By Caryn Sullivan | St. Paul Pioneer Press | TeamWomen Member and Guest Columnist

This piece originally appeared in the St. Paul Pioneer Press on February 3, 2019.

The words “don’t bother” or “you won’t make it” don’t resonate with Miki Huntington. In fact, when told not to bother, her instinct is always to push back, for if one doesn’t try or ask, one will never know. Huntington has done so more than once in her lifetime with impressive results.

Take high school. Her family was poor. There was no money for college, or even applications. Huntington could apply to only one school and she’d set her sights on UCLA. But her school counselor told her not to bother applying. Take a look at junior colleges, she said.

Huntington’s response reflected her innate confidence and tenacity. She ignored the counselor, applied to UCLA and was accepted, as was her twin sister.

Though they worked several jobs, the girls needed another way to make it work. Taking different paths, both sisters ended up in the ROTC program, which is where Huntington pushed back once again.

She wanted to fly helicopters. But when she mentioned her interest to her ROTC instructor, he discouraged her from pursuing the idea. She’d never be accepted, he said, so she shouldn’t bother to apply.

Huntington ignored his advice and was not only accepted, but ultimately became a lieutenant colonel and flew Black Hawk and Huey helicopters.

She was offered a position in the Bush White House working for Vice President Dick Cheney. Huntington never imagined she would work in the White House. For a girl who was counseled to go to junior college, the experience was surreal.

But she’s skilled at making choices that lead to opportunities and tuning out naysayers who don’t share her confidence or vision of where her life might go.

She operates under the 80 percent rule: There will never be perfect timing. If you’re 80 percent ready to do something, go for it.

Huntington has led a rather unusual life for a Minnesota resident. English is her second language. Born to a Japanese mother and a black American father, she spent the first 10 years of her life in Japan.

She learned how to be resourceful and resilient from her mother. After her divorce, her mother moved her twin daughters to the United States, became a citizen and enrolled in community college. Taking one course at a time, she learned English and ultimately earned a degree at age 73.

To her daughters, she demonstrated the value of being a lifelong learner and inspired them to follow suit.

Huntington continued her education in the Army, honing her expertise with the Japanese language and obtaining a master’s degree in international studies. Her sister retired from the Air Force as a full colonel and went on to study in New York.

Though she was honored to have the opportunity to serve, Huntington didn’t plan for a career in the military. Rather, she’d anticipated she would fulfill her commitment, then move on when the time was right.

It was the people to her left and right who kept her in the military for so long, she says. Though she didn’t always feel like she fit in, she experienced no sense of discrimination based on her race or gender, she said. The helicopters she flew didn’t know if she was male, female, black or white.

It was 25 years, three countries, and multiple deployments before the time was right. In 2011, Huntington retired from the Army and moved to Excelsior with her husband, a Minnesota native she met in South Korea.

Several weeks after she retired in her 40s, she finally embarked on the career she’d dreamed of since she was in fourth grade.

These days, Miki, as she prefers to be called, can be found at Minneapolis Community and Technical College by day and Metro State University one night per week.

In the classroom and online, she’s drawing upon both her military and personal life experiences to engage students in thoughtful, respectful discussions about American government, political science, and world politics, as well as educational philosophy and planning.

By sharing some of her experiences, views, and perspective, she encourages her students to feel more comfortable sharing their own.

She chooses her words carefully as she facilitates potentially contentious discussions about current issues with students ranging in age from 16 to 72 and whose political views run the gamut.

She finds that students are more respectful and less combative in the classroom than online. Instead of asking students what they think about hot-button issues, she asks them to explain why they hold certain beliefs and how they came to them.

She’s never forgotten the conversations with adults who didn’t share her confidence in her ability to make things happen for herself. Those experiences inform the way she approaches her role in the classroom.

While the folks who dissuaded her had no malicious intent, their words stayed with her. Whether as teachers, mentors, parents, or superiors in the workplace, we need to be mindful of how we communicate, she says.

“Things that adults say have such an impact on young people. It’s so important to remember that.”

“That’s really the better way. There are so many negative things that we, without thinking, can say to our younger people without realizing the long-term impact,” she says. “I’m 50 years old now and I’m still thinking about that high school counselor.”

