Cornell University Johnson at Cornell University

Job Talk

Advice from corporate hallways: Things we learned the hard way

By Deirdre Snyder

At the Women's Power Lunch held in March in celebration of Women's History Month, a dynamic panel of Cornell alumnae, members of the President's Council of Cornell Women, offered "Advice from Corporate Hallways: Things We Learned the Hard Way."

The panel represented women at all stages of their careers, including Johnson School graduates from the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s. One woman had spent her entire career at one company, advancing along with it as it grew through mergers and acquisitions, while others had shifted industries and career functions. There were married women with older children, and married women with young children. There was a single working mother, and a single woman with no children. From this rich background came a wealth of information on everything from whether the country is ready for a female president (the answer was yes) to how to best balance work and home. Below are just a few pearls of wisdom the panelists shared and discussed:

  1. Think long term. Open yourself up to all opportunities. You might be surprised at what you can learn and leverage later on.
  2. Ask questions. Listen more and talk less. Be thoughtful about what you're saying.
  3. Earn the respect of your organization. Your reputation follows you and transcends your company. Always act with integrity, humility, and respect for others.
  4. Find and develop mentors. The best mentors are not those assigned through formal processes. Find people whose style and values you share, and who are knowledgeable in other areas of the company.
  5. Trust your instincts about people. In instances where people do not seem to fit their positions or roles, it is important to help them move quickly into those that are right for them.
  6. Understand and be comfortable with your own balance between work and home. Respect and understand others' personal balance. You can do it all, just not all at the same time.
  7. Have fun and a sense of humor at work. Enjoy what you're doing, and with whom who you're doing it.
  8. Remember that you can go from "hero to zero" quickly. There will be moments when your career hits a wall; have confidence that you'll make it through and that there will be another great opportunity on the other side of the wall.
  9. Know the value you're bringing to the organization. Be confident in that value, keep it fresh, and always make sure it's still relevant to the organization.
  10. Be open. You never know where you'll meet someone who can help you find your next job. The Women's Power Lunch Series is organized by the Johnson School's Office of Diversity and Inclusion and sponsored by JPMorgan Chase & Co.
Deborah Smith, MA '71
Dr. Karel Czanderna, MS '81, PhD '84
Karen Keating
Ana Pinczuk '84, ME '85
Renu Thomas '90, ME '91
Diana Daniels '71
CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: Women's Power Lunch moderator Deborah Smith, MA '71, who runs a human resources consulting business in Naples, Florida; and speakers Dr. Karel Czanderna, MS '81, PhD '84, vice president and general manager of the brand portfolio at Whirlpool Corporation; Ana Pinczuk '84, ME '85, vice president of engineering with Cisco's IOS Software organization; Diana Daniels '71, retired vice president, general counsel and corporate secretary of the Washington Post Company; ; Renu Thomas '90, ME '91, director of production for MacNeil/Lehrer Productions; and Karen Keating '76, managing director in the Risk Management Division of JPMorgan Chase & Co. and member of the Johnson School Advisory Council.