Did you miss our August newsletter? Check out the 3 secrets from neuroscience to overcome mental fatigue, new postings on TeamWomen’s job board, a list of our new members in August, and more! Read the newsletter here.

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Last Friday, TeamWomen hosted 630 professionals at our 8th Annual Leadership Conference. From leadership best practices to brand presence, the day was filled with inspiration, motivation, and powerhouse speakers that brought our audience to their feet! Want to learn more about them? Listen to a few of their stories on Roshini Rajkumar’s podcast, Real Leaders with Roshini.

Miki Huntington, former Army Blackhawk helicopter pilot and faculty member of Minneapolis Community and Technical College, recently sat down with Rajkumar to talk about her incredible journey — including her time working at the White House. Listen here.

Angelina Lawton, CEO of Sportsdigita, also shared her story with Rajkumar. Recently named by Forbes as one of the 30 Most Powerful Women in Sports, Lawton has made a name for herself. The tech company has about 350 professional teams and continues to grow. Listen here.

Thank you to everyone who joined us at our conference. We already have our 2020 conference in the works, so stay tuned!



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

As seen in the St. Paul Pioneer Press on March 10, 2019.

It’s been a painful slide into the sunset for Patty Sagert and her family as the man who was a successful entrepreneur and family patriarch has slowly left them, another victim of Alzheimer’s.

Alzheimer’s is the most common form of dementia, a group of symptoms that impair one’s capacity to remember and think and to exercise judgment or reason. As the disease progresses, the ability to express oneself or control one’s behavior declines, rendering the maintenance of relationships increasingly problematic.

Lucidity is fluid. Even the closest family members are intermittently recognized and forgotten.

It’s heartbreaking to witness. It requires patience and stamina for loved ones, for we can live a long time with the incurable disease.

The youngest of three children, Sagert, a resident of Roseville, reached a reluctant reconciliation with a disease to which she was no stranger. While two of her grandparents succumbed to it, observing it in her 20s was a wholly different experience than managing it as an adult child.

The worst day of her life, she says, was luring her father into his first memory-care facility under the auspices of a white lie. Ten years after his diagnosis, tears flow as she recalls that day.

But that was just the beginning. Her caregiving duties intensified when her father experienced a stroke and multiplied when her mother was diagnosed with ovarian cancer.

We all deal with challenges differently. Some of us run toward them, others run away, yet others become paralyzed or immobilized. That’s certainly true for families dealing with Alzheimer’s.

For some family members, it’s just too painful to remain engaged.

Some assume there is no point in visiting the patient, for he doesn’t recognize them anyway.

Others commit themselves to doing whatever it takes to care for their loved one.

Sagert faced her father’s challenges and needs head-on, driven by her innate optimism, faith, and a determination to do everything she could to ensure he is afforded the care and respect he deserves.

Yet, their visits are unpredictable. “It’s never easy to put the code into the door, not knowing what you are going to walk into. You never know. But if you don’t go, what’s worse?”

She recognizes that adversity arrives with a choice to become embittered or to find a way to become better.

For her, living the better choice has involved being present wherever she is, whatever the circumstances. “Wherever my feet are I’m just going to do the best with what I have,” she says.

It’s surely not easy.

An app on her phone connects to security cameras she installed strategically in her father’s private room to ensure he would receive help if he fell, as he often does.

With the technology their ally, both she and her sister-in-law maintain a constant state of vigilance, though there is a fine line between ensuring a vulnerable adult’s safety and respecting his privacy and dignity.

Because individuals can live with Alzheimer’s for many years, it saps energy and causes prolonged sadness and grief for loved ones, as well as social isolation for both patients and caregivers.

There’s a term for what Sagert and many others are experiencing.

According to Minnesota author and Ph.D. Pauline Boss, “ambiguous loss” refers to a state in which one finds herself living with one who is gone but not gone, physically present but psychologically absent. While there is a distinct sense of loss, unlike a death there is no closure while the disease persists.

In “Loving Someone Who Has Dementia: How to Find Hope While Coping With Stress and Grief,” Boss explains that while we can’t control dementia we can control how we manage and perceive it.

Embracing, rather than combatting the ambiguity, allows one to live with it, she explains. Even that small measure of control can make an untenable situation tolerable.

Understanding that she is experiencing ambiguous loss has been helpful for Sagert and helped her to find purpose in the midst of grief.

Though the world as she knew it has contracted under the weight of caregiving duties, it’s also grown through connections she’s forged with kindred spirits online and through a grassroots organization called Elder Voice Family Advocates.

She’s testified twice before the Minnesota Legislature about safety and security issues for the elderly and the value of installing cameras in their residences.

She’s alarmed by the dearth of information available to consumers who are investigating memory-care options. She’s advocating for more transparency and accountability in an industry that is not subject to the same regulations as the nursing home industry.

Her goal is to make a difference. Though she may not help her dad, she wants to help the next generation of families like hers by pushing for information about staffing ratios and complaints lodged against and addressed by memory-care facilities.

When they are informed, she can help others to make residential and caregiving decisions based on facts, not emotions.

With the sun setting for Sagert’s father, the family has added an additional layer of care. Hospice will make his last months or days as comfortable as possible, be it through medication, therapies or an additional set of eyes.

