Inspired by Harvard’s Intercollegiate Business Convention
Post by Alice Zuo ’16
“When I think about my ups and downs, I think about my humble beginnings.” This line, taken from Denise Broady’s IBC Talk, resonated deeply with me, as her story about her mother’s escape from Vietnam to the United States almost paralleled my parents’ struggles with migrating from China. Denise was one among many speakers and panelists who were present at this year’s Intercollegiate Business Convention, sponsored by Harvard Undergraduate Women in Business. Held on Saturday, October 17, at Boston’s Hynes Convention Center, the IBC celebrated its 11th anniversary this year with a host of inspirational speakers, motivating panelists, and a network of ambitious collegiate women.
We prepared for the day by waking up bright and early – though “bright” isn’t necessarily the right word, as the sun hadn’t quite woken up at 5:30 AM – and piling into our respective Ubers, in hopes of beating the registration rush. When waiting for the formalities to begin, I talked to some of the ladies sitting near me and realized how far some of these individuals traveled for the conference – many commuted cross-country, from Chicago and Minnesota and even California, but some others had actually traveled abroad just for this weekend. I had the pleasure of meeting women from the United Kingdom, Australia, and Singapore, and was absolutely blown away by their drive to learn and motivation to succeed.
After the opening and introduction, our first keynote speaker was Jeanne Jackson, the President of Product and Merchandising at Nike, Inc. She spoke on the obstacles, both visible and invisible, that women constantly face in the workplace, and how to overcome them effectively, professionally, and respectfully. She was followed by Denise Broady, from SAP, and Katya Andresen, from Cricket Media and Network for Good, in a series of talks similar to the TEDx series – IBC Talks. One line from Katya’s talk that especially rang true for me was when she was discussing her failures as both a mom and a professional: “The universe serves up a lot of second chances if you can learn from failure.” At a fast-paced school like Babson, where so many students seem to be on their own defined path to success, I find it extremely easy for me – and for those around me – to become overwhelmed by self-defined failures and shortcomings. But to hear that Denise, Katya, and all the other powerful women who took the stage had all hit their rock bottom not just once but several times throughout their lifetime, and had managed to persevere and rise so high to be able to relay their personal story onstage at such an esteemed conference, gave all the women in the room renewed hope and passion to pursue their dreams, regardless of size or distance.
The last speaker at the conference was Rosalind Brewer, the President and CEO of Walmart and Sam’s Club. One of the most powerful and influential businesswomen in the world, Rosalind effortlessly drew in the attention of the entire ballroom with her grace, intelligence, and unquestionable sense of self. Her parting words to us summarized what the entire conference revolved around: the beauty and power of women, and the immeasurable ways both are often underestimated. For the women – and few men – that attended the conference last month, it served as an anchor of confidence and renewed motivation in our journey to success, as well as a reminder of the existing stigmas against women in the workplace, and how to inspire and work with women to eliminate them.
The conference also opened up our network to those around the globe, from New York to Montreal to London to Sydney, and to a host of new individuals who we would have never met otherwise. Whether it was the aspiring British tech entrepreneur I sat next to at lunch or the former policewoman I met during my media breakout session, every individual I had the pleasure to meet played a crucial part in my experience. The IBC is definitely something I would recommend to everyone – students, alumni, women, men, and everyone in between. Thanks to the Undergraduate Professional Accelerator Fund for the opportunity to attend this amazing event.