Miki Huntington will speak on April 26 at TeamWomen’s 8th Annual Women’s Leadership Conference, a full-day event that features inspiring, hopeful stories from powerful female leaders around the Twin Cities. If you’d like to attend or get more information, click here.

By Caryn Sullivan | St. Paul Pioneer Press | TeamWomen Member and Guest Columnist

This piece originally appeared in the St. Paul Pioneer Press on January 20, 2019.

Have you discovered your life’s purpose? Gloria Perez found hers early in life.

Perez spent 10 years in a two-parent family committed to faith, education, and the community. Then her father died of cancer. As a young girl, she witnessed the struggles of a single mother who knew nothing about the family finances or even whether she owned their home.

Refusing to be a victim, her mother became the family advocate. She boldly asked questions, accessed resources, pursued a college degree, and made a good life for herself and her three daughters.

It was Perez’s first — and enduring — lesson in resiliency and empowerment, one she drew upon when she arrived in Minnesota with a commitment to help families like her own.

For the past 20 years Perez has served as the president and CEO of Jeremiah Program, a Minnesota-based nonprofit with a mission to end the cycle of poverty through a dual-track commitment to single mothers and children.

With the family as the hub of a five-spoke wheel, Jeremiah Program ensures mothers and children have access to housing, career-track and early childhood education, and life skills training, all within a supportive community. During Perez’s tenure the program has helped more than 400 families in Minnesota and around the U.S.

Perez never envisioned working with young children. Yet, at Jeremiah Program, in its infancy upon her arrival, she found an opportunity to help mothers and children with whom she could relate. How different might life have been had such a program been available to her mother, she wondered.

In the past 10 years Jeremiah Program has grown by sharing its message and responding to invitations to develop programs in communities that share its mission and will develop the infrastructure to manage it. While it’s operating in geographically diverse communities, Jeremiah Program is spearheading a two-generation model that’s gaining traction nationally as a strategy for addressing poverty.

The women of Jeremiah share common experiences before they arrive. They — and their children — have often witnessed or experienced violence. They feel isolated, cautious, and afraid. That others will invest in them or their future is a foreign and often shocking concept.

With the support of Jeremiah staff and more than a thousand volunteers, they discover that others believe in their worth. They embrace opportunities made possible by the help of many.

They also find kindred spirits in a supportive community in which others appreciate and share their struggles and a desire to rise above them.

They learn about a birthright — that everyone is important, lovable, and valuable, and no one can take that away from them.

While they may struggle to push through obstacles for themselves, they are motivated to do so for their children.

They attend college, enter the workforce, and create stable homes that operate above poverty level. Many become ambassadors for Jeremiah, for the culture encourages paying it forward and giving back.

For Perez it’s gratifying to watch women rise above their insecurities, recognize they have a choice, and shape a different kind of future for themselves and their children.

As she will speak at a TeamWomen luncheon on Wednesday, Perez shares her philosophy about mentoring with Jeremiah mothers. Its value, she says, lies in the accountability an objective partner can offer. A mentor can help the mentee to walk through fear, engage in reflection, and accelerate goals.

Perez prides herself on establishing a bridge between donors and beneficiaries by offering insight and perspective. She helps the women to shift their belief system, explaining that their lot in life isn’t attributed to worth or luck and that, with support and effort, it can change.

Confidence and clarity came early to Perez. When she was 4 years old she survived a serious car accident. Her family deemed it a miracle and convinced her she was spared for a reason.

“I feel like my life’s purpose has been clear to me from a young age,” she told me recently, “because my parents would say to me, ‘you shouldn’t have survived that car accident. You’re a miracle.’”

“When people tell you that, you internalize it, whether it’s true or not,” she said. “You feel that way — like God didn’t take me because I have a purpose.”

The charismatic leader will step away from Jeremiah Program later this year when her successor is on board. With an ambitious new strategic plan in place the timing felt right.

She plans to pause, reflect, and evaluate opportunities so her next gig is the right gig, not one she accepts out of fear, obligation, or whim.

