Have a Healthy Disregard for the Impossible

Janet Odgis, President of Odgis + Co, Margo Georgiadis, Google’s President of the Americas, and Carol Picarro, President of U.S. Chemicals

Guest Blog post by WPO New York VI Chapter member, Janet Odgis, President & Creative Director, Janet Odgis & Company Inc.

Have a healthy disregard for the impossible 

What’s the best way to accomplish your strategic goals? Addressing the Women Presidents’ Organization at Google’s New York City headquarters, Margo Georgiadis, Google’s President of the Americas, suggested that a healthy disregard for the impossible is key.

Ask someone to name Google’s main competitors, and they’ll probably list Facebook, Apple, and Amazon. Not so, Georgiadis said. Facebook is a social networking company, while Apple develops hardware and software; Amazon focuses on selling products. But from its beginning, Google has positioned itself as an information company, dedicated to using data to build accessible, easy-to-use tools and services.

Georgiadis suggested that anyone could take lessons from Google’s history and philosophy to evolve their own companies. Whenever she sits down with an entrepreneur to talk business, she always begins with the fundamentals. What does the entrepreneur want to accomplish, and why does he or she want to accomplish it? What’s the company’s overarching mission, and how can success be measured?

In order to complete that mission in a quantifiable way, companies must be transparent, with clear lines of communication between those in the executive suite and those carrying out the various aspects of the business. From top to bottom, every employee must possess a willingness to adapt to changing circumstances, and seize upon new opportunities with speed and agility.

Most of all, Georgiadis added, companies and entrepreneurs must keep learning. It’s only by acquiring new knowledge, in conjunction with the aforementioned agility and openness, that a company can re-imagine itself into a more perfect form, and ultimately make its customers’ lives better. While that might sound like an intimidating—even impossible—goal, it’s one well within reach.

So if you want to re-imagine your company, remember these 6 key takeaways on how Google does it:

1. Ask WHY. What is the purpose? How can it make peoples lives better?

2. What’s the best way to accomplish your strategic goals?

3. How can success be measured? In order to complete that mission in a quantifiable way.
4. Companies should be transparent, with clear lines of communication between everyone.
5. Seize upon new opportunities with speed and agility.
6. Companies must keep learning.

ReImagine Everything

Worth the Risk?

Chubb Worth The Risk Graphic

Did you know that Chubb Insurance is the only insurance provider that conducts a private company risk survey? In the past 3 years, 44% of private companies experienced at least one loss event.  “Private companies increasingly are at risk of professional and management liability from a vast range of events, including costly lawsuits, government fines, data theft and other criminal activities. So disruptive are such events that small companies can quickly face financial ruin, and even large companies may find it difficult to fully recover from such administrative and financial disasters.” Read on to hear more about the findings and to help assess where your company may be at risk.

How Technology Plays a Role in Helping Entrepreneurs Manage Risk

Guest Blog by WPO London Chapter Chair, Sue Stockdale 

The issue of risk pervades modern business life in many different ways. From the rules and regulations that are imposed by governments in response to potential threats or hazards, to the communication of messages in the media around potential risks and the impact of those messages have on the entrepreneurial community.

Information does play an important role in how we evaluate risk, because people would rather choose an option with fewer unknown elements than one with many unknown elements. This is known as ambiguity aversion[i]. For example, if you can remember a lot of media coverage about recent air crashes, then it’s likely to aversely influence you when you are planning travel.

The availability of information technology can also be useful in helping entrepreneurs get an early warning of potential risks and then take action. The World Development report 2014[ii] highlighted that farmers in Ghana and fifteen other African countries now receive specific market information through their mobile phones that helps them respond more quickly to changes in demand or prices.

Technology can also bring unexpected benefits to individuals as well as reducing risk.   When M-Pesa[iii], a mobile phone based money transfer and micro-financing service first launched in Kenya it helped reduce the risk of money earned by women either being spent or getting into the “wrong hands.”  When cash was the currency, often the men used their wife’s money to buy alcohol or other personal items. But without easy access to cash any longer, this problem reduced, and the women also benefited because they were more likely to save the money to build up financial resources for future needs, such as sending their children to school.

