On Thursday, July 26, I was fortunate to attend Pittsburgh Magazine’s Women and Business quarterly event. It was a warm, sunny evening with an even warmer welcome from the staff of Pittsburgh Magazine and all of the influential leaders in attendance. The first part of the event was prime networking on the terrace of Highmark Stadium with a beautiful view of the Pittsburgh skyline.
Having worked in public relations and fundraising in the nonprofit sector for the past eight years, prior to enrolling full-time in Chatham’s graduate program, I had been the representative from my organizations to attend networking events. Networking gets a bad rap and many people say they hate it, but for me, it’s exciting, and very worthwhile. The past two positions I held, came from networking through professional organizations, and community and volunteering events. Some of my friends think it is very strange or awkward to approach a stranger, but that’s what these events are for and I look forward to meeting new people. While I was just walking up and introducing myself to people, I met many leaders in the business world in a variety of fields, vice presidents in higher education institutions, government leaders, all of whom were interested in learning about me and my studies as much I was interested in hearing about their work. I even met one of the board of directors for Chatham University!
After the first part of networking, the event began with Pittsburgh Magazine highlighting their nonprofit of the month- The Pittsburgh Women’s Center and Shelter, who spoke about their new app to help educate on the dangers of domestic violence and as a way to get people the help they need. Next, four women receiving awards for their outstanding achievements in their work and for being leaders in the Pittsburgh region: Paul Frauen, Director of Business Process & Controls at EQT Corporation; Erin Hart, Founder of Farm to Table Western PA and Director of Health Benefit Services at American Healthcare Group; Rachel German, Owner of Mathnasium of Cranberry Township, Murrysville, and McCandless, and Leigh Solomon Pugliano, Director of Opportunity at New Sun Rising, and Founder of Barrels to Beethoven.
The night’s keynote speaker was Jennifer Liptak, Chief of Staff for Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald, and the first woman to serve in this position. By coincidence, I ended up sitting in the second row beside Jennifer’s mom and younger sister. She told me the best advice she received from her parents growing up, “Work hard and don’t brag. People will take notice of your hard work and you’ll get where you want to go.” Jennifer, a life-long resident of Pittsburgh, in different neighborhoods, told of how her commitment to public service and work ethic, along with making connections along the way, and always being willing to learn more, helped her rise in her career in local government. Her leadership was evident as she talked about her team. She said, “I work with people, we’re on a team. I don’t go around saying I’m the boss and they work for me- no, they work with me, we work together.” Jennifer encouraged others to make sure they find a boss/leader with whom they have a shared vision, and shared values. She inspired the room, which ended in a standing ovation for her, as she honestly talked about the challenges women face, about her own successes, and the importance of helping others and building community. I introduced myself to Jennifer after her speech to thank her for sharing her story and her advice and discovered that she is on the board for Chatham’s Center for Women in Politics. As I hope to learn more about cross-sector partnerships and how to navigate government, I hope to attend events by the Center for Women in Politics, to meet more of the leaders doing important work in our region.
Thanks to Sherrie Dunlap-Gallagher, a MBA/ Masters of Sustainability candidate at Chatham University, for this article!