She’ll embark on a wisdom tour, visiting with people she admires in a variety of fields to discover what they’ve learned on their journeys.

Jeremiah Program has allowed Perez to be a good role model for children and to create opportunities for women who wouldn’t otherwise have them. It’s been the work she felt destined to perform.

While she doesn’t know what is in store for her she’s resolved to patiently await the next calling and to position herself so she can confidently say, “Now that’s my new life’s purpose.”

***

Caryn Sullivan inspires others to find the “better” way in and out of life’s experiences through her columns in the St. Paul Pioneer Press, her award-winning memoir, Bitter or Better: Grappling With Life on the Op-Ed Page, and her inspirational keynotes. To read more of her work, purchase a signed copy of Bitter or Better, or engage her as a speaker, visit carynmsullivan.com.

By Martha Grant | TeamWomen Member | Product Manager at The Action Network

We all know that our networks are crucial for our success. They connect us to new jobs, new opportunities and can help us learn and grow. But when it comes to building a network, it can sound like hard, unpleasant work. Especially if, like me, a quiet evening with a hot cup of tea and a good book sounds like hygge-ful heaven!

But building a stellar network doesn’t have to be hard or work. It can actually be downright fun. Here are some tips for how to create a thriving network that furthers your success, and helps you enjoy (nearly) every minute of it.

1. Be You

One of the things people hate most about networking is the feeling that they have to put on a mask and pretend to be that perfectly put together woman. Good news: you don’t! The most successful networkers embrace who they are, and are open about what they are working on and how they are looking to improve. Being vulnerable, and sharing who you really are, also builds deeper connections faster — meaning more people will want to help you succeed.

Of course, learning to embrace who you are is a task in itself. One of my favorite reads on this topic is Gretchen Rubin’s The Happiness Project.

2. Everyone Wants to Talk to You

Picture this: you show up at a networking event and don’t know anyone. You have flashbacks to middle school dances and that awkward wedding you went to in your 20s. But instead of running away, you realize that you are at a networking event, and everyone here actually wants to talk to you. Are you early in your career? Folks love helping people who are just getting started. Do you have experience in a specific field? Chances are someone is interested in your expertise. Worst case scenario: you meet some new people and learn something new. Not so bad, right?

3. Give More

Who makes the best networker and builds the strongest networks? Givers. The more you give, the more people want to help you succeed. Stay on the lookout for how you can help others, and your network will grow by leaps and bounds! Do you have a connection that would be helpful, or some expertise you can volunteer? Put yourself out there!

For more on how and why you should give (while also not sapping all your energy), read Give & Take by Adam Grant.

With TeamWomen behind you, 2019 will be a great success. Happy networking!

Join us for Speed Networking with NAWBO on January 17th, and our Energy Breakfast on February 12th. As always, if you like this post, please share!

Last week, we hosted Lisa Huey of Merrill Lynch, Attorney Tammy Block and Brandi Warmbier of State Farm to discuss the ins and outs of planning for loss and abundance. Fewer than 20% of women feel adequately prepared to make important life decisions. The 49 women in the room, however, learned how to plan their lives so they can feel confident no matter what’s thrown their way.

The panel was expertly moderated by Katie Brady, Senior National Operations Manager of Life Time Fitness Inc. Her questions ranged from the straightforward — such as who needs a financial planner — to the complex — such as how important it is to have a plan, and how often you should evaluate it.

Our favorite takeaway: A little preparation goes a long way and can save you a headache down the road. 

See you next time!

By Martha Grant | TeamWomen Member | Product Manager at The Action Network

Gloria Perez knows what women are capable of — she runs Jeremiah Program, a national nonprofit working with young single mothers to help them improve their lives and those of their children. She is changing the world two generations at a time.

As a new mom myself, I am in awe of what the women who have gone through Jeremiah have accomplished.

So, what’s the secret to the program? Thankfully, Gloria Perez is happy to share!

How do you approach the work of transforming these young women’s lives?

Jeremiah Program believes that change occurs from the inside out. And for single moms, with the stability of housing and the support to look within, the desired transformation from poverty to prosperity can happen. Jeremiah Program partners with women who are willing to invest in themselves and the future of their children.