Given the family history of Alzheimer’s, Sagert’s been ruminating over which would be worse: to not remember or not be remembered. Though I can’t predict whether Alzheimer’s will visit her, I predict the loving daughter, servant leader, and advocate who chose the better way will not be forgotten.

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 learn more of her work, visit carynmsullivan.com.

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

TeamWomen members and guests have an opportunity on April 9th to hear from a fantastic local and global marketing leader. Remi Kent is the visionary marketer for (arguably) Minnesota’s most famous inventions, the Post-it® and Scotch™ brands.

As the Global Post-it® and Scotch™ Brand Business Director at 3M, Remi does much more than hype these classic products. She identifies new markets and develops new approaches — as well as new product lines — that fill unmet needs from R+D through launch.

One example? The rise of Post-it® Extreme Notes, which can survive anything you throw at them. She identified the unmet need for written communication in extreme workplaces — from kitchens to construction sites. And she developed a product and a launch that people loved. From trade shows to micro-influencers to online and offline advertising, word of Extreme Notes got out, and it’s become a staple in people’s workplaces and lives.

Forbes and Entrepreneur identified her work as a classic example of putting the customer and their needs first, while creating a win for 3M that fit with the brands’ vision, past and future.

We can’t wait to hear about her rise in becoming the creative and powerful global leader she is today as she fills us in on her leadership story on April 9th.

Join us — tickets are available here!

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

This column originally appeared in the St. Paul Pioneer Press on February 24, 2019.

Bad news comes on many fronts – a cancer diagnosis, a death or loss of a job. While we often can’t control the circumstances, we can control our response. Which means life can deliver us to a crossroads with a challenge to make a difficult choice, one that may require us to pull up our big-kid pants and forge ahead.

I’ve adopted a framework that has helped me to sort through challenges large and small, trivial and life-altering. It’s simple, though not easy.

When bad news or bad luck visits, will I be bitter? Or will I be better?

Just over 16 months ago, Kim Insley found herself at the crossroads of bitter or better. Though some might have taken a different course, she chose better.

For more than 24 years, Insley called KARE 11 home. She woke up just before 2 AM through good weather and bad, assumed the Sunrise anchor chair and ushered Minnesotans into a new day. Then, in October 2017, she was told it was time to relinquish the chair.

There was no forewarning, but the news was not wholly unexpected. Insley worked in an industry that is undergoing dramatic change, where others eagerly waited in the wings to step in were she to step out.

She didn’t take it personally, for she understood the business side of her profession. Decisions are made on the basis of economics. She knew the industry was in flux, that the economic model had changed, that the owners were trying to adapt and that they owed a fiduciary duty to shareholders, not employees.

She didn’t ask for an explanation. What was the point? She always knew she didn’t own the anchor chair.

And she felt her time there had run its course. Her children were grown. It no longer served her family for her to work the brutally early shift.

She had planned to leave when her contract was up. The station’s decision to make a change simply advanced the timetable.

Rather than focusing on the “why,” Insley focused on the “what” and the “how.” What new opportunities awaited her? How would she move forward?

Her attitude served her well. Today, Insley is a Public Relations and Communications Manager for Meet Minneapolis. The position hits on many cylinders important to her – working for a nonprofit, engaging with both the community and local corporations, allowing her to use skills she mastered in front of the camera in new ways, and to continue to grow and acquire additional skills, for public relations and television news are different animals.

Insley says she has straddled two generations that bring different approaches to careers. Her parents’ generation tended to be loyal to a career. Members of her generation were more inclined to take a job and hope that things would work out for the best. The younger generation realizes that to be successful one must own her career, she says, and that approach is instructive to all.

It means taking responsibility for what you do and where you’re going.

It means examining what one can do to be the best possible person for herself, her employer and her career.

It means stepping out of our comfort zone and reaching out to strangers. Never stop networking, she says. Connecting people is fun. It’s not about helping yourself. It’s about helping others, though you never know how it might circle back.

Her advice applies to more than the broadcast media business. Many industries are undergoing dramatic and unsettling change, driven by a host of factors beyond the control of both employers and employees. Weathering change well requires one to understand the trends and the forces at play, as well as to prepare for and adapt to new expectations and practices by continually examining how to remain valuable in a dynamic workplace.

What advice does Insley have for others who may find themselves at the crossroads of bitter or better?

Always keep learning. With an innate curiosity, journalism was a great fit for Insley. But one not need be a professional storyteller to be a perpetual student. What are we here for if not to be lifelong learners, she asks? You’re really closing yourself off if you think you have all the answers.

Set money aside. Losing her job didn’t cause her financial hardship. She and her husband, a real estate professional, were good savers, for he also works in an unpredictable industry that is undergoing change.

Always be thinking about the next step. Be flexible and accept what you can and can’t control.

Recognize that change is inevitable and complex.

Regardless of how much we anticipate and plan for change, it’s still difficult. Insley spent many years developing relationships with her co-workers. Some were professional, others personal. Some of the best advice she received was to give herself time to grieve, for once you leave the job those relationships are never quite the same.

At the end of the day, Insley says, a job is just a job, regardless of the industry or profession in which one earns a living. Though it may feel like the end of the world when it ends, it is not. Embrace the next opportunity and power ahead.

Kim Insley will emcee 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 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!