eBay executive inspires women students
An undergraduate chemistry major. An executive enrolled in a Cornell MBA program. A prospective computer science student at the university's tech campus in New York City. The inaugural Johnson Women in Technology Conference March 21 in Manhattan was designed to inform these and other students about tech careers.
In her keynote, Sarah Brubacher McDonald, MBA '99, former chief of staff to the president of eBay, mixed humor with reality checks before more than 300 Cornellians and other New York-area students pursuing advanced degrees.
"There was no life prior to business school. That's when my life started," McDonald said, sparking applause from dozens of Samuel Curtis Johnson Graduate School of Management students and alumni.
Power Up Your Future was the theme of the conference, a student-led collaboration between Johnson's High Tech Club and Women's Management Council and hosted by Citigroup.
Titled "High Tech Leadership for Women," McDonald's talk was a tip-filled guide for college students mapping out a career path, graduates trying to advance within a company, or others seeking to change companies or professions.
McDonald, an English literature major, was a financial statement analyst before enrolling at Johnson. In 2004 she started working at eBay, where she has worked in five business-side roles. The average American worker, McDonald noted, has had at least 11 different jobs by age 46.
"What is keeping you up at night?" asked McDonald, suggesting some middle-of-the-night worries might include: "I need a job, I'm not an engineer ... and I'm a woman. Will there even be any jobs left when I finish the degree?" McDonald assured the mostly female audience: "eBay is only 17 years old. Technology companies haven't been around that long. ... There are jobs out there. ... This Internet thing is going to be big."
Regarding being a woman employed by a technology company, McDonald said: "There are fewer of us. How lucky is that?"
"Even senior people don't know what they want to be when they grow up," she said. Personal branding is important, McDonald explained. "What is the first thing you want people to think of when they think of [you]? Reach out to people whose brand or path you want to emulate. ... People want to be asked, and they do want to mentor.
"I believe in storytelling," McDonald told the audience. "Make sure your [career] path is directionally correct. ... Be purposeful about your networking. It is something you need to work on."
McDonald also visited Ithaca's campus March 24 to speak to associate professor Kathleen M. O'Connor's class at Johnson about "the influence of power in organizations." A happy footnote for Cornell students who want to work at eBay: McDonald is now eBay's global head of university recruiting.
"I am not objective when it comes to Cornell," she said, smiling.This story originally appeared in the Cornell Chronicle. Reprinted with permission.