Is the economy becoming more risk averse?

In 2013, a Wall Street Journal article[iv] reported that the US appeared to be turning soft on risk, and as a result the economy became less dynamic. Fewer people were changing jobs, investors were putting less money into new ventures, and companies were slower to take on new staff.   It is these types of activities that allow an economy to adapt to the needs of a changing market.

Yet from others’ viewpoints, it seems that the risk taking spirit still prevails. However, it seems to be focused on specific industry sectors and geographies. According to Dane Stangler, Director of Research and Policy at the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation[v], it is in coastal cities and college towns, where entrepreneurial talent are willing to take risks, particularly if there is a technology or energy focus.

So it seems that your viewpoint is influenced by the technology and information that you access.

Quantifying potential risks

From a business perspective, whilst identifying broad areas of risk may seem easy to do, quantifying them is often more tricky. And if you take into consideration the broader sociopolitical and geopolitical influences, it becomes even more difficult.

There are now specialist companies, such as Delta Economics that help other businesses to quantify risks by using their leading edge technology for modelling. In my latest book on the subject of Risk[vi], founder and CEO, Dr Rebecca Harding comments on this issue. “Increasingly. people want us to provide assessment, analysis and quantification of the type of risk they face, particularly geopolitical risk because it impacts economic and trade growth the most, and that impacts the way that businesses operate.

Take Thailand as an example. It was a mint economy and was seen as one of the growth prospects a few years ago, but with the political crisis, we forecasted that trade growth would decline because investors did not want to put their money there. There are similar situations in Russia and Ukraine, and in Nigeria. There have been successful growth stories, but where there is geopolitical risk, people want some quantification of risk. By using trade data, as well as analysis of the market, pricing, political environment, and even the social media aspect, we can give companies a quantifiable number that they can factor into their own risk models and then calculate the insurable risk, which can make their environment more certain”.

Finally, one thing is clear that whilst technology is increasingly used to help entrepreneurs to assess risks, it still does not take away the human aspect in terms of how each person interprets the information that is provided, and that will impact decision making depending on their individual attitude towards risk.

Adapted from “Risk” written by Clive Steeper and Sue Stockdale, Hodder & Stoughton, 2015

Biography

Sue Stockdale is Chapter Chair for the London WPO and is a Motivational Speaker and Executive Coach working with leaders worldwide.  She was the First UK woman to ski to the North Pole and is author of eight business books including Secrets of Successful Women Entrepreneurs and her recent title Risk: All That Matters

REFERENCES

[i] Ellsberg, Daniel (1961). “Risk, Ambiguity, and the Savage Axioms”. Quarterly Journal of Economics 75 (4): 643–669. doi:10.2307/1884324. JSTOR 1884324

[ii] World Development Report, 2014, ‘Risk and Opportunity: managing risk for development’   econ.worldbank.org

[iii] White, Danielle, “The Social and Economic Impact of MPESA on the Lives of Women in the Fishing Industry on Lake Victoria” (2012). Independent Study Project (ISP) Collection. Paper 1246.

[iv] [iv]Risk Averse Culture infects US workers and entrepreneurs, Ben Casselman, June 2, 2013

http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424127887324031404578481162903760052

[v] http://www.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424053111904823804576502482906192742

[vi] Steeper, C; Stockdale, S, “Risk” (Hodder & Stoughton, 2015)

Women in Business Q&A: Collette Liantonio, President, Concept TV Productions, Inc.

This article originally appeared on Huffington Post on December 11, 2014

By: Laura Dunn, Social Media and Communications Professional, Founder and Editor of Political Style, Director of LED Media, Journalist and Author

Collette Liantonio launched Concepts TV Productions Inc. in 1983. Since then, she has produced over 3,000 commercials and infomercials, many of which have become advertising legends, including: AmberVision Glasses, Bedazzler, and The George Foreman Grill. She has also worked with some of the top talent in the industry, producing spots featuring Montel Williams, Joe Namath, George Foreman, Fabio and Wayne Gretsky, among many others.

