• Shelley Smith, founder and president of Premier Rapport, discusses taking risks and achieving results at the inaugural Women in AFCEA event.
     Shelley Smith, founder and president of Premier Rapport, discusses taking risks and achieving results at the inaugural Women in AFCEA event.

Connectivity Crucial for Women in the Workplace

October 29, 2014
By Rachel Lilly
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If you had 60 seconds to introduce yourself, could you get your message across? When forming new connections, your seemingly simple elevator pitch becomes a Hail Mary pass—one shot to get it right—and you can’t try again if you fumble.

Understanding how to communicate your story effectively is just one important skill for women—and really anyone, regardless of gender—hoping to take risks and achieve results in the workplace, explained Shelley Smith, founder and president of Premier Rapport, during the inaugural Women in AFCEA fall event. Ask yourself, “Is the risk greater if I do or is the risk greater if I don’t?”

Achieving success requires making connections, Smith explained, outlining what she calls the Wave of Connectivity. “When we further connect … we grow.” But before reaching out to others, it’s important to know yourself. Identify your passions and understand your personal brand. When you “live in your lane of passion,” you have the drive and focus to achieve goals. 

Next, identify your most productive efforts. Smith argued that 80 percent of revenue often comes from 20 percent of the work. Quit spinning your wheels on things that don’t generate results, she asserted. Understand what “will truly move the needle.” To start, write down everything you do during a 30-day period, categorize it in Excel and make a pie chart, advised Smith. Track your correlated expenses and revenue, and determine how you spend your time and what you’re worth. The results will likely surprise you, she said.

Finally, focus on delegation and accountability, and when necessary, always be ready to stop, reflect and pivot.

Smith also emphasized true connections, both in person and online. When someone asks to connect on LinkedIn, Smith invites him or her for coffee if they’re local or to chat on the phone if they’re long distance. If they decline, she doesn’t connect. “You only want to grow with people on the same mission and path with you.” At in-person networking events, focus less on collecting a stack of business cards and more on meeting the right people.

The importance of making connections and taking risks was echoed in the short documentary film “Tenacity: Women Redefining Leadership,” produced by FedScoop and Founder and CEO Goldy Kamali, which was shown at the event. Ellen McCarthy, chief operating officer for the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, encouraged women to be brave. “I think there is fear of the unknown. I think we as women assume that we’re not going to be the smartest one in the room and so we hold ourselves back. I think we have to develop courage and be a little fearless, because the reality is it took me 20 years, but I soon realized I was the smartest one in the room.”

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Hi My Name is Alicia Bursey, I have two daughters one is a Freshman at Huston Tillotson, Austin, TX majoring in Computer Science even though she has a deep love for science. It has been very difficult keeping her focused because everyone around her is majoring in other fields that does not require extensive studying and that's disheartening. My daughter, Jasmine is a junior in high loves math and wants to major in Engineering. We live in Waxahachie, TX outside of Dallas, TX. How do I keep them interested.

Alicia Bursey

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