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SCU Own It

SCU Own It

Owning It

At the Own It Women’s Summit on April 30, Heidi LeBaron Leupp ’84 speaks on confidence and owning your strengths.


At the Own It Women’s Summit on April 30, Heidi LeBaron Leupp ’84 speaks on confidence and owning your strengths.

The Oscar-winning producer of Spotlight, Blye Faust ’97, and Beverly Hills’ first female chief of police, Sandra Spagnoli, will be the keynote speakers at a unique women’s summit April 30, called Own It. The conference, organized by Santa Clara University students affiliated with the campus Women in Business club, is focused on helping young women develop the resilience they need when their confident strides into the workplace are met with obstacles that they’ve only read about in the news.

The event will take place April 30 from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. in the California Mission Room of Santa Clara University’s Benson Memorial Center, 500 El Camino Real, Santa Clara, CA 95053. You can read more about it in a press release or on their website.

Heidi LeBaron Leupp ’84, a trustee of Santa Clara University, will present on confidence and owning your strengths. Deepa Arora, director of media relations at Santa Clara, recently sat down with Leupp to talk about the summit and the resilience both young women and men need as they enter the workforce.

DA: What advice do you have for women as they enter the workforce?

HLL: I would advise women to take the time to really examine what they want to do. With all the on-campus interviewing going on, there can be real pressure to jump right in. I felt it and I jumped in. It worked out for me but, in hindsight, it’s wise to take the time to examine your career goals and reflect on those rather than take the first job that comes along.

Talk to young alums, visit their work places, and talk to your parents and their friends as well. They might give you good insights and advice. My point is, it’s OK to be undecided and to take some time to reflect on long-term goals.

What was your experience like starting out in the workplace?

The toughest thing I encountered in my early career was that some people were not always eager to be team players. I learned quickly that people who operated this way didn’t succeed. Now much of Silicon Valley has a “don’t be a jerk” rule of thumb. It’s a great rule to live by. The best leaders were generally very humble, hardworking people. They had the vision and the ability to see opportunities that others often did not. Overall, my early experience as a young retail executive was terrific. While payscales were lower in those days, the level of responsibility I had managing dozens of people in my early 20s was phenomenal preparation for my later roles.

What lessons did you learn and would like to convey to students getting ready to graduate?

I often remind my kids that the secret to success is that there is no secret at all. You have to work a little harder than everyone else. In high school, it might be 10 or 15 extra minutes a night of review. At work, it’s some additional time really studying a topic or developing a skill that can separate you from the others.

When I applied for a job with Levi Strauss as director of retail marketing, I had a lot of experience in retail as a buyer but absolutely none in marketing. I prepared like crazy for the interview and wrote out possible questions I might be asked. Part of a good interview includes asking smart questions and coming up with some ideas for your interviewer to ponder. I was ready for it. Don’t wing it.

Once I secured the position, I got to know the marketing directors quickly and told them that I needed to learn their craft. I immersed myself and asked a lot of questions. As a manager of 150 people out in the field, I found it incredibly important to work with them and get to know them as much as possible. Training programs had to be about more than just speaking at people and we made it a point to spend time in team building and getting to know each other. Creating a happy work environment for others makes everyone more productive and motivated to reach common goals.

What role does resilience play for students entering the workforce?

I believe that resilience in millennial women (and men) is critical. There have been a lot of articles written about whining, snowflake millennials recently. In my experience, millennials are creative, hardworking, and fun. My advice would be to take personal responsibility. Period.

When things don’t work out well in an interview or at work, don't be afraid to own it. Be transparent. Admitting to a mistake and taking the feedback for imperfect performance are paramount to a successful career. Sheryl Sandberg, the COO of Facebook, recently said that the number one thing she looks for in a potential employee is the ability to take feedback. It’s not easy to be called out for a shortcoming, but it’s the only way to ever improve. I find that leaders who take responsibility when things go badly and stay quiet when they win are often most effective.

What are some of the top challenges facing young women today, and some tips for staying ahead of them?

There are so many options and choices for young women today that it might be hard to decide what you want to do. That is a blessing. While the career challenges for women are less than they were a few decades ago, the new world does offer many challenges—parenting and partnering, digital overload, time shortage, and competition. It’s important to stay ahead of the curve. Spend the extra time to prepare and collaborate with friends, co-workers, partners, and family members to help one another achieve goals. Your generation has it all, which means you have a lot of opportunities as well as challenges as you become the leaders of our future. A Santa Clara education is just about the best preparation you will have to take on all the exciting possibilities ahead.