4 Lessons We Learned from MITX's Influence(her) Panel

Posted by Justine Andrews on Thu, Aug 27, 2015

This month, we're sharing a review of our first Influence(her) event: "Off the Record." For this shared review, Justine Andrews and Kate Hoffman recall the most memorable lessons from last week's "Off the Record" panel. 

Justine (@andrews_justine) recently joined the MITX team as Digital and Communications Specialist. When she’s not Tweeting from @MITX and @FutureMBoston, you can find her exploring all the best food scenes Boston has to offer. Kate Hoffman (@katehoffman) is a digital strategy analyst for @Digitas, and a lover of fashion, journalism, and (good) coffee. Both are pictured in photo below with "Off the Record" panelist, Diane Hessan.

"Off the Record" 

Last week, we had the opportunity to join 100 women for the kick-off of MITX’s new Influence(her) event series. Made for women by women, these events are designed to empower and educate young female professionals in the Boston area and arm them with the tools they need to thrive in their careers. During this event, MITX president Amy Quigley sat down with a dynamic panel that included Startup Institute’s Diane Hessan, City of Boston’s Lauren Lockwood, and TripAdvisor’s Catherine Tremaine. The three women’s different backgrounds and experiences led to an engaging and insightful conversation, and their responses to Amy’s questions made us learn, laugh and leave feeling inspired. 

As young women in the early stages of our careers, navigating the business world is often, in a word, intimidating. We were energized by the advice that was shared during this event, and want to pass along our four favorite takeaways:

Justine: Use the Three Things technique. As a woman, what’s the best way to get a point across to coworkers without being judged for being too assertive or sensitive? As Diane Hessan pointed out, people often don’t want to hear the entire thought process behind a statement. She suggested to instead think of three direct points that explain your thoughts. Break it down into 1, 2, 3… and even if you don’t know what the third point will be, just go for it. By abbreviating your explanation to three bullet points, you will sound more focused and confident. And the more confident you sound, the more serious others will take you.

Kate: Learn, borrow and steal from those around you. One of the best sources of advice is a mentor, and Diane recommends finding as many mentors as possible. When identifying a mentor, it may help to outline how someone can specifically help you grow and learn – and finding someone who is just a step or two ahead of your career can be especially effective. Learning from others can also be as simple as taking note of what you see around you. As panelist Lauren Lockwood shared, a lot can be learned from copying people’s ways of communicating and mimicking what works for you. She noticed, for example, that a coworker used the line ‘It will be helpful when you…’ in emails, so she stole it. And you should feel free to steal it for yourself, too.

Justine: Stop Apologizing. Throughout the panel, a common topic kept arising: Apologies. As highlighted by Pantene’s Not Sorry video, modern women have created a habit of saying sorry for everything and anything. Have you ever began an e-mail with “I just wanted to check in…” or “Sorry to bother you again…” or something along those lines? I know I’m guilty of this; if a man elbows me on the T, for example, I mutter “sorry” and turn the other direction. This behavior demonstrates and reinforces a lack of confidence. Diane stated it clearly: “Stop apologizing.” State an opinion and own it – be confident. Catherine Tremaine touched on the subject of when true apologies are needed: “Apologize when you make a mistake and really focus on the fix. Find out what you need to do so that it never happens again.” But until then, there’s no need to apologize for being direct and having an opinion.   

Kate: Think in terms of AND, not OR. As women, many of us think in terms of tradeoffs. Am I going to go to the gym tonight OR finish this project? Should I focus on being a good mom OR having a successful career? Why can’t we do both? Diane says we can, but first we need to throw out the word OR, and replace it with the word AND. You can go to the gym AND finish your project. You can be a good mom AND have a great career. Bad days are unavoidable, of course, but you don’t have to limit your ambitions by making unnecessary choices.

We learned more during this one hour than we’ve learned from countless other women’s leadership conversations. On top of that, we had the opportunity to continue building a strong and supportive female network (in fact, we met each other)! It’s only been a week since “Off the Record,” but we’re already counting down the days until the next Influence(her) event: Strengths Finder Workshop. Until then, stay confident, ladies!

Topics: Boston, Lessons, Influence(her), WomenLeaders, Leadership, MITXher