Women executives offer tips from their own lives

by Gene Beley, CVBT Correspondent

September 17, 2017 9:05pm

•  Advice from a billionaire, a pianist and a cornbread girl

•  “I’m going to talk to you about how you unleash the possibilities within yourself”


“Are there any men in the audience who were called bossy in the playground when they were children?”

The question was asked by Sheryl Sandberg, the Facebook COO and first billionaire in the social media field, at her lecture at the University of the Pacific in Stockton earlier this month.

No one raised their hand in answer to her question. But, of course, there weren’t very many men in the audience since this was a celebration event promoting women’s equality in the workplace.

Then she asked if there were any women whose parents were told their daughters were bossy at a young age. Lots of women raised their hands.

With a smile, Ms. Sandberg said that is a sign of a future business manager. And, although young girls today are told to dream big dreams, they need to have mentors and lots of family support, she added.

Although the headliner was Ms. Sandberg, a woman who has been the Time Magazine cover woman twice, the two other speakers may have nailed the purpose of the event even better than the billionaire.

The first, concert pianist and inspirational speaker Jade Simmons, acted like she had swallowed TNT that was bound to explode any minute. She would interlace inspirational messages with personal stories ands then race to the edge of the stage to play the piano for a short time to break up her speech making the audience wonder, “What will she do next?”

She recounted how a southern gentleman complete with a straw hat told her after one of her performances, “You are a credit to your (black) race.” She said she didn’t get angry, because she knew he meant, “I was a credit to the human race.” She said she realized he was trying to pay her a compliment.

The person who introduced her, Megan Chan, said that when Ms. Simmons' former manager was asked if she was “a world class musician, power house speaker, author, or media personality,” she replied, “All of the above.’”

Ms, Chan added that Ms. Simmons has played at the White House and the U.S. Supreme Court. “While an undergraduate at Northwestern University in Chicago, she became Miss Chicago, Miss Illinois, and ultimately first runner-up at Miss America.” Then Ms. Chan introduced Ms. Simmons as “classical music’s number one maverick.”

Her first words on stage were, “I know I’m in a room full of dreamers. I’m going to talk to you about how you unleash the possibilities within yourself.”

She told about how her first piano teacher just taught boring scales. But he died. “I was a little bit happy because then I knew I was going to get a new piano teacher,” she said. The new piano teacher had a Ph.D. in music and knew jazz, but he still didn’t fulfill her talented ambitions. She thought she was born to play the piano and began to think someone had to die for her to get to the next level.

“Understand your purpose,” she told the audience. “Purpose is not the trying you do. It’s the thing that happens to others when you do what you do. Prioritize your purpose.”

The next tip she gave was to “Stop explaining yourself (away). Your magic has to be experienced, not explained. Look for opportunities to exhibit your brand of behavior in real time.”

She closed her presentation with rap music she named “My Beethoven” about the southern gentleman. It demonstrated how she turns a negative thing into a hit performance. That got her a standing ovation.

From cornbread lady to bank president

California Bank of America President Janet Lamkin, the second speaker, said she grew up in Stockton, graduating from Lincoln High School where she met her husband 40 years ago. She said her father came to Stockton when she was in the sixth grade to work in the development department at the University of the Pacific. “And my husband, Bill, and I were married in the UOP Morris Chapel 33 years ago,” she said.

Ms. Lamkin told how one of her early work experiences after getting a political science degree from Westmont College in Montecito was working as the “cornbread girl” at the Old Yellow House restaurant in Stockton. “I’m glad they didn’t have social media back then,” she chuckled, “because I had to wear a long dress and deliver the cornbread to the tables. My high school friends thought it was quite hilarious but I did not see the humor in it. I had to suck it up.”

But it taught her a lesson in humility. “You’d better believe it was motivating to me to find something different.”

Between delivering cornbread to tables, she wrote a letter to Congressman Norm Shumway of Lodi asking for a job in his Stockton office. She told him how she had taken a summer off in college and worked in the House of Representatives Ways and Means Committee in Washington D.C. After meeting with her at his Stockton office, Mr. Shumway said he didn’t have a local job for her. However, if she could be in Washington in four days, he had a job for her there. She said she and her husband Bill bought a car from a friend and drove to Washington in three days to fulfill her dream of working “on the Hill”. Lesson learned: “You have to ask.”

