“Success to me is self-determination and making your own choices.” Those are the words of Jane Wurwand, Founder and Chair of Dermalogica, at the recent Politico Women Rule Summit, where many speakers focused on “what is success” and “how do you achieve it.”  

From Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, to corporate executives, entrepreneurs, investors, and even President Trump’s daughter-in-law, speaker after speaker gave advice to the audience of about 400 women at the JW Marriott in Washington, DC.

Addressing everything from imposter syndrome to raising money, and from personal branding to getting a promotion, to defining an “accomplishment,” and the proverbial work-life juggle, advice flowed from women who have reached a career pinnacle. All of them also emphasized that they are still achieving and not resting on their laurels.

Here are 10 key pieces of advice collected at the Summit:

1.     “I don’t believe in work-life balance. I love living a frenetic life and being a changemaker and a mom. I love chaos and I love complaining about it,” Caryn Seidman Becker said, Chair and CEO of Clear and the mother of 3 kids. Her advice? “Be an impact player in your own way.”  And, it seems, define your own work-life management style, not by anyone else’s standards.

2.     “Everyone has (imposter syndrome). Everyone brings to the table their own fears,” Tammy Wincup, President of Protocol, admitted. Then added, “say, ‘so what?’ to it, and have optimism as a way to combat the imposter syndrome.”

3.     “Choose your special forces wisely, the people who are going to take risks with you, especially your life partner,” Wincup advised.

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4.     “Sometimes opportunity is waiting outside and you have to go out and grab it,” Senator Tammy Duckworth of Illinois (and Iraq war veteran) said when explaining her decision to run for office.  It’s also evident in her decision to apply to flight school when few women do, adding, “Get out of your own way.” 

5.     “You connect with people better when you are your authentic self,” Duckworth added, which was also reinforced by Speaker Pelosi, who said, “Authenticity is everything. Connect with their hopes and dreams in kitchen table issues.”  Speaking of authenticity, Duckworth was the first sitting Senator to give birth in office and to bring the infant to the Senate floor (under brand new rules she pushed for).

6.     “(Your career) is not going to be linear,” Wincup reminded the audience, using her own experience in 4 different industries as an example, adding, “You have to tell them how it’s all connected.” Her paths all connect through technology she said. I’ve heard this over and over again from the guests on my podcast too. 

7.     “Cling to small things to give yourself confidence,”Wincup said and Wunwand agreed adding a funny story about how her bikini-waxing prowess gave her confidence to build Dermalogica into a multi-million-dollar company that was acquired by Unilever in 2015.

8.     “Executive presence is 25% of getting a promotion,”explained Lisa Skeete Tatum, Founder and CEO of Landit. “It’s how people act toward you in a meeting…so be prepared and have an opinion… Ask great questions and choose the right words. Dress for the next promotion,….track your accomplishments weekly,…and surround yourself with people who have higher expectations of you.”

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9.     “Key for women is readiness and performing,” said Barbara Humpton, CEO of Siemens USA. She said she rose through the ranks by raising her hand “to work on the really hard things,” which got her noticed, built her skills, knowledge and relationships and prepared her for higher roles, a point that was reinforced by many speakers.

10. “Work around the business, develop emotional IQ” and think strategically, were all points made by Madhu Ranganathan, Chief Financial Officer of OpenText, stressing that “how you influence and make others successful” will in turn help you succeed.

The Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund, Kristalina Georgieva summed up the advice of the day when she said, “Dare to stand up. Dare to speak up. Dare….and don’t forget to smile.”


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