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27 Expert Career Tips You Need To Grow

If you attended the 2017 MBA Women’s Leadership Conference in Seattle in June, you most likely walked away with plenty of razor-sharp career insights.

If you missed this year’s event or are just curious about it, here are some pearls of wisdom “overheard” during the conference:


Sometimes knowledge is all we need to effectively navigate a barrier. Let’s know.

Stephanie Breedlove, keynote speaker

Vision drives activity. If we commit to the vision, the right activity follows.

– Susan Ershler, keynote speaker

Don’t make yourself small. Take up more room.

Aimee Johnson, Senior Vice President, Customer Relationship Management at Starbucks

If you want to create more confidence, you have to take action first.

Claire Shipman, Opening keynote speaker


Have the courage to be flexible and try things that are not necessarily in the bullseye for you. Be expansive about what you want to learn. Think broadly to make the MBA the biggest experience for yourself.

Beverley Babcock, Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer at Imperial Oil Limited

Travel and take off as much time as you can before you start your job.

– Caroline Mock, Senior Manager of Sales Planning and Strategy at Tableau

Stretch yourself. Don’t go easy to get a grade. The MBA is an incubator for your leadership style. At Amazon, we’re not looking for just grades, but also leadership skills.

– Brian Olsavsky, Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer at Amazon

If you want to be in the c-suite, take finance classes to be able to back up your strategies.

Molly Williams, Intellectual Property Specialist, The Boeing Company


Practice being a contributor – you are there to add value, not be a star.

Carey Armstrong, Senior Director of Strategy and Operations at Zillow Group

Your first job out of school – you may not make an impact right away, but you’re learning the skills that you can use later in your career to make a difference.

– Marina Boleda, Program Officer, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

Never take for granted how much others can help you learn. There is always someone who knows more than you.

Ann-Marie Campbell, Executive Vice President, U.S. Stores at Home Depot

On being open about Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender (LBT) status: We all benefit by being visible. It is good for school, good for business and good for society.

Caitlin Harren, Senior Manager of Sustainability at Amazon

Be careful when you transition between companies. If you’re tempted to move, sometimes the answer is to stay put. Think carefully when you zig zag.

– Brian Olsavsky, Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer at Amazon

Every time you get a new job offer, you should be negotiating. And when negotiating, be specific – do not use the words ‘around’ or ‘between.’

Elizabeth Umphress, Associate Professor of Management at the University of Washington’s Foster School of Business


If a company doesn’t think of itself as a tech company, it won’t survive. For example, Whirlpool is no longer a white box in your laundry room. Technology is a strategic component of the business.

Fallon Nyce, IT Director, Global Strategic Sourcing and Sustainability at Whirlpool

At Amazon, we’re not necessarily looking for a technology background. We look for people who are adept at dealing with ambiguity and who are disrupting and breaking ground.

Felicia Yue, Sr. Manager, Product Management at Amazon Video


Follow your passion. If you are going to work hard, you should enjoy it.

– Lauren Adler, Chief Chocophile at Chocolopolis

There is no time like business school to incubate an idea – people want to help you.

– Stella Ashaolu, Founder and CEO, WeSolv

The worst thing at a start-up is to identify a problem but not offer a solution.

Tara Fung, Director of Business Development at CommonBond

Who you work with is so critical …I spend more time with my co-founders than I do with my fiancé.

– Sue Kim, co-founder of 4Women and 2017 Power Pitch winner

On asking for an entrepreneur’s time and expertise: Make it easy for me. For example, meet at the end of the day at my office. Have specific asks – not ‘I want to pick your brain.’ Be humble. Accept that you have an MBA but know zero about running a business.

– Sandi Lin, CEO of Skilljar

Ditch the business plan, go get started. When you are dogmatic about following a plan, it kind of goes against the entrepreneurial spirit. Throw out the script.

– Avni Patel Thompson, Founder and CEO of Poppy


It’s not a bad idea to work in the for-profit sector for a while. [Student] debt is real. And you can learn so much in the private sector.

Claudia Harner-Jay, Deputy Director of Market Dynamics at PATH

The salary [at a not-for-profit] doesn’t always cover all the benefits – the richness of the experience, living overseas, and housing stipends, for example.

– Dorothy Ngutter, Diplomat in Residence – Northwest Region at the US Department of State

Being able to speak the language of business is important to ANY organization. Don’t be intimated if you only have for-profit skills – they are all valuable.

Angela Prosek, Senior Director of Business Development at Conservation International


Live by design, not by default.

Nancy Evans, Manager at Deloitte Consulting

The onus is on us to strike the balance. The company will not do it for you.

Felicia Yue, Sr. Manager, Product Management at Amazon Video

It’s not too late to get in on the action. Join other women MBAs and share your favorite career advice on Twitter: #ConquerYourCareer

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