An incubator of women leaders

Read our collection of member spotlights with insights from our diverse community of female leaders. The CLUB is here to help promote our members and boost their public profile. If you would like the opportunity to be highlighted, please reach out to for more information. 

  • 07/13/2017 9:12 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)
    Name: Nolwenn Godard
    Job / Title: Director of Pricing Product
    Company: PayPal
    Industry: FinTech

    Read Spotlight 

  • 06/07/2017 4:39 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)
    Name: Stelli Munnis
    Job / Title: Senior Director, Marketing
    Company: Nuance Energy Group
    Industry: Solar

    Read Spotlight 

  • 12/14/2016 4:03 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Name: Lisa Wong

    Job / Title: Sr. Director, Developer Relations and Community
    Company: Wowza Media Systems

    Industry: Software

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

    Lisa: Live video streaming allows us to share experiences with colleagues, friends, and family anywhere in the world. Today it’s easy to stream live sports, cultural events, and personal activities without purchasing expensive equipment or requiring in-depth technical expertise. And the easier it becomes to produce and share live streams, the more our expectations and demands for it grow. Workplaces can now embrace remote employees as live video makes collaborative work sessions commonplace and enables face-to-face meetings regardless of where someone is located. We’re beginning to see what augmented reality, virtual reality, and 360-degree streaming experiences could be like, and in the coming years we’ll see continued development in customized experiences and new ways to interact with live streaming for business and social networks.

    Q: What role has mentorship played in your career?

    Lisa: I’ve been fortunate to have several good mentors in my career. Just like with friends, you have different mentors for different areas or needs. I’ve chosen mentors based on the situation I’m trying to navigate or the technology I’m trying to learn. One mentor’s advice has served me particularly well: If you feel comfortable, you’re not learning. You can always learn more about a specific area of responsibility or your job as a whole. Ask how you can take it to the next level, grow your skill set, and not just get more experience doing the same thing. Are you stagnant? Are you excited with your work or do you feel bored?

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

    Lisa: A great leader is someone who inspires and motivates. It’s someone you would work for again in a heartbeat. The best leader I’ve worked for liked to say, “Stay humble.” This creates a culture of innovation, curiosity, and customers first. An inspiring leader gives that extra boost of motivation, an infusion of energy and excitement so that no matter what challenges you face – technology, competition, or something else, you trust their leadership and their ability to steer the team to success.

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

    Lisa: I’m not one for making a New Year’s resolution. It won’t last. Instead I pick something or someone I want to spend more time on and determine if it is a weekly, monthly, or quarterly cadence. For example, I have a lunch date with my husband weekly where we can talk about whatever is top of mind. Several years ago I started reaching out to one friend each month. If they were not available, I’d try someone else. This meant connecting 1:1 with twelve people live (connecting over social media doesn’t count the same) over the course of a year. That may not sound like a lot, but time flies so this is a way to have results throughout the year. I also pick an area to focus on for three months – it is long enough to fit into a busy work and family schedule, and short enough to give it urgency and focus. It could be something fun, such as returning to a hobby or taking a class to grow your skill set.

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

    Lisa: My areas of expertise are building high-performing teams with remote or geographically distributed staff, and giving advice based on my experience as a woman in technology. Just ask. In one case, what started out as a one-time session became a year-long monthly mentor relationship.

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

    Lisa: I’ve kayaked down the Zambezi River although I’m afraid of crocodiles and hippos.
  • 09/07/2016 8:51 AM | Anonymous

    Name: Donna Kolnes
    Job / Title: Director, Associate General Counsel
    Company: Adobe Systems Incorporated
    Industry: Software


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

    Donna: I think the Internet of Things will have a significant impact on everyone’s lives. Each of us is already connected to the internet via our computers, tablets and phones, and we depend on them greatly. It’s not so much of a stretch to enjoy wearable devices such as the Apple watch and other smart technology such as thermostats and home monitoring systems. All of these devices will connect to the internet and the data will be stored in the cloud. Analytics gathered from the data will be used to create better and more personalized experiences for each connected person. This, of course, is currently bringing a lot of focus on privacy issues and data security issues which will continue to be very important subjects for years to come.

