    Michelle: I changed jobs at one point in my career in an attempt to shift to an industry that would allow me to move out of a particular high technology segment. Essentially, I switched from a product revenue producing role to an infrastructure role; it was a difficult environment where my values were not in alignment with the leadership of the organization. For three years I struggled to adjust to the environment, but found my nerves and self-value were shot as a result of the lack of alignment between my own values and that of the organization. I moved on, and into a role that has been extremely successful in an organization that meets my needs. I learned from that experience and took those lessons into my life in a positive way – I can even spot it in others and help them see that it may be time to move on.

    Q: How have you grown your professional network?  Explain.

    Michelle: I changed positions about every 3-4 years. This allowed me to work with a wide variety of individuals over an extended period on time. This has been particularly useful at my current company because I am well known across many departments. This has been a huge advantage. I have volunteered for projects that span multiple groups, joined several women’s organizations and became involved in their programs, and pursued personal interests like cycling and soccer – all of which have further connected me across tech in Silicon Valley.

    Q: What role has mentorship played in your career?

    Michelle: Mentorship has always been informal in my career. I was fortunate to have various individuals take an interest in mentoring me. About six years ago, I joined a Leader Forum group of 7 women and we have remained intact.  We meet monthly.  This has been a great source of receiving perspective and insight from a variety of strong women in leadership roles.  This experience was the inspiration for starting the Mentoring Circles within The CLUB.

    Q: What is your recommendation for choosing a good mentor?

    Michelle: Get clear about your goals.  Think about what you want to accomplish and look for someone who has those skills or experiences you want to learn from.  Don’t box yourself into one topic. You will find that if you select well, there will be much you can learn in the process.

    Q: What are the hallmark traits of a great leader that you have observed in your career?

    Michelle: Vision, emotional intelligence, passion, drive for results and agility. The CEO of my company is an incredible visionary, guides the company toward the vision and is full of passion. Another great leader at my company has incredible business and technical acumen, coupled with emotional intelligence and driving for results. Both are wildly successful, but their skills are very different. 

    Q: What are ways that you have balanced career, personal, and other interests?

    Michelle: I have always maintained a goal of balance in my life. After having my first child, I decided to make choices in my career that would support raising a family, yet provide career growth and challenges. I turned down a few opportunities and changed positions several times to ensure this goal was met. I also adopted a philosophy of protecting my weekend for personal time. 

    Q: Tell us something about yourself that is a fun fact.

    Michelle: I’ve become very active in bicycling over the past two years.  It started with joining Team in Training when I signed up to ride 100 miles around Lake Tahoe and pledged to raise over $9,000 for cancer research. My last big fundraising event was bicycling 214 miles from Seattle, WA to Vancouver, BC over two days. 

    Michelle Garrison was selected for the 2015 CLUB Incubator program based on her extensive professional experience, unique philosophy on leadership and life. We’re delighted to learn from Michelle’s experience.

  • 01/06/2016 8:47 AM | Anonymous

    Name: Erin Sawyer
    Job / Title: Sr. Purchasing Manager of Core Technologies
    Company: Tesla Motors
    Industry: Automotive, High-Tech, Clean-Tech

    Q: What have been the hallmarks of your success?

    Erin: One of the hallmarks of success in my roles is frequent feedback.  I believe that being a good people manager is giving and receiving frequent feedback among your team so that you are all on the same page with priorities, responsibilities, opportunities for improvement and celebrating wins.  It’s super important to have frequent, real-time dialogue with your team and your boss, so that you know what’s working well, and what to refine.

    Q: If you can share one piece of advice that you know now about navigating your career, what would that be?

    Erin: My one piece of advice is to own your career.  You need to take ownership of the direction you want your career path to go.  Do not be afraid to ask for more responsibility, ask for a promotion, take on new roles, change companies, relocate, etc.  It’s up to you to be your own advocate and be proactive about what you want.

    Q: What is the challenge that you are most proud of overcoming?  Explain.

    Erin: Hands down, I’m most proud being a woman engineer.  As a mechanical engineer, and working in Automotive and Tech industries, I’ve always been one of very few women in the workplace.  Establishing credibility among both my technical and non-technical colleagues, both as an engineer and leader, has been key to my success.  I’m immensely proud of serving as a positive role model to the more junior women in my organization of what a woman engineer and leader looks like.

    Q: What’s the best career advice you’ve ever gotten?  Explain what and why it was so good.

