Q & A With YWCA Women’s Leadership Institute Faculty Member: Connie Thackaberry

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Q & A With YWCA Women’s Leadership Institute Faculty Member: Connie Thackaberry

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We want you to meet the amazing women of YWCA’s Women’s Leadership Institute. Get to know Women’s Leadership Institute Faculty Member, Connie Thackaberry, Support Services Manager at Thompson Hine LLP. Connie has been a part of the Women’s Leadership faculty for two years but she is also a graduate of the program.

Apply by October 1st to secure your spot in YWCA’s Women’s Leadership Institute’s fall class.

Q: What is the best piece of leadership advice you can give?

A: My leadership advice to all women is to be authentic and to tell your own story. I enjoy helping others fully understand their strengths so they can have the confidence in telling their story. Being able to articulate how your degree and your job experience up to the current moment are relevant to where you want to go is vital. For me being authentic is not hiding or limiting who you are; it is being free to speak up in a meeting to share your ideas and when necessary, to have difficult conversations in the workplace.

My other piece of leadership advice is to make sure you are paving the way for others. If you are asked to lead a project or an initiative, many times you can use this as an opportunity to mentor someone else. The next time you are asked to lead a similar initiative, you can ask that the colleague that you mentored get the assignment. We truly rise by lifting others.

Q: What would you tell someone interested in participating in the Women’s Leadership Institute?

A: I would tell anyone interested to go for it and sign up. I am a faculty member but also a graduate of the first Quest class. As a graduate of the program, I can share that I learned several vital lessons from the program. I learned that I was on the right path as a leader and I gained confidence in sharing my voice. I would tell someone who is interested in the program to take a chance and dive in! They will learn more about how to communicate more effectively, how to lead their team and how to tackle greater responsibilities (and how to ask for them). Also, those who take the courses will be able to make certain that their strengths align with their role in their company. If there isn’t alignment between their strengths and their role, that can be informative as well. My personal journey of going through the leadership program is that it lead me to my current role in leading two teams with a total of 50 direct reports, developing training programming for these teams and working daily to coach employee performance and resolve employee relations issues which embody my greatest strengths.

Q: What do you hope Women’s Leadership Institute participants take away from your sessions?

A: When I teach, I hope students leave my session with more knowledge about networking. They will learn practical tips on networking at work and in the professional arena. Networking has a negative reputation and we dig in and try to discover why some of us don’t like networking. Is there a way to find a type of networking that we can be comfortable with? I would like students to understand how each of us can overcome our hesitancy at reaching out to people we don’t know very well and connecting with them. I hope they leave the session with the confidence that with a small investment of time, they can utilize networking to achieve their specific goal – whether that be an internal promotion, joining a non-profit board, or utilizing informational interviewing to discover more about a particular job.

Q: What has being a Women’s Leadership Institute faculty member taught you?

A: Being a Women’s Leadership Institute faculty member has taught me to be even more adaptable. When I’m teaching a class, I have to be an active listener. For example, when I taught in February 2019, we were discussing internal networking. One student had an insightful question – she knew who she wanted to network with but this young woman needed to know how to get herself in the room. She had the confidence and the knowledge but needed help with the logistics. I do cover this in the class, so I jumped ahead in my material. Additionally, I brainstormed with her and encouraged her classmates to help out as well. We were as a group able to provide her with four possible options in order to get her in the room with the more senior team members.

If the audience isn’t responsive to a particular point, I make a note to look at adjusting those talking points for my next session.

In doing both of these things (adapting content and learning from my audience), I’m consistently coming up with the most relevant material for this group of professional women. The other biggest lesson is that each of us always has something to learn. Each time I complete the three hour course I walk away with more knowledge than when I started. The opportunity to share with professional women how I have faced and resolved challenges combined with the chance to hear how other women have embraced their roles, found confidence and stepped into their light is invaluable.

Q: Who do you most admire and why?

A: The person I most admire is my mother. My mom was a full time working mom who always was able to balance motherhood and her career. My mom is a risk taker and a problem solver. She is also someone that gets things done; nothing is ever going to hold her back from accomplishing something. My mom raised my sister and I to know our worth, to stand up for what we believe in and to take risks. Along with all these strengths, my mom is intuitive and a great listener. Basically, my mom was a leader before we started talking about women in leadership.