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

    Donna: Don’t give up on what you want. Once you know what it is that you really and truly want, keep trying to achieve it. Then plan the next ‘want’. People will give you all kinds of advice and they will have all kinds of biases, but take all that with a grain of salt and stay focused on what YOU want. If you don’t yet know what you want, take one or more self-assessment tests to find out what your strengths are. Most of us enjoy work that capitalizes on our strengths and allows us to make strong contributions.

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

    Donna: I’m a first-generation student. I’m the first in my family to graduate from college. I worked part-time to support myself and pay for college. It took me 5 years but that didn’t bother me. I knew I’d have far better opportunities after graduation, and I did. After a couple of years, I decided to go to law school. I did that for 4 years at night while working full time. It’s all very doable; you’ve just got to really want it.

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

    Donna: Be very curious and ask a lot of questions. Be a sponge. Don’t turn down a project because it is outside of your area of responsibility, do the project – that’s how you grow your skills. Find an output balance: meaning, working too slow you won’t get enough done but working too fast will cause the quality of your work to suffer. Find that balance and crank out some really good work. Also, find a work/life balance otherwise you won’t be able to sustain.

    Q: What are some areas that you feel you can improve on at this stage of your career?

    Donna: I can improve my mentoring, teaching and people management skills. I think everyone can always improve on these but, for me, sharing my career experiences and knowledge can provide real value to others. I’d like to do more mentoring, teaching and coaching but I need to find ways to balance that with my daily work.

    Q: How has what you want to develop at this time in your career differed from the beginning of your career?

    Donna: At the beginning of my career, it was all about me – what I needed to know, who I needed to meet, how I would get to the next level. Now it’s about others and supporting them in career advancement.

    Q: What does leadership mean to you?

    Donna: It means a number of things to me. It means influencing others to accomplish a specific outcome that I believe in. It means setting a vision and making decisions that I am responsible for. I am a leader for my group as I provide guidance, mentoring, teaching and support with sincerity and integrity.

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

    Donna: I worked part-time for 12 years while raising my twins. I didn’t plan on that when I originally returned to work from maternity but it was, in my heart of hearts, really what I wanted. I didn’t want to stop working and I didn’t want to leave my career. I wanted to continue to grow my career and my skills but I also wanted to work less than full time. An unfortunate incident with a nanny is what did it for me. I quit my fulltime job so that I could find a part-time one. My company asked me to stay around, part-time, until they could find my replacement. They never did. I worked hard during the hours I was in the office and my clients never knew I was part-time. I gave everyone my home phone number, but they rarely called me there. I managed a very full workload and tried to make it seamless so that my clients never felt any pinch by my being part-time. It all worked out very well and I feel so blessed to have been able to have everything I wanted in a work/life balance.

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

    Donna: I’ve always been mechanically inclined. When I was about 9 or 10, my older brother was teasing me mercilessly, as usual, so to get back at him I took his Schwinn bike apart – down to the last nut and bolt. I knew he couldn’t put it back together again. My dad had a good laugh at this and then made me put the bike back together.

    Q: What do you like to do to unwind?

    Donna: I do mosaic art. I like repurposing broken tiles, glass and other things that would normally end up in the landfill and creating beautiful garden sculptures, home décor and jewelry.

    Donna Kolnes is a member of the CLUB and was selected for the 2015 CLUB Incubator program based on her leadershipstyle: confident, wise and creative – essential skills for continued success in a constantly evolving and demanding environment. We’re delighted to learn from Donna’s experience.

  • 08/03/2016 8:24 AM | Anonymous

    Name: Elizabeth Andrew DiGaetano
    Job / Title: Senior Account Executive
    Company: HelloSign
    Industry: Technology, Enterprise Software, SaaS

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

    I’m not afraid of big challenges, yet reentering the workforce after 17 years of “opt out” is unquestionably the greatest hurdle I’ve overcome. Nothing prepared me for the uphill battle I would face to break back in. It took time and unwavering determination to change industries and get myself back into an exciting opportunity that is the right fit with my skill set.

    It also happens to be one of the most rewarding things I’ve done in my lifetime.