“I loved it. I was fascinated by policy debates in Washington D.C. “ Mr. Shumway was on the House Banking Committee and the girl from Stockton began helping him on the issues coming before the committee. “He had a legislative director who was really in the first spot for managing those issues. That person was there for the long haul. But I learned that Senator Paula Hawkins from Florida, who was on the Senate Banking Committee, was looking for a legislative assistant. I was supremely unqualified to do that job but I had to ask for it. Lo and behold I got the job.”

She gives her parents a lot of credit. She said her father was always asking her what she wanted to do in life and her mother passed on her love for travel to her.

The next opportunity was getting her Master’s degree in Australia. She said all her mentors in Washington advised her against it, saying she would never be able to get a job back in Washington and there would be no guarantees of her getting a better job with the Master’s degree. But she ignored their advice. She got a scholarship through the Stockton Rotary Club to study at Australia National University.

“Bill and I spent two and one-half years in Australia. I received a Master’s in International Relations and had an opportunity to study with officials throughout Asia and the South Pacific. Needless to say, we had a blast in Australia. It was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.

The lesson: “Don’ t be afraid of risks. Ultimately it is your decision. Do what’s right for you.”

Other advice she gave at the UOP event was “Don’t just show up — engage and be engaging in your job and your relationships. Come prepared to participate.”

She said growing up in Stockton she was quite shy and learning to be engaging did not come naturally.

“Be a listener. Focus on what’s being said,” she added.

“Broaden your physical world and perspective.”

She said her first experience in traveling was going to Guadalajara, Mexico for a summer with the Lincoln High School Spanish class. She had worked since she was 12 years old and saved her money. “I was so excited for the trip,” she said. “I remember thinking ‘I’m 15 years old, and I’m going out of the country and my parents aren’t going to be there.”

“I’ll never forget when the plane was descending into Guadalajara, I thought, ‘My Spanish is not very good at all. I don’t know anybody.’ And I thought, ‘What in the heck were my parents thinking when they said I could go.”

But she counts that as one of the first life changing experiences that broadened her world. “Interacting with all the students and the Mexican friends we met there expanded my world,” she said. “I realize this was life beyond Stockton and it helped me to navigate the ups and downs of high school, knowing there was a step beyond.”

“Since then I’ve had the opportunity to travel throughout the world. I’ve lived and learned in some really interesting places. I’ve not only enriched my physical life, I’ve had a ton of fun doing it. It also strengthened my resume and job skills as my career has benefitted in numerous ways.”

“No one does it alone,” was her final advice. “Don’t be afraid to ask for advice when you need it.” And she stressed to be persistent.

Author Gene Beley offers some tips of his own:

For all those young Stockton area people looking for a banking job, Janet Lamkin’s speech gives a ton of hints on how to approach her for a job. If you happen to be working in a restaurant now and have higher aspirations, write her a letter and don’t be afraid to say you’ve washed dishes and worked as a server. That might be the winning pitch to be the stepping-stone for a very lucrative career path. She might just visualize you taking her job in the future.

It was sad to see that there were several hundred empty seats in the balcony that could have been filled with area students to get such valuable advice from these speakers. Perhaps UOP and the local schools can make more effort next time to fill those seats?

Here are the videos:

1. Edie Lambert, KCRA TV anchor woman, speaks at U.O.P. Stockton event—Advancing Women’s Leadership

Edie Lambert, KCRA TV anchor woman, speaks at U.O.P. Stockton event—Advancing Women's Leadership from Gene Beley on Vimeo.

2. Janet Lamkin: Stockton’s former “cornbread girl” at the Old Yellow House Restaurant tells how she rose to be the CA President of BofA:

Stockton’s former “cornbread girl” at the Old Yellow House Restaurant told how she rose to be the CA President of BofA from Gene Beley on Vimeo.

3. Jade Simmons electrifies the 2017 Advancing Women’s Leadership audience at U.O.P. in Stockton

This video has been removed at Ms. Simmons' request.

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