What’s the most important lesson any woman could take away from your approach at Jeremiah?

There are so many important lessons in the Jeremiah approach, but first and foremost is the tenant that all people have a birthright — we are all important, lovable and valuable. When we connect to our core value, anything is possible.

How can we be better role models to younger women?

I think we can be better role models to women by showing our vulnerability and resiliency in the face of change. The world is becoming increasingly complex, and the skills, capabilities and tools needed for the future may not be known to those of us that have more seasoned careers. That said, if we can role-model vulnerability, curiosity, a willingness to learn and be flexible, that should give younger women the confidence to be their best without the fear of failure.

Join us to hear more from Gloria Perez when she speaks at our Power Luncheon on January 23rd. Tickets are available here. As always, if you like this post, please share!

We’re honored to highlight Baker Tilly as this month’s sponsor spotlight! With more than 2,800 talented and passionate individuals strong, Baker Tilly is a top 15 full-service accounting and advisory firm with specialized professionals who connect with you and your business through refreshing candor and clear industry insight.

What drew you to sponsoring TeamWomen?

TeamWomen’s focus on providing career development and leadership opportunities for women aligns with Baker Tilly’s values. We were drawn to TeamWomen because it not only gives women a place to meet and network, but also provides training and professional development events that teach women the skills they need for the professional world. TeamWomen truly lives out their mission, supporting women to rise up together. It is a positive and welcoming organization with down-to-earth members who genuinely care about each other’s development.

How do you create a culture of prosperity and inclusion in your company?

Baker Tilly is passionate about our employees’ personal and professional development and is committed to creating an environment where every person can succeed. Achieving our vision relies on the cultivation of a diverse, engaging and inclusive environment in which exceptional people thrive. We have a group called GROW (Growth and Retention Of Women) that is made up of women leaders and acts as an advocate for the women of the firm. GROW is specifically designed to enhance the recruitment, retention, development and advancement of women by providing internal and external opportunities to network, share information, acquire skills and form rewarding professional relationships. The SOAR (Supporting Opportunity, Advancement and Recognition for all) program is another way we focus on our people. SOAR encourages and supports the evolution of a diverse, inclusive workforce with opportunity for all members to maximize their potential, create value and deliver our promise of exceptional client service with focuses on race, ethnicity and LGBT groups.

What are three things (serious or fun) that separate you from other companies within your industry?

Our company culture sets us apart. Starting at upper-level management and the partners, there is an open and welcoming environment in our offices. Everyone wants each other to succeed and is willing to go the extra mile to help a coworker. We strive to provide exceptional service and insights to our clients each and every day to assist their business. It isn’t competitive or cut-throat, but a fun place where people enjoy their coworkers and work together as a team.

As part of our culture, we want to make sure our employees have the chance to meet people outside their teams and create non-work related friendships. We have socials, potlucks, games and other activities throughout the year that give our employees an opportunity to meet and socialize and also relieve some stress.

As part of Baker Tilly’s commitment to community, each year the firm hosts Stewardship Day. Stewardship Day is an entire workday dedicated to community service, giving and education. Firm offices from across the country volunteer at a variety of organizations that represent causes close to Baker Tilly team members and their communities. Since Stewardship Day’s inception in 2016, Baker Tilly team members across 32 cities have collectively given more than 21,000 hours of services, volunteering at more than 80 not-for-profit organizations.

What are some of the big things happening for your company in 2019?

At the beginning of December, Baker Tilly went through a complete rebrand. This included everything from the logo to the colors and everything in between. We are very excited to share our new look!

Following the enactment of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 (TCJA), Baker Tilly has been in full swing educating and informing our clients of new tax laws and changes. This affects all industries and individuals and has a wide impact. Another big change we are working hard educating and informing our clients on is ASC 606, a new revenue recognition standard. This new accounting standard may impact their top line revenue reported.

Baker Tilly has had recent growth with two mergers at the end of 2018 — RGL Forensics (a multidisciplinary forensic accounting and consulting practice) headquartered in Denver, and the MRZ accounting firm, headquartered in Houston. We are excited to welcome them to our firm! Baker Tilly puts a large focus on growth, not only for our firm, but also for our people.

