The Wharton Women Annual Dinner includes a career fair, dinner and keynote speech, giving students ample opportunity to explore professional opportunities and network—which have become all the more relevant to me as a junior.
In the dinner portion, each company that attends the career fair sits at a table with students divided by interest. For example, I was placed with Macy’s as I had indicated retail as my professional interest. Unfortunately, two of the three recruiters were unable to attend last minute due to illness, so our table was a bit overwhelmed with students unlike some of the others. But as all of us students were interested in retail and the apparel industry, it sparked some interesting conversation. We shared our thoughts on retail at Wharton and our aspirations in the industry. Though the last recruiter ended up leaving before the keynote, I was able to get a better understanding of the Macy’s internship program and hiring practices at Penn.
The keynote, Michelle Peluso, W’93, CEO of Gilt, started her speech by saying how inspired she was by this event attended by such young, future leaders. She made me step back and think about just how blessed I am to have not only the wonderful resources of Wharton but also to have the unprecedented opportunities women have today.
She went on to list the five things about leadership she has learned during her career that she wants us to know:
1. Nobody makes it to the top alone.
2. Surround yourself with people with different perspectives who challenge and criticize you—rather than the natural tendency to surround yourself with people who agree with you.
3. Be focused and consistent.
4. The hard times count the most.
5. You can’t be all things to all people. It’s all about grace.
She also provided her perspective on dealing with the challenges of simultaneous roles as mother and CEO. There are days when you are up all night making crafts for your daughter’s class and thinking that you can’t do it all, she said, but you don’t need to sacrifice career for family or vice versa. It’s a matter of being clear and honest in your intentions. Peluso juggles both worlds by setting up a schedule where she is out of the office by 5 p.m. to eat dinner with her family, but works from home for several hours each night after dinner.
Peluso shows that being a successful businesswoman and mother are not mutually exclusive. Like everything in life, there are tradeoffs—but people like her are paving the way to show us that, unlike in the past, we don’t have to prioritize family over career or vice versa. This is a new generation.