Michigan Business Women and Women Who Launch hosted a “Be a Boss” event, featuring five alumni from the Ross School of Business’s MBA program Friday night in Blau Hall.
The panelists first discussed their backgrounds and their inspirations for their careers. Marlo Scott, an award-winning business leader recognized for innovation and a champion of small businesses, was inspired by developing a sense of community and spreading the depth of culture from her work with her previous company Sweet Revenge, a cupcake restaurant that paired sweets with wine and beer.
“What I really enjoyed was building community and building an experience that resonated and brought joy,” Scott said. “It was inspired by my love and passion for people, food, cultures from around the world and my enjoyment for travelling around the world. And that international inspiration was really infused throughout the experience of Sweet Revenge, and it drew that same sense of community.”
Scott now works in the pharmaceutical industry, but still feels she can make a large impact through her experience in small business.
Alta Yen, who has worked in various roles in the capital markets for 20 years, discussed what it has been like to work in a male-dominated industry, specifically working on energy-related finance. As a woman in a predominantly male industry, she shared incidents that she said were difficult to encounter, but described how she built confidence to be comfortable in the environment and produce results.
“I think from those experiences you need to have a certain amount of resilience, and be comfortable with who you are, and that it’s not always fun,” Yen said. “We all want to make the world a better place, we all want to reduce carbon emissions. I think that the more heads, the more opinions we can get around it, the better the answers will be.”
Christine Parlamis, founder of Blessed Celebration, a company that sells customized specialty goods to the Greek Orthodox market, shares how her mentors have changed throughout her career.
“Now that I’m in the entrepreneurial world, I don’t have mentors,” Parlamis said. “My mentors are my classmates that I went to business school with and my old coworkers. … You rise to the level of the people that you are around. And when you are choosing your business career, my one takeaway is to surround yourself with people of excellence, because that’s where you really learn.”
Chandra Patel, head of product marketing at Salesforce, said investing in career coaching helped her transition to the work she does today.
“I actually invested in doing some coaching, and it was expensive,” Patel said. “But that approach was very insightful … Coaching is about authentic work, and what are the things that work for you. She (my coach) was like … ‘If you make this change, what is the worst thing that can happen?’ And now, I look at that lens whenever I make a decision.”
Julie Jeffries, founder of Not Your Momma’s Vegetables, explained she faced a serious medical crisis earlier in her career when she was diagnosed with breast cancer and a brain tumor. Jeffries said her journey led her to create a business that helps those facing similar health challenges. Her organization stems from her passion to help find cures to chronic disease, diet-related deaths and the high costs associated with poor health.
“I think you have to be always very clear about what drives you, and what your motivated to,” Jeffries said. “Set your boundaries around that, and stay focused on that so that you are not distracted by other people. Life is going to happen, and it’s going to get in there and cause all these hiccups. And you just have to be able to come back.”
Business sophomore Natasha Hamid came to the event to gain some advice for her own career in business. She told The Daily she was inspired by how each alum had such different metrics for defining success.
“I thought that this event was really incredible,” Hamid said. “The format really allowed us to interact really closely with the panelists, and I thought it was amazing to hear the experiences of these panelists, because they were so diverse and so different than the types of things that I hear personally as an undergraduate, given that they graduated from the MBA program 20 years ago.”