Wharton Women is blazing a new trail as we head into 2018, with higher goals and ambitions than ever before. The year is already off to a great start as the 2018 Annual Wharton Women Business Conference on January 26th was an inspiration-filled day. We gathered on the 8th floor of Huntsman Hall to hear from entrepreneurs, MBAs, and female pioneers in male-dominated industries.
The day started off with an amazing keynote address by Amanda Bradford, the Founder and CEO of The League. Amanda has amazing academic credentials with an undergraduate degree from Carnegie Mellon, an MBA from Stanford, and previous experience in technical roles at Salesforce and Google. Now she is making her mark on the world as an enthusiastic entrepreneur, and her energy certainly was contagious.
Amanda started her company, The League, as a dating app that targets the well-educated and serious professionals. Her unique platform will screen users’ Facebook and LinkedIn profiles so that they can both receive privacy from co-workers as well as be exposed to a pool of equally driven potential partners.
In Amanda’s keynote, she dove deeper into the process of launching a startup and created a cool new analogy. She said, “Launching a product is like throwing a party, and there’s always an epic pregame.” This helped us frame our view of entrepreneurship and how we thought about the stage leading up to launch, aka the pregame.
For example, Amanda highlighted questions that investors typically asked and creatively paraphrased them to go along with the party analogy. When thinking about metrics like daily active users, engagement, retention, and virality, we can frame it to ask ourselves how many people are at the party, if they’re having fun, how long they stay, etc.
Amanda noted that people pregame parties to get something that they can’t get at the actual party. Similarly, she said that in launching a product, you can give people access, features, value, and engagement leading up to the launch so that they will be ready and more excited about the actual launch.
After the keynote session, Linda Xu & Anne-Marie Firth spoke on an MBA panel as the co-presidents of Wharton Women in Business (WWIB), the MBA counterpart to Wharton Women. Having worked in different fields including sales and trading, private equity, and tech, they had amazing career advice. They encouraged us as young women to build our credentials, volunteer for opportunities, and to not be afraid to make it known that we are in the room in whatever job we hold. They noted that one challenge was meeting casually with male clients without seeming awkward or inappropriate, so they suggested thinking outside the box and arranging breakfast talks or sporting event meet-ups to maintain the relationship in a smart way.
They also spoke about the benefits of getting an MBA. If you want to change career paths, an MBA is a smart move. Even if you continue a business career path, an MBA can still help you earn respect as a woman, build your credentials, be more eligible for promotions, and even have a smoother transition back into the workforce if you take a break to have children.
After a lunch break, we heard from a diverse panel of women that included Cassandra Gerdes, the co-founder and CEO of BookReport; Michelle Lin, the co-founder and CEO of Live Love Polish; and Michelle Domancio, a Vice President, Senior Credit Analyst at Shenkman Capital. This panel was full of inspirational advice, so here are a few of their insights:
- If you find something you love where there’s room to make money, that’s where an amazing opportunity lies.
- Leverage your skill sets and be creative.
- Disregard people who say you can’t make it.
- If you’re starting your own company, don’t quit your day job until you get a customer.
- A catalyst for change could be more women creating their own funds.
- In creating a startup, be hyper aware of your strengths and weaknesses and get people on your team to fill in the gaps. Be proactive in self-correction.
- Keep your focus on the big picture even when the day-to-day might be mundane.
- Be humble and willing to work below pay grade for the bigger picture.
- Doing what you love doesn’t mean you’ll love everything you do.
- Approach networking in a genuine way.
- Take care of your body and yourself.
- Maintain your integrity.
- Know that you’re not going to have all the answers.
- There’s value in becoming an employee and a good member of society. Gain skills so you can contribute to society.
- Having mentors and sponsors is important, but you have to be proactive about it.
- Your career is not a ladder, but a jungle gym. Adjacent experiences add up and help you advance.
After all these words of wisdom, we are certainly more empowered and inspired to take on different careers, industry paths, and entrepreneurship opportunities. And the good news is, we’ve already started blazing our trails as Wharton Women.
Written by Julia Bache (W’ 19).