Seniors and Alumni Sparkle at Garza Early College H.S.

There is a shiny glimmer of hope in urban education and I saw it with my own eyes at Trinidad Garza Early College High School.  Long title…but very innovative program.  It’s a joint venture of Dallas Independent School District and Mountain View College.  Students go to classes year-round and have the opportunity to earn college credits — as much as a two-year Associate’s degree –along with a high school diploma.

Continuing on to a four-year degree is less daunting.  Students already have a taste of the academic rigor that will be required.  And they don’t need to fund the cost of a full baccalaureate program — just a couple of years.  This is a winning proposition and upward path for families in low socioeconomic circumstances.  The school motto:  College Ready, Career Ready, Life Ready.

Students at Garza are 85 percent Hispanic and 13 percent African American, 86 percent of them are eligible for free/reduced lunch and 27 percent are limited English proficient.

Did I mention award-winning?

  • 2012 winner of Excellence in Urban Education Award from National Center for Urban School Transformation
  • Silver Level – U.S. News & World Report, Best High Schools
  • Ranked #6 in  Top High Schools of North Texas by Children at Risk Association
  • A Texas Honors Circle Campus –  Texas Comptroller citation for fiscal accountability + academic performance
  • Garnering $2.7 million in scholarships and grants

I met principal Dr. Janice D. Lombardi at the kick-off of the Big Read Dallas program featuring the school’s step team, then ran into her again at a Communities Foundation event where Garza student Jonathan Gonzales was an articulate and impressive panel member.

Lombardi is a dynamo with a big heart — a performance-driven, metric-savvy administrator who is passionate about her purpose and the students, families and faculty she serves.  She is a turnaround maestro with young people who were previously underperforming.

The teaching approach at Garza considers the whole student: behavior, academics, strengths and weaknesses. “We have a culture of learning and college readiness here,” she notes. “Our instructional emphasis is effort-based; working hard does matter.”

Lombardi invited me to speak on campus as keynoter for Senior Leadership Week.  What an experience!  Parents, grandparents and other family members came for a special breakfast and morning of presentations.   Translation services and headsets were offered.  It was a celebration of milestones and hope for the future.  The class of 2013 has a 100% graduation rate — with 46 out of 90 also earning a full Associate’s degree.

My favorite part?  The alumni who returned to share advice and encouragement.  Nine amazing examples of the Garza product  – juniors and seniors in four-year colleges, including UT/Dallas, SMU, University of North Texas.  19-20 years old.  Poised and polished.

Their messages were meaningful — not only for the new graduates, but for any of us who engage in lifelong learning and pursuit of dreams.  Some very good reminders!

  • You can accomplish what you set out to do.  Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.
  • Aim high!  Why not?  You will progress in steps.  Some forward, some backward.  But keep going.
  • Don’t compare yourself to others.  You are unique to yourself.  Do your best on the path that is right for you.
  • Learn time management.  Accomplishing everything you need to do is not easy, especially if you are working while you are completing your studies.   It takes organization, self-knowledge and discipline.
  • Take care of your health.  Beware of burnout.  Eat properly.  Get enough sleep.  Recalibrate when you need to.
  • Network!  Knowing others is the key to growth and identification of new opportunities.  Add to your circle of friends, mentors and advisors.
  • Get out of your comfort zone.  If you only know people like yourself, you are limiting your options.  Learn how people behave and how things work in different environments.
  • Watch for opportunity and be ready!  By actively engaging in new relationships and new situations, you will learn about jobs, school projects, scholarships or internships.
  • Surround yourself with those who share your values and vision.  Do NOT get drawn into the wrong crowd.
  • Make good decisions for yourself and your dreams.
  • Risky and reckless behavior can have a derailing and irreversible effect.  YOLO-You Only Live Once is a dangerous outlook.
  • Love your family.

Lombardi and her team are changing lives.  Isn’t this what public education is all about?

copyright 2013 Nancy Keene All Rights Reserved

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Betty Draper vs. Sheryl Sandberg: We’ve Come a Long Way, Baby

In the TV show Mad Men, Betty Draper epitomized the ideal of American womanhood in the go-go era of the 1960s.  She was Grace Kelly gorgeous and Bryn Mawr-educated with a drop dead handsome husband who was minting money as a successful Madison Avenue ad agency partner.

She presided over a stately Colonial manse with a spectacular wardrobe and a housekeeper to help look after her children.  She was a poised and effective corporate wife, the perfect accoutrement for client and business functions.  “Is this the one where I talk?  Or the one where I don’t talk?”  

Betty had it all.  A blonde version of First Lady Jackie Kennedy, if you will.  But it wasn’t as it seemed.  And like many women  women of her time, she had no clear path to fulfillment and a happy life beyond trading up to a different husband.  She had to rely on her core offerings of beauty and charm, the currency for women of that era.