Liantonio has been a direct response television (DRTV) industry leader for over 30 years. She has won countless ERA Moxie Awards (recognizing the best campaigns of the year), Aurora Awards (international television advertisements), and Telly Awards (honoring the best television commercials and programs), among others. She produces commercials in a range of important categories including fitness, toys, beauty, hair, pets and housewares.

Prior to starting Concepts TV, Liantonio was a single parent who found time to become a successful freelance writer after earning a masters of arts in directing from NYU. When a client purchased a direct response company and invited her to direct a commercial, Liantonio jumped at the opportunity. She worked for an advertising agency in Manhattan for a brief time before signing her first client to start Concepts TV Productions.

Liantonio is on Electronic Retailing Magazine’s Advisory Board and has served twice on the Electronic Retailing Association’s (ERA) Board of Directors. In 2014, she co-founded the Broadcast Council of the Direct Response Marketing Association and was elected into the 2014 Direct Response Marketing Association’s Hall of Fame. She is a member of the Women President’s Organization, the Woman’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC) and the Women-Owned Business Enterprise for New York City (WBE).

How has your life experience made you the leader you are today?
My career path began as a teacher and, after a series of false starts in various businesses, led to my true passion, creative directing. Whether it’s my experience as a teacher or as a director, I always feel an incredible responsibility to help my staff become fully actualized, to utilize their talents to attain happiness. Happy people make happy employees and happy employees are productive ones. I feel very passionate about finding the right fit for one’s self and nurturing talents in a positive environment.

How has your previous employment experience aided your position at Concepts?
I studied theatre and I believe in the collective power of the theatre company. No one person is the star or rather the star could not shine without the efforts of the director, the stage manager, each actor, etc. (And there’s always a well-prepared understudy!) Rather than feeling threatened, we should take comfort when we are surrounded by capability and draw from one another’s strengths for the common goal of a “successful show.”

Some of my best lessons in leadership came as a result of my own personal experiences with “bad bosses.” For example, when I commended one company president for hiring female department heads, he boasted that he could pay us half of what he’d pay less talented men in the same position. In fact, in lieu of a raise, he once offered me a percent of proceeds if the project was successful. When success was achieved, he reneged on our agreement, asking me to produce a signed contract, which of course I did not have. (So much for handshakes!) He claimed it was a valuable lesson. In a way, it was. For starters, I learned to get everything in writing!

What have the highlights and challenges been during your tenure at Concepts?
I once turned a financial negative into a lucrative positive. During a very slow period in our company’s history, I decided to approach my clients with an offer to reduce my upfront fee in return for a percentage of sales. The results were explosive and, to this day, I have “skin in the game” with a royalty structure most clients gladly welcome.

Tuning into one of my late night ads, like Smart Mop or Bedazzler, and realizing I earned money every time the ad aired was a true “ah-hah” moment and helped me to better understand my entrepreneurial clients. Not only did I gain insight, I gained a profitable financial strategy that I still practice to this day, because I chose to problem solve rather than panic. In business, there will be good times and bad times. Don’t be afraid to think outside the box.

What advice can you offer women who are looking for a career in advertising?
Is it a man’s world?! When I look back on my career, I can attest that I’ve learned as much from failures as I have from successes. It’s important to take risks, to be fearless. If we, as women, want to be successful, we need to support one another in our goals and aspirations. Therefore, it is imperative for female leaders to share their collective knowledge and experiences, so we can all continue to grow and triumph in a “man’s world”.

