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I attended the Massachusetts Conference for Women with over 10,000 women and several dozen ‘brave men’ last week. The power of estrogen is indeed great and the power of us, even greater.  Lupita Nyong’o can bring me to tears. Hillary Clinton can arouse my commitment to human rights, my right to live with the same dignities afforded to my neighbors. Even Deborah Hughes, winner of the Be the Change Award can reinvigorate my passion for service. All great women leading by accident, on purpose, or with grace.

Surprisingly, the speaker whose words took residence in my mind, was unknown to me. Patricia Florissi is vice president and global chief technology officer for sales at EMC Corporation. I must admit that I wandered into her session with few expectations and very little understanding of her industry. No Powerpoint, no handouts, and no targeted book sales. However, her infectious good humor and storytelling delivered unquestionable wisdom about her journey through life.  Her advice was simple and yet so powerful, I wanted to share:

Be present. When I am present I am engaged and focused. There is no map, but an internal GPS that guides me effortlessly.

 

Be prepared. Whether you know the reason now or later is irrelevant; be prepared in an area of strength, interest, or even ‘by accident’. Life has an interesting way of leading you in a direction you could have never imagined for yourself.

 

Be an expert. Own the knowledge of your craft. Be curious, humble, and always pursue knowledge.

 

Be heard and listen to hear. Speak up about what you want, so there is never any doubt about your goals. Listen to hear what is being said. What you are seeking may be available if you listen.

 

Be passionate. When you have passion for what you do, nothing will stand in your way. The pursuit is as sweet as the reward.

When asked: “Have you experienced discrimination?” Her response was, ” Yes. Of course.” Then back to some part of these guiding principles. Similar questions were asked about her experience as an immigrant or a woman in a male-dominated industry.  All prompting the same response. In many ways the answers to all of these questions could be found in these five bits of wisdom. The last piece of advice though, was to find support. In many of her stories, she mentioned mentors, supporters, friends and family. The fact that we were participating in the largest attendance of this Women’s Conference did not escape my notice. We cannot and should not try to ‘make it’ alone. I drove home excited, inspired, and grateful for the Power of Us!

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