What is the favorite food leftover in your office?

Everyone loves pizza! Any time someone brings leftover pizza to the Baker Tilly Cafe, it normally only lasts a couple of minutes before word gets out and a crowd has formed in the cafe. Birthday cake is another big contender. Every month, to celebrate our employees’ birthdays, we serve cake in the office.

How do you connect with your alumni?

We believe staying connected to our alumni is really important. Every year we host an alumni networking social for past and present Baker Tilly employees. We update our alumni on big events and changes that happened that year for Baker Tilly and reconnect with past colleagues. It is one of the most anticipated events of the year!

What is the favorite busy season activity in your office?

Busy season (the period between January and April when accountants are super busy) can be a stressful time for our employees so we try to incorporate fun activities during this time. One of the most popular is bingo — every hour a new number gets emailed out to the office until someone wins bingo. It is a great way to add a little fun and excitement throughout a long day.

To learn more about Baker Tilly and their services, click here.

By Caryn Sullivan | St. Paul Pioneer Press | TeamWomen Member and Guest Columnist

This piece originally appeared in the St. Paul Pioneer Press on December 9, 2018.

Word came by phone, delivered by a stranger I never did meet. Nine years ago, my husband, the father of four, died in a hospital emergency room after efforts to coax his heart back into service fell short.

In an instant I joined the club to which no woman wants to belong, though roughly 11 million do.

I spent months in a state of overwhelm, despite the rallying of family and friends.

When others returned to their lives I was left with wilting flowers, unsettling quiet, and the recognition that what were once shared responsibilities were now exclusively mine.

I recall sitting at my dining room table, mind and body numb from shock and exhaustion, staring at the stacks of paper. Blessedly, my sister-in-law Therese provided the structure and clarity that eluded me.

“We’re going to make a file folder for each document,” she said, gently guiding me through a process that would be manageable in normal times but was overwhelming weeks after we lost her brother.

With the additional help of a financial planner and an estate planning attorney, I spent months securing funds and benefits to support my teenage children and myself, tracking down passwords, executing a new will and trust – and more.

Several years later I met Christopher Bentley through a mutual friend who had encouraged him to read my memoir, Bitter or Better: Grappling with Life on the Op-Ed Page.

A Certified Financial Planner™ who has worked with many widows, my account of what I experienced as a relatively young widow offered Bentley a new perspective on what his widowed clients go through.

When a colleague died, Bentley gained further insight by helping David Laurion’s widow get her affairs in order.

As he worked with Liane Laurion, Bentley recognized widows need help with large and small tasks – securing life insurance benefits and turning off the water to outdoor spigots – because couples divide responsibilities and we don’t always have the knowledge or wherewithal to tackle alone what was once a dual effort.

With Bentley’s guidance, Laurion noticed she was making traction more quickly than some of the women she met in a GriefShare program, many of whom were widowed before her.

Bentley learned that, at their most vulnerable time, many widows rely on women they meet in support groups for help with financial issues. Their husbands may have handled the financial affairs so they may be uninformed. They may not have a financial planner or may distrust the one they have. They may not want to rely upon other family members for help.

Bentley’s research yielded an interesting discovery. While there were many books, there was no organization that provided widows with timely financial and legal guidance at no cost.

Recognizing the need, he offered to address it with some of Laurion’s new friends at no charge. Their gratitude a motivator, Bentley felt a calling to do more.

He credits his faith and Mark Batterson’s book, Chase the Lion: If Your Dream Doesn’t Scare You It’s Too Small, with inspiring him to create Wings for Widows.

For the past year Bentley, with Laurion’s help, has been constructing the framework and assembling a team to launch a nonprofit that offers financial and legal counseling to widows at no cost.

Wings for Widows operates with “angel teams” comprised of a Certified Financial Planner™ and a woman who has been widowed for some time.

Their work begins with a comprehensive assessment.

Following a well-honed process meant to ensure benefits are fully secured and obligations are satisfactorily met, the financial planner will help the new widow to get a firm grasp on her financial and legal concerns.

The other team member, a widow like Laurion, assumes care manager duties, providing encouragement, support, and resources.

