Friday, I was sad because I knew I had to leave early to head out to L.A.  So I only stayed part of the day.  We started breakfast with the keynote from Rev. Dr. Jo Ann Browning.  The message was Living Your Purpose.  She delivered a wonderful speech and we all felt it was an invigorating way to start the day.  The first workshop of the day was Is It Time For A New You.  This workshop focused on mastering reinvention and never letting yourself become content with existing where you are (complacency).  The panelists for this include some great women.  Michelle Greene, Director Global IT at Sony Ericsson came all the way from Sweden!  A 19 hour plane trip just to be there to share with us.  She shared some wonderful tips about expanding out internationally and the most important question was asked towards the end.  Where does or how does a sister get her hair done in Sweden!?  She laughed and told us that she worked it out. LOL   Another panelist, Gail Morales is actually featured in the February 2008 issue of Black Enterprise (page 62).  She is right here in Atlanta! We’ll be meeting for lunch in the coming weeks. 🙂   Rosalind Hudnell, Director of Corporate Diversity at Intel shared how she turned down her current position 3 times before accepting.  She shared her experiences in working on different projects and never letting one project or title or success define her.  She is constantly seeking to produce the hits and is always open to helping mentor and bring up those behind her.  The overall theme of this workshop was to continually work on yourself and stretch outside of perceived limitations. Always take on more, show what you are capable of, and put yourself out there to get recognized.

The next session I went to I really enjoyed.  The panelist all knew each other so there was that “sister girl” vibe that made it that much more intimate.  Gwendolyn “that’s how I roll” Sykes  (you had to be there! LOL) CFO of Yale University, Donna James President & Managing Director of Larden & Associates (formerly President at Nationwide Insurance) and Jerri DeVard formerly a Coporate Marketing Executive at Verizon were the panelists.  The topic was Exit Strategy- Making the Great Escape.  The women all shared their experience with their corporate careers and what lead them to ultimately leave their high level positions.  Gwendolyn was until a few months ago the CFO at NASA. Donna made the decision to leave Nationwide after experiencing a stroke.  That was her wake up call to slow it down and start planning to move on to other things in her career.  She shared with us that the day the Black Enterprise issue featuring the top 75 Black Executives in Corporate hit the stands, she was in a hospital bed.  She is truly inspiring.  Jerri told us about how she decided to just take a year off and do NOTHING.  She has chosen to leave the corporate world and just do her.  She’s another phenomenal woman I will be keeping in touch with.

After, we had lunch which was supposed to be outdoors but it was windy.  So they took us indoors and we had lunch while an incredible Jazz band played for us.  Very nice and classy.

The final session (for me because I had to leave) was a great dialog about money and finances.The panel consisted of the wonderful Glinda Bridgeforth (Girl Get Your Money Straight author), Lori Anne Douglass (Partner at Moses & Singer LLP), Tanya Dean (Agent at State Farm) and Kristy Williams (Sr. VP Single Family Mortgage Business with Fannie Mae).  These women were on point.  They spoke of women and how we handle or don’t handle in some cases, our finances. We received tips on mortgages and managing through the subprime mess, practical advice on estate planning and the importance of doing it whether you have $75 or $75 million.  They spoke about the importance of the different types of insurance.  And most importantly about NOT LENDING OUT MONEY and enabling loved ones.  This session was so awesome an audience member asked if the session could be extended out beyond the allotted 45 minutes.  And it was!  Women were sharing their stories and opening up to the panel and it was so awesome.  They gave us the raw, no BS unadulterated truth about managing money.  Lori Anne was a trip!  She was serious but injected humor into her stories to make her point.  I will be contacting her about estate planning!  I loved her honesty.  Another message was you may have to pay a little (or a lot) now, but the peace of mind of being protected is priceless!

At that point I had to leave to head out to L.A. 😦  I did not want to go.  I missed out on the fashion show and the concert with Jill Scott that evening.  I missed the dinner they had planned for us.   And I missed the Saturday activities which were the farewell brunch and a chance to continue networking.  But you know what?  I had a ball.  I met so many wonderful women that I will be keeping in touch with.  Some of us have vowed to plan on meeting up at next year’s event, which is going to be in Orlando, FL next February.  We’re going to try to cross paths before then.  But if you can, I would highly recommend you attend next year.  I heard it gets better each year.  If this is the case, I cannot wait until next year.  If I had to sum up with three words, I would say this event represented networking, success and class.  To be in the presence of so many powerful and successful sisters made me want to step up my game.  I am great at what I do and have accomplished some phenomenal things.  But being in the presence of these women made me ready to move to the next level of my success.  And with my new found connections and hopefully friends, I know I can exceed my wildest dreams.  I hope through my recap of the events, you all are inspired to reach higher as well.

For information about this year’s conference, visit Black Enterprise Magazine online at

Til next time.

Adrienne Graham