PINK Magazine: Out of the "In-box"

By Jessica Handler, PINK Magazine
Make time to find and cultivate mentors. That's how Sarah O'Brien did it. Now chief financial officer and director of operations for Kodak Dental Systems, a $500 million business, O'Brien remembers carving out time to talk with her mentor "whenever it needed to happen." She saw


her face-to-face a couple of times a year when they were on the same continent, even though they haven't lived in the same city for more than a decade. "I am what I am today professionally because of her," she says.

O'Brien's mentor – to whom she now reports – is Jo Ann Campbell, chief financial and operations officer for Kodak HealthGroup, Rochester, N.Y. O'Brien's talent, plus supportive women ("the JoAnns of my life"), help her keep an eye on the long view.

"We still have that [mentor] relationship," O'Brien says.

Others learn through trial and error to keep a watchful eye on their careers in addition to the day-to-day grind. "How much time do we spend on 'urgent' versus 'important'?" asks Sharon Wibben, vice president of merchandising and marketing systems for Wal-Mart's Information Systems division. Wibben has worked in big jobs her entire career, from being one of the first women in field service at Xerox Corp. to heading up In-Flight Service at Delta Air Lines.

Over the years she worked "tons of hours," she says, including Saturdays and Sundays week after week, keeping her head down, focusing on the job. Today she calls that an unhealthy way to live, professionally and personally. She warns that focusing just on the job can limit the perspective needed to make better decisions and be a better leader. One way to keep your head up? Make networking a priority, and plan for it on the calendar. "Focus on the right priorities," Wibben says.

O'Brien knows that prioritizing friendships does contribute to overall career success. She earned her MBA from Emory's Goizueta Business School, where she was a part of an all-female team. "Everyone thought it would be a cat fight," she says, laughing. Instead, the productivity and communication that came from working with women ensured their success. After graduation in 2003, O'Brien couldn't believe there was no organization to help the women keep in touch. That year, she founded Executive Women of Goizueta, an alumnae resource for sharing strategies and leadership motivation. More than 30 women from a variety of companies now serve on the board or chair committees.

KPMG also has created a way to help women get out of their "in-box." The company founded its Women's Advisory Board in 2003, tasked with advancing the personal and professional goals of KPMG women. Christine St. Clare, partner and advisory board member, says the board oversees women's initiatives, including networking, mentoring, and development and advancement. Since the board's beginning, the company has retained 23 percent more women. KPMG's networking initiative, KNOW (KPMG's Network of Women), is an additional career-builder for women, with chapters in 50 offices.

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