They identify and secure available benefits.

They identify tasks such as transferring title to the husband’s car, the deed to the couple’s home, contacting credit card companies, and filing tax returns.

The review culminates in a plan of action – a roadmap – designed to organize, prioritize, and stabilize the widow’s situation.

If the widow has a financial planner, she can take the action plan to him or her to be implemented. If she doesn’t, Wings for Widows can make referrals.

The system is designed to ensure there is no conflict of interest for the financial planners. This is a nonprofit, not a marketing plan.

Though I’m no longer a widow, I well recall the panoply of emotions that accompany the initial shock, the flurry of activity in the immediate aftermath, and the realization that this is the new normal.

I’m mindful that not every widow has the support I was blessed to enjoy.

Wings for Widows offers a gentle hand, extended by both a financial professional and a kindred spirit, that will ensure new widows don’t face a dark and taxing time of life alone.

With plans to grow Wings for Widows far beyond Minnesota, Bentley has indeed embraced a very big dream.

As a board member, I’m honored to help him bring it to fruition, to help other women navigate their unimaginable moments with the support of one who has walked in her shoes and another who has the expertise to ensure she is as financially sound as she can be.

Who do you know who might need the help of Wings for Widows? Who do you know who might want to become involved with Wings for Widows? Please reach out: http://www.wingsforwidows.us/contact.

Caryn is one of The Global Resilience Project‘s 50 thrivers for a reason. As an inspirational speaker, award-winning columnist, author of the award-winning memoir, Bitter or Better, and attorney, Caryn offers a roadmap to a life well-lived. For more lessons, visit her blog.

By Angela Lurie | Senior Regional Vice President, Robert Half

As women, we must make a number of difficult but critical decisions that will impact not only our futures, but those of the people around us. Do we want to move to another city, or perhaps another country? Do we need to consider staying close to home to care for aging parents? Do we want to switch gears to pursue a completely unfamiliar career path? Do we want to get married and start a family? How much time do we want to dedicate to our hobbies and community involvement? Should we save for a down payment on a house, put money away for retirement, or go on that bucket list vacation we’ve always dreamed about? It can be overwhelming to think about all the decisions we’ll make over the course of our life and career, but knowing where we’re going can help direct us along the way.

One useful tool to help take control of the path you decide to pursue is a Career Development Plan. This “roadmap” can help you establish your professional goals and measure growth and success. Taking the time to decide what you want out of your professional life puts you in the driver’s seat and gives you a guide by which you can make important decisions as they arise.

Here are five steps you can use as a compass to set your Career Development Plan on a solid path:

  1. Determine what a successful career looks like to you. Success means different things to different people. What do you want your resume to say in 10, 15, or even 20 years? What position do you aspire to? How do you want to feel about your career by the time you retire? Envision what your ideal scenario would be, and write it down. (Robert Half’s salary guides can help you consider opportunities for better financial security and stability in your field.)
  2. Set up “checkpoints,” or goals to reach along the way. Thinking only about your long-term goals can be overwhelming and can keep you from making the progress you need toward the end goal. Consider what short-term goals can get you on the right path. The new year can be a great opportunity to kick-start this process.
  3. Consider what barriers might interfere with your success. What skills do you need to build to get to where you want to go? Do you want to improve your active listening or written communication skills? Do you struggle with imposter syndrome or doubting your achievements? Surround yourself with supportive peers who understand your goals and will help you unlearn unhealthy notions about what you can (or cannot) accomplish. If you’re not sure what obstacles could stand in your way, consult with a trusted mentor.
  4. Plan how to attain the skills and experience you will need to get to your end goal. Once you’ve determined what skills you’ll need to develop en route to your end goal, look into opportunities to cultivate those skills. Research training programs, and ask your manager for responsibilities that provide the experience you need.
  5. Hold yourself accountable, but allow for flexibility. Creating a career plan is only the first step toward professional success. Follow-through is key to getting there. Assign dates to your check-in goals, and set aside time on those days to reassess where you are and where you want to be. Don’t be afraid to change course if your priorities shift or you’re feeling stuck. Life happens, and what you think you want now might change. Taking regular stock of what you want out of your career can help keep you focused, and in turn, help you make tough decisions in a way that aligns with what’s most important to you.