How do you maintain a work/life balance?
Now that my children are adults and my parents have passed away, maintaining a balance between work and home has become much easier. But I remember the childrearing years as a frantic juggling act, too many balls in the air and the gnawing feeling that I was bound to drop one of them. Late night phone calls and location shoots take their toll on family life. I worked from home for many years and still shoot commercials in my home. My children didn’t always appreciate having actors and a camera crew of “strangers” in the house. In fact, once while shooting a commercial for Contour Pillow, my then 7-year-old daughter reported to her father that there was a “man in your bed wearing your pajamas, Daddy”. Daddy responded, “I’m used to that with your mother.” Having a spouse who appreciates a professional career-oriented woman is imperative. And if he has a sense of humor, even better!

What do you think is the biggest issue for women in the workplace?
No matter how supportive a husband may be, I can certainly empathize with the many women who acknowledge that when a woman has a husband and children, she ends up as her last priority. Missed workouts, missed hair and nail appointments and a scarcity of down time to hang with girlfriends or read a book. It seems like being a good mother, a good wife and a good daughter all trump personal time. But if my years have taught me anything, it’s to take time for yourself. When you take care of you, you are a better mother, a better wife and a better daughter. Ask for help when needed. It’s not a sign of weakness, but of strength. It’s also delegation, which is an important managerial skill.

In my observation, the biggest issue in the workplace is that we aren’t trained to lead and take the necessary risks that enable us to rise to the top. Watch how women play cards. (My friend Ellen Leikind of Poker Divas pointed this out.) We don’t gamble even when we have all the cards. We don’t play like men, who boldly venture regardless of preparedness. We play it safe. No risk, no reward.

When it comes to dealing with male colleagues, we still focus on playing “nicely” with the boys, taking a supportive, helpful backseat role. Don’t offend or rock the boat. Sadly, we are often competitive “Mean Girls” when we interact with female colleagues.

With more women participating in sports and a generation of men raised by businesswomen, I see this business landscape changing, but we still have a long way to go to reach the top and I think mentorship could help pave the way to the summit.

How has mentorship made a difference in your professional and personal life?
I was never mentored by a business leader. Most female executives in the past were “dragon ladies”. The path to the top was not conducive to the responsibilities and obligations of a single mom. I was always willing to work long hours – just not the same hours required by most corporations. The typical compartmentalized corporate structure suffocated my creativity and the commute to NYC from the suburbs was the deathblow. Being an entrepreneur enabled me to concentrate on my creativity and enabled me to work with creatives of my choosing. I created my own path which I’m incredibly proud of. But it would’ve been nice to have someone guide me along the way or at least cheer me on.

What do you want Concepts to accomplish in the next year?
I have been blessed with a career that has taken me around the world. I have witnessed products that make life easier for everyone and generate income for hundreds, even thousands of people along the supply chain. I have seen our creative efforts realized internationally – turning on a TV in Bangkok and seeing a commercial we made in NJ. I still get a kick out of the “As Seen on TV” shelves in the stores and turning my little commercial creations into household names and advertising legends.

I’ve directed some of the greatest characters in ad history like Jack LaLanne, Billy Mays, Donald Trump and athletes like Joe Namath, Wayne Gretsky, John McEnroe, etc. My company has won countless awards. I have even experienced the incredible rush of seeing someone else’s dreams come true. In fact, it’s that thrill of watching inventors realize their American Dream that continues to motivate me. What happens when all your dreams come true? Make new ones!

This next year will be a banner year for Concepts as more mainstream companies embrace “brandmercials” and sell directly to the consumer. We are elevating our commercials to compete with mainstream ad agencies and succeeding in selling directly to the consumer in greater numbers, using more multichannel strategies. It is my goal and my mission to elevate the perception of the Direct Response industry. And I will do so by taking risks and, as always, learning from successes and failures.

23 Women Leaders, 64 Leadership Lessons Learned – “People Issues” Dominate:

Guest Blog by WPO Syracuse Chapter Chair, Anne Messenger, President, Messenger Associates, Inc.

“What 1-3 things do you wish you had known when you were a rising leader…say 30-40 years old?”

