Chicago Booth Women’s Network Hosts 2018 Fall Exchange in Nine U.S. Cities

by Amrita Khanna (Dixit), Class of 2019

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On Thursday, Nov. 7 the Chicago Booth Women’s Network and Alumni Club of Chicago hosted the annual Fall Exchange at the WeWork Grant Park office. The 2018 Fall Exchange, which took place across 9 U.S. cities with over 125 attendees from graduating classes 1977 to 2020, explored how women can develop political savvy and personal strategy in the workplace. Across the country from Los Angeles to New York City, Chicago Booth alumni and current students gathered for an evening of networking, panel discussions, and Q&A.

Darcey O’Halloran (‘16), a member of the Chicago Booth Women's Network Board of Directors, explained, “We started the Fall Exchange series of events as a way to bring alumna together to discuss and engage in topics and issues relevant to women in business. The goal is to provide an opportunity for women across generations of classes to learn from each other and continue to foster a strong community of female alumna.”

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In Chicago, the event was planned by alumna volunteer hosts Kate Khazin ('12) and Heather Johnston ('12) in coordination with City Ambassador Victoria Gustafson ('01). The the panel was moderated by Jessica Iverson (’12), a PR & Strategic Communications Consultant, who seamlessly guided the below panelists towards meaningful conversation topics pertinent to each of their personal backgrounds.

  • Pamela Schilling (’00): CEO of Arch Career Partners, and a former consultant in Organization and Strategy

  • Elaine Armstrong (’05): Senior Professional Services Consultant for the Chicago Booth Alumni Club of Chicago, with past experience in organizational effectiveness as Director at Blue Cross Blue Shield and PwC

  • Alexis Sermeno (’06): Head of Talent Management & Organizational Development (Americas) at Abbott, with former experience working on organizational effectiveness and performance improvements at large brands such as McDonald’s, Pizza Hut, Aramark, and GE

  • Joanne Dahm (’90): President, Talent, Rewards & Performance at AON whose background has focused on compensation, sales effectiveness, talent solutions, and consulting

The panel discussion formally kicked off with introductions and an explanation of the topic – speaking generally, one panelist noted, women tend to expect reward from competently accomplishing their work and thus view political savviness negatively, while men incorporate political savviness into their day-to-day work. A theme that emerged as the panelists discussed the nuances of navigating politics at work was one of forming a deep understanding of how to fit into the broader goals of the team. Whether that meant sitting next to a Partner at dinner to discuss the main issues facing the team or observing what key aspects of coworkers tended to be rewarded by leadership, the panelists agreed that building this group-oriented mentality allowed them to function smoothly with their teams while still achieving their own personal successes.

The equivalent Fall Exchange event in New York City took place on Thurs Oct. 25 and was organized by Booth alumna Leena Sukumar (‘08). “This was the first event I had organized as NYC City Ambassador,” said Leena, “and I was lucky to find some great women alumnae who had amazing leadership experience and each brought something unique to the table. A comprehensive list of issues were addressed and one key advice to every woman in the workforce, whether new or mid-career, could use was, 'Find sponsors who will understand and support you, not just internal but also external. This will go a long way in paving your career path.” The New York City event featured panelists Sheila Hooda '88 - CEO, President and Founder of Alpha Advisory Partners, Paula Zirinsky '79 - Global Chief Marketing Officer, K2 Intelligence, Deborah Chatman '81 - Fellow, JPMorgan Chase & Co. Private Bank's Endowments & Foundations Group, Sheila Narayanan '92 - President, Vulcan Consultants.

To stay connected with the alumna community, “upon graduation,” noted O’Halloran, “women can update their alumni directory preferences to ensure they opt into receiving the monthly Chicago Booth Women’s Network newsletter where we feature upcoming events, spotlight the accomplishments of our alumna, and provide interesting articles and updates. Women can also engage with CBWN via Facebook.” If you are interested in joining the team as Chicago’s City Ambassador, please reach out to O’Halloran directly -- the role is open to alumni or those graduating this December.

Take a look below for a helpful resource to further develop workplace political savviness, shared by the Chicago panelists!

Political Skills at Work:

a quiz developed by Jeffrey Pfeffer, Professor of Organizational Behavior at Stanford’s Graduate School of Business

On a 7-point scale, where 1=strongly disagree, 2=disagree, 3=slightly disagree; 4=neutral (neither agree nor disagree); 5=slightly agree; 6=agree; and 7=strongly agree, answer the following questions of Political Skill at Work):

  1. I spend a lot of time and effort at work networking with others ___

  2. I am able to make most people feel comfortable and at ease around me___

  3. I am able to communicate easily and effectively with others___

  4. It is easy for me to develop good rapport with most people___

  5. I understand people very well ___

  6. I am good at building relationships with influential people at work___

  7. I am particularly good at sensing the motivations and hidden agendas of others___

  8. When communicating with others, I try to be genuine in what I say and do___

  9. I have developed a large network of colleagues and associates at work who I can call on for support when I really need to get things done___

  10. At work, I know a lot of important people and am well-connected___

  11. I spend a lot of time at work developing connections with others___

  12. I am good at getting people to like me___

  13. It is important that people believe I am sincere in what I say and do___

  14. I try to show a genuine interest in other people___

  15. I am good at using my connections and network to make things happen at work___

  16. I have good intuition and am savvy about how to present myself to others___

  17. I always seem to instinctively know the right things to say or do to influence others___

  18. I pay close attention to people's facial expressions___

Add up your score (the numbers you wrote after each question) and divide by 18. You will have a score between 1 and 7. Higher scores mean you have more political skill, lower scores mean you have less. You should be above 4—and possibly well above 4—if you have aspirations to reach great heights of power.

Questions 5, 7, 16, 17, and 18 measure social astuteness;
Questions 2, 3, 4, and 12 measure interpersonal influence;
Questions 8, 13, and 14 assess your apparent sincerity;
Questions 1, 6, 9, 10, 11, and 15 measure your networking ability.