To hear advice on planning for major life events that could impact your career, check out TeamWomen’s event on January 10: “Planning for Loss & Abundance.”

Angela Lurie is a Minneapolis-based senior regional vice president at Robert Half, the world’s first and largest specialized staffing firm. For more information, visit http://www.roberthalf.com.

We’re honored to highlight Bank of America as this month’s sponsor spotlight! Lindsey Farrell Stampone, Senior Vice President and Market Executive for the Minnesota market, sheds light on how the company invests in women and supports the community around them. She is responsible for leading Relationship Managers in Minnesota and the Dakotas markets to deliver the full breadth of banking solutions to companies under $50 million.

What is considered the best day of the year at your company?

It’s hard to choose one, but my favorite days are tied to the community. November 28, 2018 was a pretty spectacular day as Bank of America pledged $1 million to support the Minneapolis Parks Foundation’s RiverFirst campaign. This initiative will develop riverfront parks and trails on both sides of the Mississippi River from downtown Minneapolis to the northern city limits. My other favorite days are Habitat Global Build, a week-long initiative to build affordable housing and engage in other community projects around the world, as well as celebrating our annual Neighborhood Builders awardee. Habitat Global Build week is a testament to the dedication of our volunteers who roll up their sleeves alongside working families and community partners to create secure, affordable housing for those in need in the Twin Cities. Each Neighborhood Builder awardee receives $200,000 in flexible funding, leadership development for an executive director and an emerging leader at the organization, and the opportunity to connect to a network of peer organizations and access capital.

What experiences within Bank of America do you provide specifically for women?

LEAD (Leadership, Education, Advocacy, and Development) for Women is our largest employee network with more than 26,000 members. LEAD is dedicated to promoting professional women’s development to help grow, attract, and retain successful women throughout Bank of America. We provide women with leadership, development, and career broadening opportunities and tools through a variety of means including information and education, advocacy, and networking.

Power of 10 at Bank of America is a grassroots effort where groups of 10 women in any line of business, cohort, or region can get together to discuss issues, experiences, challenges, and/or books and articles that speak to them. It’s a way to find a support network and has recently been granted a gold award in the Brandon Hall Human Capital Excellence Award for “Best Advance in Women Leadership Development.” Personally, I have benefitted from finding lifelong sponsors and mentors through this group of women while encouraging courageous conversations. My Power of 10 drives me to achieve.

How does Bank of America support other women around them, professionally and personally?

Investing in women is a key focus at Bank of America. We have a strong representation of women at all levels of our organization, and our support of women is evident in the resources we have that focus on bringing female talent to our company, developing our employees, and supporting the economic empowerment of women around the world. We partner with universities and other organizations around the world to recruit diverse talent, and offer many career development programs and events including our Global Women’s Conference, Women’s Executive Development Program, and Women’s Next Level Leadership Program. Further, we advance women’s economic opportunity and empowerment through many programs such as Women and Wealth through U.S. Trust, Supplier Diversity Program, NAWBO (National Association of Women Business Owners), and many more. Personally, we have the LEAD employee network, offer 16 weeks of paid parental leave, and have programs to help with child care, adult care, adoption support, as well as other employee benefits. My division specifically had two offsite programs this year specifically dedicated to the development of women where we heard from an executive coach on presentation power and emotional intelligence, as well as from many outstanding successful women.

What does success mean to Bank of America?

It means living our values of delivering together, acting responsibly, realizing the power of our people and trusting the team, growing responsibly, and delivering our purpose to help make financial lives better through the power of every connection.

To learn more about Bank of America and their services, click here.

By Caryn Sullivan | St. Paul Pioneer Press | TeamWomen Member and Guest Columnist

This piece originally appeared in the St. Paul Pioneer Press on November 11, 2018.

Teresa graduated from high school with no direction. When she joined the Navy, she had never been anywhere, done anything, or worked in any way. She quickly discovered the military is more than a job – it’s a way of life.

Boot camp was intense on a variety of levels.

Interacting with people who grew up in different communities from around the country, who often spoke different languages and saw life differently, Teresa learned to adapt.

