Thursday morning, I got up not knowing what to expect.  I went by myself so I was open to introducing myself to as many people as I could.  You don’t fly 3000 miles to NOT meet people! 🙂  The day started with a keynote speech from Sheila Johnson (co-founder of BET and current CEO of Salamander Hospitality AND President & Managing Partner of the Washington Mystics women’s basketball team).  She was phenomenal.  She exuded confidence, power and most of all class.  She spoke about tapping the power within yourself to achieve all of your dreams and success.  And let me tell you, she will be at the 3rd Annual Millionaire “Herstory” Brunch next month in Palm Harbor.  I am definitely going to try to attend that.

We went from the opening keynote to a special treat in my opinion.  Starr Jones Reynolds sat down to have a candid interview with Anucha Brown Sanders.  Those of you who follow sports or are in the NYC area should be familiar with her fight against Madison Square Garden, The NY Knicks and Issaiah Thomas.  I admit, I had not followed this story.  But listening to her tell her account of what happened made me both sad and proud.  She did not speak with ill intent against MSG, the Knicks or Issaiah, but she put it all out there.  I felt proud that she stood up and said “No”.  She fought the good fight so that other women who might be experiencing the same thing, would have a strong positive role model to help them through it.  She was the epitome of class and I am glad to have made her acquaintance.  She is now the Sr. Associate Athletic Director for Marketing at the University of Buffalo.  All I can say is “You Go Girl”.  I wish you could have all been there to experience this.

From there, we attended a series of workshops.  I only wish I could have cloned myself to be able to attend all of them.  Unfortunately, I had to pick one from each time slot.  The first one was Raising your Profile.  The panelist were Janet Rolle (EVP & Chief Marketing Officer at BET), Monica Pool Ross (CDO, Director of Diversity & Inclusion at Sony Electronics) and Window Snyder (Chief Security Officer at Mozilla Corp- the makers of Firefox).  The women on the panel were much like the women on all the panels.  They were candid, open, confident and truly wanted to share their experiences and pass along the wisdom to other sisters.  They gave tips about raising your profile and putting yourself out there to be known and recognized for your accomplishments.  The same things I consistently share with others.  They took the time to answer questions and were all very open about sharing their contact information.  And further, it wasn’t “give me a card and I’ll call you” type of deal. They genuinely meant it.  They each said to call or email them if ever there was a need for advice, mentorship, etc.   I am currently reading Minority Rules (a future Book Club selection) and Monica is actually in the book.  She and I are going to be catching up in the coming weeks to discuss the book.

The next workshop was about being more than a one hit wonder.  The panel for this workshop gave the same great vibes, however, there was something about them that was a little more inviting.  They took the time to embrace the women in hugs as they came up to greet them after the session.  They shared personal stories about their successes and failures.  One panelist, Andrea Fant-Hobbs (VP of Brand Management at Verizon) said straight out that she would love to mentor and network.  But that you’d have to be willing to go above and beyond and put the time in even if that meant a call at 6AM!  Well, I went up to her and told her expect a call from me at 6AM! LOL  And I meant that.  She was so wonderful to speak with.  They all were.    One of the other panelists (Karen Wells, VP US Strategy and Menu and McDonald’s) had to catch a flight but hung around as long as she could to answer each and every question.  And when she ran out of time, she gladly gave her contact info and told people to reach out to her.  She and I spoke and I am not only connecting with her to network, but also introducing her to my brother, who is a manager at McDonald’s, to get some advice on moving into owning his own restaurant.  She said she would be glad to network. June Haynes, VP of Retail for Valentino was the third panelist.  She and I chatted about some of the issues in diversity recruiting in the retail world.  She was not only fiercely dressed, but had a wealth of information about  continuously striving for success.  She is  one of very few Black women in a high level position with a major fashion designer.  She has been there, done that and has seen it all.  The one thing that stuck with me most in speaking with her was her saying that she hires based on pure talent regardless of ethnicity or gender.  It is clear that she has a strong eye for talent.  She is definitely someone I wan to remain in contact with, and will!  I missed the luncheon and afternoon workshops because I had some business to take care of.  But later that evening I came back for dinner with two wonderful ladies I met earlier in the day.  After we were treated to a Brian McKnight concert that was off the hook! I was a little sad I couldn’t spend Valentines Day with my sweetie (although I did speak with him).  But that concert was a great way to spend the evening.  Especially when he did his tribute to Luther Vandross.  That show was so hot that LITERALLY the fire alarms went off! LOL  But Brian continued on through it until the staff managed to fix it.  Earl Graves was very upset (you could see it in his face) but we didn’t care.  We all had fun despite the fire alarm.  The mood was so festive and everyone was having a great time.  Brian had his two teenage sons join him on stage and they are very talented.  It truly does run in the family! And that ended the first full day.