That simple question was the basis for a survey I did last week of 44 business and non-profit women leaders (Chairman of the Board, President, CEO, Executive Vice President, VP, Managing Partner, Partner, Shareholder, Director). Our company is in the middle of a training and development project for a big company – 3000 people across multiple states – and they’ve asked us for recommendations on leadership development. We have great minds working on this, but I was curious about these particular people’s thoughts.
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Results?
Total responses – 23/52%
Total lessons learned – 64

By far, people issues dominated the responses – hiring the right people, letting the wrong ones go, respecting/valuing them in any number of ways. Other themes emerged as well:

• Asking for help is a good thing to do.
• Taking care of oneself is important (health, taking time off, going easy on oneself).
• “Assuming the role” – being a leader demands a different kind of self-awareness.

Individual responses: They follow. I’m passing them all on to my 32-year-old daughter

  • Asking for help is a positive not a negative
  • Have the courage to say NO
  • Understand then be understood

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Recognition

One of the biggest things I learned is that you absolutely cannot underestimate the speed or effectiveness of an office grapevine. No matter what personnel or other issue you try to keep confidential, or you think is confidential, word will spread through the ranks like wildfire. Whenever you say something to one person, you should pretend that your words are being broadcast through the office and act accordingly! Always assume that there’s going to be a leak and gauge your communication accordingly. That’s a good way to stay out of trouble as a leader.

Also remember that once you are a leader, especially if you came up from within, your words take on much more weight than they had before. Before, you were making an off the cuff comment. Now, it’s a pronouncement.
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I wish I had a greater appreciation for the importance of networking

I wish my ability to ask questions were better, and that I understood that it is not a sign of weakness or ignorance.
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The importance of establishing Mentors for both professional and personal guidance. Involvement in peer groups that provide more direct support vs. a networking environment. With that said, it’s absolutely essential to participate in Business after hours networking functions however the addition of group participation such as the WPO is crucial to a person’s success.

The need for both a strong Financial person and legal advisor to put structure in place ahead of time.

Work/Life balance meaning developing a consistent practice to maintain a healthful mind and spirit in order to counter the daily work pressure/stress.

To surround yourself with people that can adapt and have the willingness to continually learn. High energy, high level of enthusiasm breeds a like environment. It’s where people want to be and creates a positive internal culture and helps support efforts when recruiting.

Believing in our gut instincts is crucial and understanding that typically those never steer us wrong.

Lastly, if someone is not working out consistently quick to fire…slow to hire.
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1. that I was, indeed, a rising leader….and to “assume the position”…embracing my role fully.
2. focus on only a few things and do it well, not letting people drag me into solving their issues…setting boundaries.
3. I would/should have hired a coach to work with me to develop optimal, results oriented work habits….for accountability purposes.
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Don’t trust everyone…not everyone has integrity.
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1. How to delegate
2. Importance of giving constructive criticism vs. just shrugging it off
3. Customer is not always right
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That time passes too quickly so savor every experience, every small joy, every lesson learned and every person you meet along the way.

Develop mentors to take with you through passages of your life, and then 30 years later become a mentor. It is never too early to think about how to pay it forward.

