Gratitude and being willing to take leaps of faith were definitely among the themes of the inaugural WiCi Awards presentation held Sept. 18, 2013 at McGraw-Hill. The awards program, hosted by New York Women in Communications, Inc. in partnership with Mashable, recognized 10 rising stars in communications. From advertising, public relations and marketing, to broadcasting and social good, award recipients inspired guests with stories of their rise through the ranks and the people who encouraged them along the way.
The award winners, including Kendra Bracken-Ferguson, Co-Founder and COO of Digital Brand Architects, and Deborah Brenner, Founder and President, Women of the Vine, talked about trusting in themselves and getting out of their comfort zones as what influenced them to succeed. ABC News and “Good Morning America” correspondent Sara Haines, formerly known for her role on the fourth hour of NBC’s “Today Show,” credited her parents for setting the bar so high and providing her with tremendous integrity and ethics. Similarly, Maria Cristina Marrero, Editor-in-Chief of “Siempre Mujer Magazine,” cited her mom’s career advice — to stay grounded and don’t forget where you came from — as the most helpful when she was thrust into a leadership role at the tender age of 30.
Dustee Tucker Jenkins, VP, Public Relations at Target Corporation, harkened back to days early in her career when she served as Press Secretary to U.S. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison. “The Senator forced me to work my tail off and earn the right to work on Capitol Hill. That lesson has stayed with me.” And “Ad Age” Editor Abbey Klaassen recalled how frightened she was to initially leave Minneapolis, come to NYC and eventually move into a job she honestly did not feel ready for. “But I learned quickly that growth and comfort do not co-exist and to challenge myself.”
Other inaugural WiCis award winners included Rachel Haot, Chief Digital Officer, City of New York; Lauren Bush Lauren, CEO, Creative Director and Co-Founder, FEED Projects; Kass Lazerow, Co-Founder and former COO, Buddy Media; and Jenna Wortham, New York Times technology reporter. Wortham, the last to accept her award, summed it up for all the awardees perhaps when she noted how amazed she is that “my work is even read and recognized, yet that it truly has the power to effect change.” The same can be said of all the first WiCiS award winners.
Emcee Lesley Jane Seymour, editor-in-chief, More Magazine, dropped interesting facts for women to note throughout the evening, including this nifty point — men, on average, will take a job that they’re 50% ready for, while women feel they need to be 100% prepared before taking the job!
Taking a leap of faith was a common thread among the honorees, reminding us all of the power of positive thinking and self-reliance. Hats off to these women, who continue to move the needle forward, clearing the path for future generations of Women in Communications!
Top takeaways from each of the honorees:
- Kendra Bracken-Ferguson: Who was your greatest influencer?
My mother, husband and friends. It's about taking a leap of faith. I was inspired by what was out there with innovation and trusted in myself.
- Deborah Brenner: What was the turning point in your career?
When I stepped out of the comfort of my career and wrote a book, then getting published and winning an award by Wine Spectator magazine.
- Sara Haines: Who was your greatest influencer?
It was the qualities from my parents. There wasn't one thing I wanted, no linear path. My journey to be something better was from my parents.
- Rachael Haot: What was the turning point in your career?
When I took a leap of faith and launched the startup, Ground Report in 2006. As an entrepreneur, I learned, you have no one else to blame or take the credit.
- Dustee Tucker Jenkins: Who was your greatest influencer?
When I worked as the press secretary for Kay Bailey Hutchison, a female senator from Texas. She told me, "You need to earn the right to work here." It makes you realize what you're capable of.
- Abbey Klaassen: What was the turning point in your career?
It was leaving a job I loved in Minneapolis to move out to New York City for AdAge. Also, being named the first woman editor. I read from female IBM executive Ginni Rometty, "Growth and comfort do not coexist."
- Kass Lazerow: Who was your greatest influencer?
I learned from Diane Hartley, my first mentor, at 24 years old. She said "perception is reality," my golden rule.
- Lauren Bush Lauren: What was the turning point in your career?
When I was a sophomore in college, I travelled with the UN World Food Programme and was exposed to hunger and poverty all over the world. I literally had the 'aha' moment, of designing the bag that led to FEED Projects, but it didn't happen overnight.
- Maria Cristina Marrero: What was the turning point in your career?
Thanks to Meredith Corporation, I got a high level position at 30 and they wanted me to take it to the next level. My mom gave me some advice — that I had a Masters in journalism, now I'll get a Ph.D in ego. Stay grounded and don't forget where you came from.
- Jenna Wortham: What was the turning point in your career?
I was invited to a product demo early on in my career, which I was very nervous for. The presenter turned out to be Steve Jobs. At the end, I introduced myself to Steve and he said he read my stuff. Know that the work you do can affect change, whether you think it or not. At that point, I felt like I earned a seat.