    How has your industry changed in the last 5 years, and what do you foresee as changes in the next 5 – 10 years?

    When I came back into the workforce, I saw it as my opportunity to reinvent myself and decided to break into high tech. It took a few steps, but I’m now at HelloSign, a disruptive electronic signature company that makes it incredibly easy to sign documents electronically. I chose this role because it’s a great opportunity to return to a senior enterprise sales position and to utilize my experience to contribute to the growth of a company.

    This industry has evolved a lot in the last 5 years – we are redefining the way businesses and individuals work by eliminating the hassle of having to print, scan, fax and/or snail mail important documents that require signatures. By making the signing process digital, we are helping people save time and money, and bringing companies into the future. I foresee this market only getting bigger in the next 5 – 10 years.

    I’m in sales, and always have been, so from that perspective, a ton has changed over the years. No more rolodex, fewer face-to-face meetings, and huge technology advancements. At the heart of it, I think selling has changed mostly because buying has changed. With more information readily available online, consumers are better informed and prospects are much further along the buying cycle when entering the sales process. But, I embrace change. I’ve forged new territories, learned new markets, built teams from the ground up, raised assets. I strive to break new ground and make things grow – and to recreate myself. I foresee great changes ahead in technology and I’m super excited to be a part of it.

    How have you grown your professional network? Explain.

    I am a sales executive, so networking comes naturally to me. Not only was networking an incredibly effective way to exercise my sales skills, it was one of my most lucrative ways for finding work. I’d encourage anyone looking to expand their horizons, understand new technologies, or re-enter the field, to talk to people. Tell them you want to get back to work. Beef up your LinkedIn page and start connecting. Seek out networking events, and look for organizations to join. Read. Follow thought leaders and become a student of your profession. Know what events are going on in the marketplace.

    When I made the decision to change industries from financial services to tech, I decided to attend a TechCrunch Meetup in the Presidio. I did not know a single person at the event, but I managed to meet two different CEOs standing in line for food trucks. Two years later, they are both still in my network and one of them is talking to me about integrating HelloSign’s eSignature API into his organization.

    Be brave, as you have nothing to lose by connecting with people.

    What tips do you have for other women just starting out in sales?

    Sales is a digital game, with email campaigns, social media outreach, screen share demos, and such. It’s all about the sales stack, the technologies used during various stages of a sales pipeline to help accelerate sales productivity. We have an incredible amount of power at our fingertips to improve the sales process, and it’s a critical component for companies managing revenue goals.

    But, it is easy to get lost in the tools. I work for a technology company and yet, to be successful in sales, you also need to be able to pick up the phone. Building a valuable distribution network with senior leaders takes more than making connections through social media. Control the sales process by connecting with people, providing solutions, and adding value. Know when to put the tools aside.

    What role has mentorship played in your career?

    I believe mentorship needs to be organic. It’s become a hot topic and a lot of people are seeking mentors but, in my opinion, the best way to find mentorship is through work projects. Mentorship, like any relationship, requires building trust. Working through challenges together lays a perfect foundation for this.

    It’s true mentorship and executive sponsorship are needed to advance in leadership positions but, rather than ask “will you be my mentor,” try exposing yourself to new projects at work or through organizations where you can collaborate with others towards a common goal.

    I had amazing mentors early on in my career. I am finding, once again, I have incredible mentors both on my team at HelloSign and through the CLUB Incubator program. I hope in some way to impart experience to my colleagues by mentoring as well.

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

    Family comes first, always. But you have to make sacrifices to grow your career. It’s a decision to make career a priority, and it means you can’t always be there for every event, every performance, and every game.Surprisingly, one of the best outcomes of returning to work has been the incredible impact it has had on my kids. It has made them better at taking responsibility for themselves, helping out at home, and contributing to the family. I was fortunate to stay home with my kids for many years but, by returning to work, it seems I’ve unintentionally become a role model for them and the ultimate career performance review was having my 17 year old son say, “Mom, I’m so proud of you”.

    What do you like to do to unwind?

    I love to spend time with my kids or hike with my dog. And, the beach is my ultimate happy place!

  • 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
  • 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.
  • 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

  • 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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