    Erin: When I joined Tesla, my boss and mentor told me “welcome to the revolution!”.  His advice was that no matter how large or small of an organization you work in, you should not be afraid to change things for the better.  If the team structure, processes, or ways of working aren’t optimal– then don’t be afraid to change them.  This piece of advice really empowered me to take ownership of the organization and create a future-state that I wanted to be a part of.

    Q: How do you approach someone who you may want as a mentor?

    Erin: Some mentor / mentee relationships are natural, and some only come about if you approach the person.  When I was a young professional early in my career at Honeywell, and we had a new female executive in the organization, I approached her right away to ask her to be my mentor.  As one of the few women in Honeywell’s automotive division, she served as a more senior mentor with a similar engineering background that provided me with great advice.  I’m so glad that I wasn’t shy about asking for her to be my mentor and scheduling monthly lunches!

    Q: What are ways that you have balanced career, personal, and other interests?

    Erin: First, you have to prioritize what’s important to you, and second, you have to set boundaries to make time for your top priorities.  For me, the time with my husband is a priority.  We decided to set aside Tuesday nights to cook dinner together – so no matter what is going on at work or with friends, we always protect that one night per week in our calendars.  My other top prioritize is my health.  I’m a firm believer that eating healthy, regular exercise, and getting enough sleep will enable me to be happier and more effective in my career, so I make time to work out at least 5 times per week.  Once you identify your top priorities, you can set boundaries – leaving the office, setting aside your cell phone, etc. – to make time for the things that are most important to you.

    Q: Tell us something about yourself that is a fun fact.

    Erin: This year I became a board member of the non-profit Kids’ Vision, which is an organization that works to inspire young girls to enter into STEM fields.  We created an amazing after-school program, where girls 3rd thru 6th grade visit tech companies in Silicon Valley, meet female role models working in those organizations, and do hands-on experiments to learn about how mathematics and science are applied in companies in Silicon Valley.  I believe providing positive role models of women in STEM is critical for increasing our future pipeline of women engineers and leaders.

    Erin was selected for the 2015 CLUB Incubator program based on her achievements in the automotive industry and her passion for giving back to young women in STEM. Erin has been recognized as one of Fortune’s Most Powerful Women Next Generation. You can learn more about Erin’s professional interests and volunteer highlights at

  • 03/16/2015 9:05 AM | Anonymous

    : Cecile Thirion (@CecileSF)
    Title: Global Marketing Director @XeroxTransport
    Company: Xerox Transportation (Xerox Services)
    Industry: Transportation



    Q: What role has mentorship played in your career?

    Cecile: Mentorship has played a key role to learn and grow in my career as well as making a positive impact by giving back to the community.

    For the past 3 years, I have volunteered as a @Techwomen mentor to inspire and empower the next generation of STEM emerging leaders in Middle East and Africa. This is an initiative of the U.S Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs launched by Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. As a mentor, I received as much as I gave. It changed the way I mentor, coach, and manage my team. 


    Q: How do you approach someone who you may want as a mentor?

    Cecile: I believe in a win/win relationship: what’s in it for me and what’s in it for the mentor? Do your homework on the person to explain why you believe she/he could be a great mentor for you and how you think this person could help you. This means be genuine and helpful, be interesting when you approach a potential mentor. At the same time, think what you could offer in return – an introduction to a person in your network or some tips on social media – can go a long way. You will demonstrate you’re respectful and grateful of the mentor’s time as well as you want to build a meaningful relationship.


    Q: What does leadership mean to you?

    Cecile: Leadership is about vision and discipline. I believe we’re not born leaders. Rather, leadership is a journey and we become leaders. It’s about having a higher purpose where you set the vision, and empower and help the people around you to make an impact. Leadership is about having people at the center of everything you do, you thrive as leader with and through people. 


    Q: What are the traits of a great leader that you have observed in your career?

    Cecile: Great leaders have clear vision and are confident they can execute on this vision. They are knowledgeable, authentic, humble and approachable. If you feel inspired, energized, valued, and learned something, then that means you met a great leader!


    Q: What’s the best advice you’ve ever gotten in your career? Explain what and why it was so good.

    Cecile: One of the best pieces of advice I’ve ever gotten is “pick your battles”: you can’t have it all at the same time. The more responsibilities you have in your company, the more decisions you’ll have to make. Don’t try to boil the ocean and disperse yourself in multiple directions; be laser-focused on areas where you can have an impact and where you have the support you need to be successful. It isn’t incompatible with taking a stand, stretching further, or accomplishing more.


    Q: What tips do you have for other women just starting out in their career?

