by: Kelly Fliller

Last week was National Business Women’s Week, which is always the third week of October and celebrates women in business and the progress they have made as business owners and entrepreneurs. Reading about National Business Women’s Week inspired me to share the wonderful opportunity I had to moderate a panel discussion for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Monmouth and Middlesex Counties. The theme was GIRL POWER! and the room with filled with Little Sisters accompanied by their Big Sisters. The panel included four incredible women from Professional Women in Building of the Garden State a group dedicated to promoting & supporting all aspects of building & empowering women within the industry, who are also all members of Shore Builders Association of Central NJ.

Panelists were:

Jackie Giordano, Project Manager at Dynamic Engineering Consultants, PC
Georgette Kyriacou, Director of Engineering Consulting at FWH Associates
Kristin Marzarella, Roof Production and Human Resources at All County Exteriors
Giovanna Pergola, North East Regional Sales Director at Meyers Research

The panel focused on topics from job responsibilities and education to mentoring and qualities of a good leader. However, the overall theme was GIRL POWER!, showing the girls that they can be whatever they aspired to be. Each of the panelists took a different path from education to career. Some landed right where they envisioned they would and some are in a totally different place from the original plan – but all are successful and happy to be where they are today. 

Career paths

One of my favorite things to learn about a person is how they got to where they are today. How did they choose their career and what path did they take to get there? As the moderator, I made sure to include this in my list of questions for the panelists. The most amazing part about this question was everyone had a completely different answer, a different journey that led to their success. A few took the traditional route of picking a major, going to college for a degree and getting a job in their field upon graduation. One of the women started college but had to delay graduating due to a family member being sick. She ended up entering the workforce instead of returning to school, working her way up in her career and now holds a high-level position. She even talked about potentially finishing her degree one day. Another panelist discussed how networking and “just being kind” to people helped her get to her position today. When the company she worked for shut down, she took a job outside of her industry just to pay the bills. She struck up a conversation with a customer one day and it turned out he owned a company in her field which led her to her job today.

Mentors

One thing all of the panelists had in common was a strong female mentor in their lives that helped shape them. Whether it was their mother, teacher, business leader or college sports team, each panelist had female role models that helped them find their strengths, confidence and gave them support when they needed it most.

Qualities of successful leaders

Another big focus was on the qualities that make women successful leaders.  All of the panelists mentioned confidence as one of the most important qualities. Even when you don’t quite feel confident, fake it! Be prepared to ask questions, keep learning as much as you can and stay organized (this will help with life in general). And know that it is okay to make a mistake, however, own it, learn from it and keep moving forward.

Advice on being successful in your career

This question yielded so many wonderful tips. The first piece of advice we heard was, “GET EXCITED!” If you are not excited to get up every day and do what you do for a living, then CHANGE what you are doing! Life is what you make it and you have the power to change what isn’t working for you. Believe in yourself and determine your path. As the kids say – YOLO!

We heard more great words of wisdom and learned that we don’t always have control of what happens, but we can control our reactions. When things go wrong, it’s easy to get upset and react quickly. You can change your mindset and react positively which will help you better the situation. Things won’t always go your way and you may fail, but everything has a way of working out. Stay positive and stay connected to people who will support you along the way.

Speaking of support, that is something we heard across all questions and topics. We’re all in this together and we should celebrate the success of others, help our fellow colleagues when they need it and always be there to offer support.

I am proud to be among such amazing women both inside and outside of my industry. I’ve learned so much from each of them and I’m happy to pass along my experiences and advice to the younger generation.

Do you have a female role model in your life and how has she helped you become who you are today?

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