Jumping the Curve: The Simmons Leadership Conference

I recently attended the annual Leadership Conference, sponsored by Simmons College, considered to be the world’s premier professional development event for women. This year’s theme was “Jumping the Curve,” stepping away from the familiar and stepping up to the unknown.

While I have been engaged with the conference for the past several years, I find each year’s experience to be something special and I continue to be humbled and inspired by the journeys of many of the participants. I wanted to share some of the ideas that stuck with me. The following advice may not be new, but I find it worth repeating – and relevant to women and men. 

  • Don’t be afraid to take risks:  With every new endeavor, you’ll gain new experiences and expand your network. Along the way, you’re likely to gain new sponsors and potential advocates.
  • Invest in networking:  Stay connected with your professional and personal contacts. And when you connect and collaborate, if you serve as mentor or mentee, be sure to be clear on objectives to foster a successful relationship.
  • Dare to compete:  Be confident in your abilities, and don’t be afraid to step into the ring. Keynote speaker Hilary Clinton addressed this keenly, noting that male colleagues are more likely to raise their hands regardless of qualifications.
  • Be patient and adapt quickly:  The very funny and talented Rita Moreno spoke from experience as a successful entertainer who overcame years of struggle against Hollywood typecasting. She reminded us that success rarely comes overnight—there are many struggles to overcome, and we must be flexible to succeed.
  • Don’t just judge; act with purpose:  We all harbor some unconscious bias toward others, and that can affect our actions. Instead of judging, listen actively and take action on what you can control and change. As Gandhi once said, “Be careful of your thoughts, for they become your words.  Be careful of your words, for they become your actions. Be careful of your actions, for they become your legacy.”

These points of advice can serve us well if we put them into practice, but just how do we do that?
Please take a moment to share your strategies for jumping the curve in the comments section, or continue the discussion on Twitter.

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  1. Parvesh, thank you for another mindful entry in your blog. I have had the great fortune of attending Simmons in the relative early years of Cisco corporate presence at the event, and was always immenseful inspired by the speakers and the spirit permeating the event. Simmons not only stands as a creative way of employee recognition and empowerment at Cisco, but more importantly it stands for me an exemplary execution of AS-led Inclusion and Diversity, when one of your senior directors in GET and his HR partner championed for Simmons relevance at Cisco and toiled many years building the momentum of Cisco engagement at the event, all before the company-wide drive for Inclusion and Diverity. That is leadership.

  2. As a first time attendee at Simmons, I was amazed and impressed with the various speakers. Topping it all, was the keynote by Hillary, and her ‘Dare to compete’ resonates deeply with me and has helped me exude confidence in the various roles we take on in our daily life.

  3. I agree with “Don’t be afraid to take risks”. Even if you fail, there’s tremendous amount of learning. Plus, you’ll always have the satisfaction of having at least tried. In the process, you may have gained a new strength.