For the Executive Women of Goizueta’s 2024 Advancing Women in Leadership Annual Conference, the organization’s board chose the theme, “Resilience for Your Personal Endurance and Career Sustainability.” This year, the conference began on International Women’s Day, with Tara M. Sconzo Halfon 14EvMBA, President of Executive Women of Goizueta, speaking to the nearly 300 attendees. “Today’s conference is designed to strengthen your resilience muscle in a world that is ever-changing,” said Sconzo Halfon. “We hope that you walk out of the conference today feeling energized and inspired, growing in your personal and professional leadership skills and connected to our Executive Women of Goizueta community.”

Opening Speaker Shani Boston addresses the Executive Women of Goizueta Annual Conference
Opening speaker Shani Boston addresses the Executive Women of Goizueta Annual Conference

Harnessing Artificial Intelligence and Mastering Personal Resilience

After her introductory remarks, Sconzo Halfon welcomed Gareth James, Dean of Goizueta Business School, to the stage. “I continue to be impressed by the Executive Women of Goizueta community and leadership,” noted James. “Goizueta is very proud of this incredible group and its longstanding commitment to the advancement of women in business.”

Faculty speaker Emily Bianchi addresses the Executive Women of Goizueta Annual Conference
Faculty speaker Emily Bianchi

The opening speaker was Shani Boston 12MBA, senior director of product and engineering operations at Intuit Mailchimp. She tackled the subject, “Harnessing AI for Professional Growth.” Boston spoke about the transformative effects of generative AI. “Change is natural, change is constant, it’s necessary, it’s catalytic. It’s super exciting to see businesses come up with new products, but at the same time, it’s really unpredictable,” Boston told the audience. “Generative AI is wonderful, but it has limitations,” she added. “You have to think about how you’re integrating [AI] in a seamless way.”

Next, Emily Bianchi, associate professor of organization and management at Goizueta Business School, talked about building resiliency. “There is a congruence between who we are at our core and what we do,” Bianchi told the crowd. “When that congruence is met or optimized, we tend to be happier. We tend to have a more positive effect. And we tend to be more engaged in what we’re doing. We tend to have fewer depressive symptoms and considerably less stress.”

Expert Panels Offer Career Advice

“Transforming Your Career Trajectory” panel

Transforming Your Career Trajectory

A pair of panel discussions followed. “Transforming Your Career Trajectory” featured moderator Renee Bourbeau 22EMBA, executive director of MBA programs at Kennesaw State University. Speakers included Nicole Keaton Hart, chief strategy officer at Microsoft Security, Ria Aiken, director of technology and security at the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta, and Kirstin Dorsch 05C, senior director of creative studios at The Coca-Cola Company. The panel discussed the skills crucial for success in leadership roles as well as the importance of building and leveraging their professional networks.

“Leading Through Change” panel

Leading Through Change

Moderated by Sarah King, vice president of HR strategy at Panasonic Energy Co., Ltd., the “Leading Through Change” panel included Tracy Barash 93MBA, principal at Cut-Thru Consulting and the former SVP of marketing for Turner Sports, Amy Zehfuss 99MBA, founder of Springboard Strategy, and Jamie Traynor 14EvMBA, partner at PwC Deals Transformation. The panelists shared their thoughts on leading through layoffs and restructuring, navigating difficult conversations, and managing the emotional impact of change.

“Career Decisions: Strategies and Insights” panel

Career Decisions—Strategies and Insights

After lunch, panelists Jasmine Grant 08MBA, head of treasury solutions technology at Truist Bank, Chi Nguyen, chief financial officer at Insight Global, and Sakinah Watts 19MBA, senior principal and market lead, Open Innovation, at Accenture discussed “Career Decisions—Strategies and Insights.” Amber Fritsch, teammate experience design and change lead in the HR transformation office at Truist, moderated the panel.

Fritsch asked Grant if there was one question she always considers before taking a job. “Can I be myself?” Grant answered. “It’s all about authenticity. I think a lot of us have walked the line of imposter syndrome—I have to have this mask, I have to do this code switching, I have to be this thing. At some point, I woke up and I was like, I’m a pretty cool person. I’m smart, and I bring a lot to the table. If you don’t like how I do it, maybe that’s not a good fit for you and me, and that’s fine. There are other places for me to be.”

The Power of Perception and Relationships

Melissa James P21, vice chairman and managing director of global capital markets at Morgan Stanley, delivered the conference’s keynote address. Recognized by Black Enterprise Magazine as one the “50 Most Powerful Women in Corporate America,” James spoke about her personal journey as a black woman working for, as she described, “the white shoe, blue-blooded,” Wall Street firm, Morgan Stanley. What the firm lacked in minority representation, it made up for it in an “appreciation for diversity and inclusion,” James explained. “I learned you can’t judge a book by its cover.”

Keynote speaker Melissa James

James also spoke about the power of self-awareness. It all started when she was passed over for a promotion she thought she deserved. Her manager encouraged her to meet with a number of the decision makers in the promotion process to get feedback from each of them. James was skeptical but took her manager’s advice. It was eye-opening. “I learned a valuable lesson. My colleague, Carla Harris, talks about this, which is that ‘perception is the co-pilot of reality,’” said James. “I needed to be aware of how others saw me.”

Relationships have played a major role in James’ career trajectory. “Men seem to get the joke much earlier in their careers that relationships matter not just as much but even more than expertise in many situations,” she said. “Cultivating those relationships is not just helpful. It’s imperative and critical to sustaining a long and successful career.”

Awards and Scholarships

The Executive Women of Goizueta also handed out three awards to deserving individuals during the conference. Anne Marie McKenzie-Brown MD 91R 25EMBA received the $5000 Executive Women of Goizueta Scholarship. Each year, the organization gifts at least one Executive MBA candidate with their namesake scholarship. McKenzie-Brown is a professor of anesthesiology and the vice chair of professional development for Emory’s Department of Anesthesiology.

Deepa Subramanian 05C won the 2024 Guiding Star Award. Subramanian is a shareholder and employment defense attorney at Olgetree Deakins. She is also on the advisory committee of Pro Bono Partnership of Atlanta, an organization that provides free legal services to Georgia nonprofits.

The 2024 Bridge Award recipient was Kailei Carr 96Ox 98C, CEO of The Asbury Group. In addition to coaching clients, Carr hosts the podcast Beyond the Business Suit.

Conference sponsors included UPS, WestRock, PwC, Protiviti, and Hoffman and Associates.

About Executive Women of Goizueta

Started 21 years ago by Sarah O’Brien 03EMBA, Executive Women of Goizueta’s mission is to create a community that advances personal and professional leadership for Goizueta women and allies. The organization designed its event programming and scholarship awards to create opportunities and promote diversity in leadership while building professional networks. Executive Women of Goizueta’s Advancing Women in Leadership Annual Conference is open to the entire Emory University community and to friends of the organization.

Learn more about Goizueta Business School’s Executive MBA and Evening MBA programs.