The 360 West Women’s Leadership Symposium, held by Little Rock Soirée's sister publication 360 West in Fort Worth, brought together a room full of professionals and industry experts for a day of networking and growth in September.
Between sessions on topics like brand building and cultivating a workplace that supports women, event director Tiffany Mattzela snuck in three Q&A speed sessions with some of the day's speakers.
From best recent reads to business philosophy, here's what wisdom they shared.
Executive Director of United Way of Tarrant County in Fort Worth
Best career advice you've ever had?
Best career advice would have to be speak up, speak out. And I will add my own, which is just trust your gut. So be comfortable and confident in speaking up. Share ideas. Be comfortable speaking up about things that may not be right. Trusting your gut really means listening to that voice inside and honoring it, and oftentimes we can talk ourselves out of things that may seem like a flash in the pan, but they're really not. Trust your gut.
I couldn't agree more. And when you do trust your gut and you do speak out and then that is validated, it gives you fuel and confidence to continue to do that. And then you almost hone your instincts, and it's crazy how quickly that can really build into you really contributing in a more meaningful manner to your organization, whatever it might be.
What keeps you motivated?
Oh my goodness, so many things keep me motivated, but I would say I'm very inspired these days by Gen Z — the energy, the political engagement and awareness. I think about myself at that age, and I just was kinda doing my thing and not necessarily paying attention to what was happening throughout our country and our world. And so that really inspires me. And, from a motivational standpoint, I just love people who are positive in nature, that have positive energy, that care about other people and that are willing to give back in a way that honors how they feel about others.
Ah! I love that! That's a really great answer, and really interesting about Gen Z because I think a lot of times people count them out when they should be counting on them to pay attention…
I could not agree more.
… and tune in.
They are very active, very vocal, highly educated. And so for those reasons, I think all of us — whether we are walking alongside them or a little bit more seasoned — can learn a lot, but also can provide a lot of guidance for them as well.
OK, proudest career moment?
Wow. Proudest career moment would probably be twofold and very recent. No. 1 would be back in November of 2019 being named president and CEO of United Way of Tarrant County. But also in 2017 I ran for elected office, and [was] elected to the Tarrant Regional Water Board, and four years later found myself as president of that board. So those two things are current job responsibilities now. They give me a lot of joy and fulfillment most days, but definitely would be among my proudest career moments.
Well, it sounds like you've built a lot of trust within the people of Tarrant County, within the organizations that you serve. It's just a testament to your leadership — which is why we have her here today with us. And we're so lucky.
One last question. Let's do this: What are you reading or listening to right now?
So there's a book that I'm listening to called "All That She Carried," and it's fascinating. It's about a family of enslaved women that passed along pieces of cloth that now are in museums on the East Coast. So it was a way for moms to stay connected when sometimes their kids were taken away from them, but they could stay connected through that cloth. And that cloth really stood the test of time for generations. I'm not quite finished with the book yet, but we're up to about the fourth generation that has had access to that cloth. So can you imagine maybe four generations ago, a mom and a daughter might not have been able to be together, but past that they were and they had that connection. It's a tough book, but it's also a very inspiring book, too.
Oh, wow, that does sound wonderful. And when you said they kept this piece of cloth, so my grandmother had a section of her grandfather's shirt framed … It's just such a testament to what you said, that that's how the stories, experiences, memories live on and get passed down sometimes. And that's a very interesting read. I'll have to check it out.
It makes family special and keeps them connected in a way that, even though you may have very close associates, but that's something that everybody can hold onto.
Tangible! Really tangible! I can hold it, I can see it, I can look at it. That's very cool, and I don't think a lot of people have something like that.
Dr. Suzanne Carter
Executive Director of Texas Christian University’s Executive MBA program and professor of professional practice in strategy at TCU’s Neeley School of Business in Fort Worth
Best career advice you've ever received?
I would say "Be yourself."
Proudest career moment?
When I won the TCU [Dean's Award for Teaching Excellence] universitywide.
Wow, when was that?
2015, I think. Around there.
What's the first thing you do in the morning?
I make myself a cup of coffee and read three newspapers: Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Fort Worth Star-Telegram.
OK, here's the big question: actual paper or on an iPad?
Oh, definitely on an iPad.
When's the last time you read an actual newspaper?
Uh, my memory doesn't go that far back.
Favorite part of your current role?
I'd say being in front of the students.
What keeps you motivated?
And you are located here in Fort Worth?
And your family, you want to tell us how many members that consists of?
My husband and three daughters.
All of them grown?
Two of them just graduated from TCU, one stayed on for graduate school, and one is still at TCU, two years to go.
General philosophy you live by?
Business can be and is a force for good.
Chief People Officer at Graymont Medical in Chicago
Largest challenge facing workplace leaders today?
Good question. So I think it's balancing things, right. We're balancing what the business needs and balancing what our employees need, and I think for the first time in a while those two pieces feel very different. We're trying to address how we can take care of our employees and bring them back in a way that works for the employees, but also we're all looking at our bottom lines, going, "We need everyone back right now working as hard as they can." And those two things together, that balance and figuring out what's right there, is the biggest challenge.
I completely agree. I think there are not examples just out there of how to do this. So I think everybody's looking around waiting for somebody to figure out the perfect solution for this. How do we do it? Give us a roadmap. And unfortunately I think some people are finding their own way, and some people are struggling more than others.
Yeah, absolutely. I mean, we're coming out of this pandemic that no one has ever lived through before, so there's not a book on it, there's not a guide that we can follow. And figuring it out is a lot of just trying things and seeing what works and being able to fail fast and move forward.
Yes, fail fast. I love that one.
First thing you do in the morning?
Oh, it's probably the thing that I shouldn't do, but I look at my phone. First thing, I wake up and I check my emails. And I know I would tell almost anyone else don't do that, but it's the first thing I do because I know that I need time to think about what it is that I should be doing or, honestly, how I should respond. Because otherwise I'll fire off with a little too much emotion. So it gives me a little bit of time to relax and think about it.
Yes, I don't even often respond. I just want to know that there are no fires. I look through, I skim and I'm like, Oh that can wait until after coffee, till I get in the office. Just like are there any fires?
OK, last question: General business philosophy that you live by?
It's really my mom's philosophy that the first hundred years are the worst, and then it's all downhill from there. I think it's taking life a little less seriously and remembering that, unless you are truly a rocket scientist, this is not rocket science stuff. And where it's not life or death, it's just a job and we can make it through whatever decision it is that needs to be made.
I love that. My mom told me something once that always stuck with me — so to your point about moms giving great advice — she said not everybody is looking at you like you're looking at you.
I have to remind myself of that all the time. No one knows you messed that up. No one cares. They're so focused on what they're doing, right? The small things — you can't sweat the small things.You're hypercritical of yourself, but everybody else, I mean, they're not even registering it. Give yourself a little grace. Cut yourself some slack.
Absolutely. I have a friend who runs corporate communications for a global company, and he'll spend hours and days working on this perfect note. And it goes out and he's like, "Did you read it?" No! Nobody read the note.
I skimmed it. It wasn't an emergency.
We have to remember that what we are doing is really important to us, but it's not life-or-death situations most of the time.