I attended the Dyson Symposium for Women in Leadership on Sunday. I had never previously attended, so this was my first. I admit that networking had always intimidated me, and I went into the symposium with the preconception that I would be thrown into a high-paced, networking mass. I couldn’t have been more pleasantly surprised.
The people I met during the symposium are indeed some of the most ambitious individuals I have talked to. But they were also exceedingly approachable—even the speakers who have had years of work experience were more than happy to engage in conversation afterwards.
After Suzy Welch’s keynote speech (more on that later), I met one of the founders of the Dyson Symposium. It was intriguing hearing her perspective as one of the people responsible for the inception of this event. And conversation came easily—we talked about everything from Suzy Welch’s candidness to nonprofit work.
In addition to meeting the ambitious and approachable attendees, one of the highlights of the symposium was the speakers. Dr. Sherece West-Scantlebury and Ashley Feinstein brought up points that particularly resonated with me.
Sherece’s discussion of Ubuntu was particularly memorable. I personally had been feeling a little uninspired lately. Specifically, I am an executive board member of a struggling club centered around supporting rural education in China. And not being able to communicate with the people I am supporting was taking its toll. But as Sherece navigated through the nuances of Ubuntu, she reminded me of why supporting people across the world is worthwhile, regardless of how visible the impact is to you. As Desmond Tutu wrote,
Ubuntu is very difficult to render into a Western language. It speaks of the very essence of being human. When we want to give high praise to someone we say, ‘Yu, u nobunto’; ‘Hey so-and-so has ubuntu.’ Then you are generous, you are hospitable, you are friendly and caring and compassionate. You share what you have. It is to say, ‘My humanity is inextricably bound up in yours.’ We belong in a bundle of life.
In my case, geographical distance and lack of contact have no bearing on the importance of being involved with others. We are all in this together, and if I have the means to support people who are in the prime of their lives without the resources I was lucky to be given, then I must do something about it.
Regarding another subject that couldn’t be more contrasting, Ashley Feinstein spoke about personal finance. If you told me that a workshop on personal finance would be one of my main takeaways from the symposium, I would have been skeptical. I signed up for this workshop for the sake of practicality. And I left more inspired and accountable for my own finances. Who knew that personal finance could shift in my mind from intimidating to intriguing in the span of an hour? Not me, that’s for sure. She introduced us to the basics of personal finance, of how to be more accountable for our spending habits. And she managed to keep our attention by sprinkling her teaching with relatable anecdotes. I look forward to taking advantage of the private consultations she offered.
Another particularly resonating aspect of meeting Ashley is her career shift. She went from working in investment banking to running her own business; as an undergraduate student on the verge of graduating but also increasingly skeptical of my choice in major, I found her story inspiring. It’s easy to forget that career paths aren’t rigid or predictable. And as Suzy Welch emphatically imparted, “you will fail, and everything will be okay.”
All in all, the Dyson Symposium on Women in Leadership was a wake-up call. Meeting these people reminded me that I am immersed in a culture full of exceptional talent in everything from speaking in public to showing empathy in corporate culture. And the speakers brought up invaluable points that re-invigorated my drive to invest myself fully in leading my life.