This weekend was really a slam dunk. First, I headed home from Dallas early on Thursday in order to meet up with a team of analysts I was coaching for a work extracurricular. In short, the analyst teams were tasked with coming up with a way to improve our firm – and after the first round cuts brought the teams down to five, each team in the finals got to present their ideas to the most senior leaders in our firm. The final presentations were held on Friday morning, and it was very exciting to sit in the executive boardroom and watch my team present! They had put a lot of hard work in, and I was incredibly proud of how well they performed. Turns out that the judges thought so too – because my team actually won the entire competition and is now having their idea implemented in the next few months! They were all very excited about that impact (as well as some incredibly generous prizes), and while I didn’t get any kind of compensation as their coach, I was still in the best mood all day 🙂
Further improving my mood was the fact that I had a trip planned to one of my favorite places in the world. Immediately following the presentation, I left NYC on Friday afternoon (yup, less than 24 hours in town) to go on a weekend trip with a dozen female partners/directors. We were off to Park City, Utah, for a weekend of skiing, snowboarding and catching up! This trip used to be an annual event a few years ago when my company was a small firm (we’ve since been bought by a very large professional services firm), and I was thrilled that it was being brought back. Although it was an unofficial trip (and we had to pay our own way), it was an amazing opportunity to network with a lot of really smart and inspiring women who have already climbed the corporate ladder and achieved great things.
When emails first started circulating to gauge interest in the trip, they were sent to a wide network of women – and many of my peers had planned to attend. But as other commitments arose, more and more people were no longer able to make the trip. The week before, I learned that I was going to be by far the most junior woman there! That changed my idea a bit of how the weekend would go. Instead of relaxing on the flight, I tried to catch up on some women-in-business books (Sheryl Sandberg’s “Lean In,” Sylvia Ann Hewlett’s “Creating a Life,” and Lisa Bloom’s “Think”) so that I’d be able to talk intelligently about some of the hot topics I figured would arise.
As luck would have it, the weekend turned out to be purely social – and even “Lean In,” the current It Book, wasn’t mentioned once. Instead, we just enjoyed the mountains (I love the Rockies so much), kicked back watching the NCAA Final Four, and savored each other’s company. In addition to getting to catch up with some colleagues I hadn’t seen in a few years, I was psyched to get to work on my skiing skills and see a noticeable improvement over the course of the weekend. By the end of the trip, I was skiing pretty confidently, and even tackled a few runs solo when others had already headed off to the airport! The weather was nearly perfect – temps were balmy 60s at the base, but the peaks actually had snow falling while we were skiing, so we got the best of both worlds with good snow and warm conditions.
It really hit home for me how much of skiing is confidence. When I was nervously taking wide S-curves as I made my way down the mountain, I sucked; when I just went for it and trusted that the surprisingly-deep spring snow would help me catch an edge as I schussed straight down, I did great. I’ve been kind of a timid skier ever since my fall at Keystone a few years ago, but this weekend I felt like I finally started regaining confidence in my abilities. As with every year that I do an end-of-season trip, I wondered why I hadn’t gone more often, and told myself I’d have to remedy that next year. Skiing is so fun!
But while I had an absolutely amazing time socializing and hanging out with colleagues this weekend, it also got me thinking – why not organize a similar weekend for women in my company to talk about professional issues and mentor each other? On the plane coming back to Dallas, I decided that I’d like to make this the next extracurricular I tackle (having successfully gotten a companywide fitness challenge organized this year). I think it would be so neat to get people together in a fun destination, where there isn’t a fully-planned agenda, but perhaps just some suggested discussion topics for mealtimes. On this trip, we were on our own for skiing during the day (though of course people did group up to ski/board together most of the time), but came together in the evenings for dinner/drinks. Perhaps I could organize the same sort of thing but with some formal learning / growth baked into it. For example, maybe one dinner could be a book discussion, while another is people talking about their five year goals, or their best productivity tips. Since consulting usually allows us to fly to weekend destinations for free, it should be fairly easy for people to attend even if our company isn’t able to financially sponsor the activities. And networking is so incredibly valuable in an industry where you can go months without setting foot in your actual office!
Food for thought, at least…