The lessons flowed.

Outcomes matter, not just effort.

Whereas in high school efforts were often met with “Oh, you tried your best, that’s good enough,” that didn’t fly in the military.

Quitting is not an option.

Taking responsibility for your actions and those of your teammates is imperative.

Taking ownership of the results you’re responsible for is, too.

Teresa was one of several highly-decorated women who spoke at a TeamWomen luncheon recently. Whether officer or enlisted, Army, Navy, or Air Force, the women inspired attendees with their commitment, anecdotes, accolades, and wisdom.

They offered insight into life in a military uniform and perspective on how others can assist with the transition from active duty to civilian life.

Gender was irrelevant. The only thing that mattered, they all agreed, was whether you were meeting or exceeding expectations.

Terri joined the Air Force when she was 30 years old. With habits well engrained, adapting to the military culture was difficult. But after 17 years, it’s part of who she is.

A command pilot, Terri never knows when her unit will be called up for a mission.

It is impossible to be certain of a plan, be it to attend the birth of her niece or the marriage of a friend. Yet, forfeiting control over her schedule to protect our freedom and way of life is a sacrifice she’s willing to make.

Lynne served as an active duty human resources officer in the Army. That experience led to her career as a civilian leadership coach and consultant.

During a 15-month deployment to Iraq, Lynne’s world consisted of roughly a half-mile radius of land enclosed by a fence. She slept on a bed in a metal cargo container and became accustomed to daily arms fire.

Yet her greatest challenge was working under a leader who, while technically competent, lacked the communication and interpersonal skills to help others reach their potential.

It says something when the stresses of dealing with a toxic individual are greater than being in a combat zone, Lynne said.

But that experience inspired her to consider what it looks like to be a leader with a following. Why are there some leaders who people will follow only because of their rank and others who people follow regardless of their status?

Lynne concluded that leaders with a following are “for” those they are leading, will fight for them, and genuinely care about them. That realization informed the coaching and leadership work she does today.

Educational opportunities are abundant in the military. But because distractions can compete with opportunities, not everyone who enters the military planning to get an education ends up doing so.

Teresa did, though. When her enlistment ended, she used her military benefits to earn both bachelor’s and master’s degrees at prestigious institutions. She applies lessons learned in the military every day in her position at a Fortune 500 company.

Regardless of their branch or length of service, the panelists learned to adapt to the demands of the job and the environments in which they were required to perform.

They developed exceptionally close bonds with those with whom they lived and worked.

When two of them transitioned to civilian life they learned that, while deployment is stressful, re-entry presents its own challenges.

After living in a monochrome world, you’re suddenly surrounded by a cacophony of colors.

You’re not only free to make decisions that are second nature to civilians, you’re required to do so.

Which door do I enter and exit from?

What is the dress code? Do I wear a suit? A sweater and slacks?

But re-entry has its benefits. At last, you’re able to get a decent haircut!

After she left the Army, Lynne didn’t speak much about her experience, assuming others weren’t interested or didn’t know what to ask. Now she says one way to support individuals in their re-entry is to ask if they are struggling or to offer assistance.

Which is why Robert Half, the world’s largest staffing organization, sponsored and moderated the luncheon. Robert Half has programs designed to help ease the transition back to civilian life, not only for those who serve, but also for their spouses.

Deciding on a career path is one of the greatest transition challenges for veterans, moderator Angela Lurie noted, as she ended the luncheon with a call to action.

“It’s no secret there is an extreme shortage of skilled talent available for hire in the United States today. I implore everyone to keep in mind that we have available to us veterans who are re-entering civilian life and the workforce who have highly transferrable skill sets, extreme amount of discipline, a work ethic, perseverance, and great communication skills that can transition into positions we need to fill today.”

“It’s on us,” Lurie said, “to figure out a way to help these veterans as they transition back into civilian life.”

Caryn is one of The Global Resilience Project‘s 50 thrivers for a reason. As an inspirational speaker, award-winning columnist, author of the award-winning memoir, Bitter or Better, and attorney, Caryn offers a roadmap to a life well-lived. For more lessons, visit her blog.