You can never say thank you enough.
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1. That failure could be good for me
2. That if at all possible one should get away ASAP from working for a bad boss, cut your losses and move on because it likely will not get better
3. How satisfying it can be to be in the background rather than up front.
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Looking back, I’d say that it would have been helpful for me to have had someone stressing the need for “continuous learning” in the soft skills and business development realms. Too often the technical learning stays at the forefront but those with the soft skills and business development/networking skills become our future leaders.
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1. document all employee interactions
2. you can not satisfy everyone-stand your ground and say NO
3. invest in people by training them properly in the front end and reap the reward later
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1. How to gracefully terminate an employee and then deal with the fallout of the actions within the organization.
2. How to bring more “fun” to the workplace.
3. How to manage employees who were 20 to 30 years older than me.
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FOR ME, THE IMPORTANCE OF HAVING A SPOUSE ON BOARD. SOUNDS OLD SCHOOL, DOESN’T IT? IT’S VERY DIFFICULT TAKING THAT NEXT STEP RE LEADERSHIP RESPONSIBILITY WITHOUT SIGNIFICANT SPOUSAL SUPPORT. A HALF GENERATION MAKES A BIG DIFFERENCE
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1. Don’t presume to know what someone is thinking or expecting – ASK
2. Similarly, don’t worry about seeming stupid – ASK questions to clarify or to better understand
3. The world generally does not end when you make a mistake
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1. It’s o.k. to let someone go that is not working out. I let folks stay too long and it only made it harder to let them go.
2. Sometimes you need to step on toes. I needed to hold others and myself accountable. Sometimes conversations are difficult, but need to happen, with a resolution, not just another conversation.
3. I got in to the business at age 18. Most of the employees were much older than me and my father’s hires. In my mid-thirties was when I realized (with confidence) that I was a capable leader and that my team looked to me for timely decisions, reassurance, coaching and security.
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1. Take care of myself – body, mind, spirit.
2. Hire the best people.
3. Learn something new every day.
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• To listen, and to learn more.
• To balance health and wellness with work, the healthier you are the more innovative you are.
• To take a month sabbatical every ten years to reflect and refocus.
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Talent Management:

• Clearly defined roles/objectives for employees and accountability to those roles
• Recognition for meeting expectations and preferred behaviors
• Better understanding of Emotional Intelligence and how to apply it to talent development
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I think the one thing that I would like to change is having more confidence in my ability to succeed in a male dominated business. I did not have a great deal of female role models and therefore, no one to really talk to regarding the challenges that I would face. Today is so different because there are so many women breaking the glass ceiling.

One other point, I did know that I didn’t want to get trapped in a job that my income would not match my abilities. I know this seems as if it is a contradiction, but it really is not.

That last point is keep me charging ahead even though it was very difficult at times.

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• That you should treat your staff/company like a ‘neighborhood’ – not a family
• That there is no such thing as work/life balance – but there is such a thing as a deliberate ‘family/personal’ life
• Always surround yourself with people that you aspire to be like, not with people who are currently at the same ‘place’ (you are professionally)
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1. The definition (and how to’s) of leadership: the ability to influence, motivate, empower others
2. The secret is to learn how they think – not expect them to think like us
3. The Five Hallmarks of leadership: Goal Setting, Communication, Trust, Accountability, Sincere
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Recognition
• Relationships trump skill. Being skilled is the threshold. The ability to rapidly build rapport and then develop enduring relationships is the differentiator.
• Everyone matters. Treat everyone at all levels of the organization with the same level of respect and courtesy. In reality, administrative assistants rule the world in any organization. They can make you look good, or very bad. They provide or deny access to people and resources. They are a good source of intelligence on what is really going on in the organization.
• The concept of work life balance is overrated. Maintaining work life balance creates stress and forces you to compartmentalize your life, which creates inefficiencies. If one looks at all life elements fitting into the flow of time, rather than in a fixed time period, somehow everything fits and life feels better.
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1. I cannot have it all, fully and completely, at the same time. Lesson: I shouldn’t feel bad when I may come short in one or two areas in my life.
2. Woman can be your best support system and they can also be your worst enemies in the professional world.
3. Sun Tzu’s The Art of War and Applied Behavior Analysis (psychological approach to treat people affected by autism and other behavior disorders) are keys to success in pretty much all areas in life (work, relationship, etc.)

About the Author:
Anne Messenger is a recognized career strategist and coach who has owned her own business for more than 17 years, helping people grow in their careers. Prior to founding Messenger Associates in 1997, Anne was a marketing executive at DBM, a world leader in career services. Before DBM, she managed outplacement centers for Lockheed Martin and headed a career development design team for 2200 employees in the company’s Syracuse division. Previously, she was Executive Director of the Syracuse-Onondaga County Private Industry Council (PIC), an oversight body for federal job training programs. Follow Anne on twitter: @AnneMessenger

This post originally appeared on Messenger Associates blog on November 10, 2014.