    Cecile: Get out of the office, be curious and have an explorer mindset because you never know what you can learn, who you can meet, where a good idea/opportunity can come from. Culture, family, society, traditions, etc., tend to restrict women from having a fulfilling career while having a happy personal life. Don’t let the environment shape what you want to do. Live the professional life you want and create the conditions of your own success.


    Q: Tell us something about yourself that is a fun fact

    Cecile: I started my career in the Indian Ocean on Reunion Island. I worked for the local Marketing Director of Air France-KLM and built a sponsorship program from the ground-up: recipients were locals surfers, artists and musicians…it was fun!


    Cecile’s preferred quote: “Chance favors the prepared mind” Louis Pasteur

    About Cecile

    Cecile Thirion has 14+ years of experience in global marketing (B2B, B2G) and Fortune 50 Strategic Account Management.

    She is currently a Global Marketing Director @XeroxTransport, a billion dollar annual revenue Industry within Xerox Services, where she oversees multicultural teams in the US, Latin America, Europe and APAC. Cecile is a result-driven leader, passionate about Marketing and Innovation. She is a change agent on a journey to drive marketing transformation in a digital world. She joined Xerox Corp Executive Marketing Council (CMO and worldwide marketing leaders) in 2012 as their youngest member and her marketing practice is considered as benchmark in Xerox Services.

    She served on the 2013 & 2014 TechWomen Selection Committee and has been elected in 2014 at the TechWomen Alumnae Organization Council. She served as a judge for the 2014 BMA National B2 Awards and the 2014 French-American High Tech award organized by the magazine Leaders League. In March 2015, she served as judge for the prestigious BAA REGGIE Awards 2015, the premier industry award recognizing the best in promotion, integrated marketing & Brand Activation. She is among Xerox Services 2015 President’s Club winners.

    Cecile is multilingual and has lived on 3 continents.

    You can follow her on Twitter @CecileSF and read her blog posts on LinkedIn:

  • 01/11/2015 9:08 AM | Anonymous

    Name: Laraine McKinnon

    Job: Advocating for American retirement readiness and security thru employer sponsored 
    retirement savings plans
    Company: BlackRock

    Industry: Financial Services


    What initially attracted you to The CLUB? What keeps you engaged?

    I am a big believer in women’s leadership and using the power of an inspired network to get women to the next level. I especially like the idea of the CLUB being an “incubator of women’s leadership”, which is why I offered to build a formal Incubator program to help provide a boost for a small group of CLUB members each year. The CLUB is just starting to uncover its potential – and that keeps me engaged and excited

    How do you see The CLUB evolving?

    The CLUB is gaining momentum. There are so many opportunities for our members to grow – learning from the strong content of events, taking opportunity to network, participating in the mentoring programs – and to give back through providing their own leadership on CLUB initiatives. I hope people take full advantage of it.

    I also see the CLUB taking a leadership position of its own – in connecting other women’s organizations, in helping redefine an inclusive workforce, in growing the pipeline of women ready for more powerful positions whether in corporations or on Boards. I hope we become the ‘go-to’ for recruiting and networking.

    What role has mentorship played in your career?

    I have a few mentors as well as an executive sponsor.  It took me a long time to understand how to make use of a mentor – the trick for me was asking my mentors open ended, somewhat unstructured questions. My executive sponsor changed the game for me when he provided unequivocal support.

    What has surprised you about your industry?

    This is less about my industry and more about corporate America more generally: I’m surprised by how challenging it is to drive real change. I think we all find this to be true even of ourselves in various ways – humans are slow to make changes even when we know the change is truly beneficial. (Think of dieting, saving money, exercising, quitting smoking, etc.)  I spend a lot of time with academics on behavioral finance, reading the literature around habits and figuring out how to methodically influence change.  This has implications for my work in helping Americans save for retirement – but also for the CLUB as we try to incent and inspire significant improvements in the number of women leading key businesses and initiatives.

    If you can share one piece of advice that you know now about navigating your career, what would that be?

    Women need to build an external network and become more publicly known.  Many of us keep our head down and do the very best we can at our jobs and don’t find the time to network externally, or publish, or -god forbid!- speak publicly. But we need to showcase and grow our expertise.  A strong external network gives us support, opportunities and a reality check (on our skills, leadership, achievements).

    Fun Fact

    I’m a sailboat racer – it’s a big part of why I moved to the Bay Area.  I met my husband Steve when we were racing against each other in a national regatta; we raced ocean or Bay nearly every weekend for 10 years and accumulated two boats along the way.  Although I don’t get much opportunity to race anymore (we have two busy girls, 7 & 8 years old) there’s hope: my 8 year old just went through Stanford University’s kids sailing program and loved it!

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