Sponsored by GSK’s Women’s Leadership Initiative

Recently, the HBA Mid-Atlantic Region held a webinar called, Becoming a Woman of Impact, where four Women of the Year award winners shared stories of the lessons they have learned throughout their careers and advice to help others accelerate their own career growth. The panel, moderated by Amy Turnquist, President, HBA Philadelphia, included, 2020 Woman of the Year, Sandra J. Horning, 2019 Woman of the Year, Sharon Callahan, 2017 Woman of the Year, Bahija Jallal, and 2015 Woman of the Year, Denice Torres.

The discussion touched on growth and development, collaboration and engagement, and inclusion and diversity, and how each category have impacted the panelists and their careers.

Here are the key takeaways:

  1. What does impact mean? How has it evolved over time?

 There were some common themes in the panelists’ responses, but Sharon Callahan summed it up perfectly – “impact is value you bring to the business and the people. Success is what you leave behind.”

  1. What are some of your most valuable lessons learned in your career?

The panelists agreed that many of the lessons they have learned have come from a variety of people and experiences – from coaches and past bosses to just “good old experience.” Some lessons were hard, while others were easier. For example, Sandra J. Horning shared how she felt completely out of her element when she made a career change from academia to corporate. She was acting how she felt those around her had expected her to act. Her boss took her aside and told her to “take the mask off” and just be herself. Be authentic. Another valuable lesson shared was, “You are only as good as your team. Surround yourself with people that are better than you. Invest in your team.”

  1. How to find a sponsor?

A sponsor is different than a mentor in that they are going to promote you, your abilities and your achievements. Finding a sponsor can be challenging for women. According to the panel, when finding a sponsor, be intentional, be strategic, be ambitious and self-advocate.  It’s important to make connections and “think of every interaction as an opportunity to showcase yourself,” says Bahija Jallal. A sponsor can lead you to many opportunities and help you transform.

“There are people that I have met…a leader who ends up being a huge sponsor for me and when I met her, I said to myself, you will know me. I worked so hard to get time with her and show that I was worthy of her time. I respected her so much and she ended up giving me 3 different opportunities…she changed my life.”

– 2015 Woman of the Year, and President of Ignited Company, Denice Torres

 Understanding what the power structure is inside and outside of your organization is key. If you know who the influencers are, you can use that to your advantage and make sure that you are getting yourself noticed.

“What you’re really going for is opportunity, there are many ways that it can come to you…you do have to advocate for yourself. First off, the biggest gains that I have made in my career were when I went outside of my comfort zone. It didn’t feel comfortable, but I did it. The second, is to be outstanding in your work. You have to do both.”

 – 2020 Woman of the Year, and Former EVP, Chief Medical Officer & Global Head Product Development of Genentech, Inc. Sandra J. Horning

When looking for a sponsor, be ambitious but humble. Opportunity comes when you step outside of your comfort zone and be outstanding in your work. When interacting with a sponsor, it is important to be clear on who you are and what you do.

In summary, people have different strategies when it comes to networking. For some, networking means setting a plan with a specific goal in place. Others choose to take a more go-with-the-flow approach; when interacting with people, they let the connections come naturally.

A stand-out message shared by most of the panel was: whoever who you are, be yourself and don’t be afraid to share your true self.

Tune in to the webinar, Becoming a Woman of Impact, to learn more great tips from the HBA Women of the Year on how to succeed in your career.

“HBA is a global nonprofit organization comprised of individuals and organizations from across the healthcare industry committed to achieving gender parity in leadership positions, facilitating career and business connections, and providing effective practices that enable organizations to realize the full potential of their female talent.”