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Business leaders share experiences at annual conference

The Peter T. Paul College of Business and Economics was teeming with professionals and business students on Friday, March 31, as the UNH Women in Business organization held its second annual conference. Smiling, excited faces of members of the organization greeted registered guests with gift bags, name tags and offers of assistance finding the rooms attendees were going to. The event kicked off with a keynote speaker, Cathy Saunders, who discussed finding one’s “true north,” in reference to one’s desires and passions.

After the keynote, there were several breakout sessions—three of which were panel discussions centered around real estate, emerging industries and negotiations and mentorship, the fourth being a presentation and speed mentoring session hosted by TD Bank. The whirlwind of networking, presentations and advice continued with an executive panel that included Nancy Targett, provost of UNH, and Deborah Merrill-Sands, the dean of Paul College, as the moderator. A networking lunch took place from 1:30 to 2:30 p.m. to end the busy morning and early afternoon.

The Emerging Industries panel was comprised of three successful leaders in the business world. It featured Lauren Kane, the chief operating officer of nonprofit scientific publisher BioOne, Mark Kilens of HubSpot Academy, and Annie Spano, the founder of Style Collective. Questions submitted by students and other guests were posed to the trio regarding their journeys to reach their current careers and advice they’d give to those who also want to find success. Stories were told about times of difficulty that brought these professionals to where they are today. Spano told the nearly full lecture hall of an old job in which she worked for a boss who belittled her and several coworkers, repeatedly saying that Spano would never be able to advance in her career.

Kane also told the audience about hardships she faced in the publishing industry. Overall on the topic of hard times, she said, “you are going through this for a reason,” and “if you are not challenging yourself, you’re not trying hard enough.” They were then asked how they would define an “emerging industry,” and Kilens began with “the power of this thing called the internet.”

Spano and Kane also gave credit to the internet for the emergence of not only their businesses, but for the growth of the business world as well. Kane is the chief operating officer for a business started out of the desire for scientists to have somewhere online, accessible to the public, to publish their findings. Spano’s business is an online fashion blog. These three are parts of businesses that could not have existed even 20 years ago, and Kilens’ advice about getting there was simply “be patient, be persistent” and “never give up.”

The breakout session presentation for speed networking with TD Bank was given by Celeste Orr, the vice president of the segment risk lead/operational risk management, Diane DiCicco, the vice president and senior manager HR advice channel for the bank, and Beth Pollard, the bank’s regional retail operations director for northern New England and up-state New York. The presentation focused on finding a good mentor and how to be as professional in an interview or work setting.

“It’s always a good move to get more experience,” Orr said. The three also discussed the value in “lateral moves” rather than always trying to move up the corporate ladder. After the presentation was over, businesspeople from all sessions broke out into small groups with students and guests to practice networking and getting mentors.

While all speakers and special guests had unique experiences that got them to where they are professionally, one thing is common. Kilens summed it up quite nicely, and that is to “always be learning.”

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