Flash forward to the future.

Sheryl Sandberg is the new icon of feminine success.  She is armed with two degrees from Harvard and a career foundation at the World Bank, McKinsey and U.S. Department of the Treasury.  She gained entry to the alpha male enclave of Silicon Valley as Vice President of Google, then hopscotched over to Facebook where she serves as Chief Operating Officer.

Like Betty at the beginning of Mad Men, she is attractive and stylish with a successful husband and two children.  Plus a seat on the Board of Directors at Disney and Facebook.  Plus an equity stake with stock valued at half a billion dollars.

Sheryl has it all.  At a pretty daunting level, considering the broader context of what that uber-package of achievement entails.  To help others, she has documented her path in a new playbook and social movement called  Lean In:  Women, Work and the Will to Lead.

It’s creating ripples, to say the least.

Sheryl says that women themselves are to blame for the gap in ambition and achievement.  She lists the shortfalls and outlines a strategy for top-line growth.  ”Of 190 heads of state, nine are women.  Of Corporate America top jobs, 15% are women. Of full professors around the U.S., only 24% are women. Women became 50% of the college graduates in this country in 1981,but we are nowhere close to 50% of the jobs at the top.”

The fur started flying. Some criticized her elitist perch.  Others say she can’t relate to a “regular” woman juggling work, children and aging parents in a struggling economy.

Women hurt themselves by “leaning back,” she points out.  ”They say, I’m busy or I want to have a child one day, I couldn’t possibly take on any more. Or I’m still learning on my current job. I’ve never had a man say that to me.”

To me, that’s the whole point.  In today’s world, women now have an open-ended range of options.  You can follow the path that suits you.

You can be a Martha Stewart-inspired domestic diva.  A soccer mom.  Or Yoga entrepreneur.  You can be a single mom.  A trophy wife.  Community activist.  Part of a two-career couple with no kids.  A home office blogger.  You can be a lawyer on the partner path.  Then segue to the mommy track.  Then back to partner.  Then start your own boutique firm.  You can be the most powerful person in your industry. You can re-invent the wheel.  You can be CEO.  The possibilities are endless.

Not everyone wants to climb the rigid structure of someone else’s ecosystem.  That’s why there are more than 8.3 million women-owned businesses in the U.S., generating nearly $1.3 trillion in revenue, according to a study commissioned by American Express OPEN.

Why do women lean out instead of leaning in?  In her Career Diva blog, Eve Tahmincioglu writes about the Company Man syndrome.  She is right.  The leadership positions by which Sheryl Sandberg and others define success are throwbacks to an organizational structure created in the era of Mad Men when there was a retinue of support on both the home and office front to bolster the careers of high-potentials destined for the C-suite.  You need to replicate that team on an outsourced basis in order to succeed, as outlined in Lean In.

Smart enterprises are beginning to lean in to capitalize on the power of diversity.   Chairman and Senior Partner of PwC Robert Moritz is designing an inclusive culture, he reports via LinkedIn. For example, Full Circle is a PwC program that allows parents to “off-ramp” from their careers, stay connected while they are gone, maintain their technical credentials, and then return to the firm. Formalizing this option gives people permission to pursue non-linear career paths. Mentor Moms is a PwC effort to match women returning from maternity leave with experienced mothers who are successfully juggling family and careers.

Jacki Zehner reports a disappointment at Goldman Sachs in this blogpost, due to a Queen Bee who did not want to help others lean in.  We’re not at the right win/loss ratio.  But I am heartened by the efforts and dialog.

Fifty years ago, Betty Friedan discerned the rumblings of unrest on the domestic front.  In the beginning of her book, The Feminine Mystique, she described the problem that lay buried, unspoken, for many years:

“It was a strange stirring, a sense of dissatisfaction, a yearning that women suffered in the middle of the 20th century in the United States. Each suburban wife struggled with it alone. As she made the beds, shopped for groceries … she was afraid to ask even of herself the silent question. Is this all?

Women of that era were hemmed in.  Betty Draper was not maternal, but she had children because that’s what you did.  You might have itched for something more, but when Betty delved into the truth of her existence, she discovered a deeper horror.  Don Draper was a man of many secrets.  He was a serial philanderer who had left behind his sad early life and reinvented himself by stealing the identity of a dead soldier.

Betty Draper had limited options for Plan B, thus she divorced dashing Don and married the more stable and sedate Henry Francis.  Even Jackie Kennedy tapped the second marriage option to Aristotle Onassis before forging a fuller life of her own in publishing.  Today, there would be more possibilities for revitalization and renewal.  You could run for office. Write a book.  Start a company.  Host a TV show.

I love the range of choice.  Like the tagline of the ad campaign used to introduce Virginia Slims, a cigarette designed and debuted for women in 1968, my view is that “We’ve come a long way, baby.”  Compared to then.  It’s not where Sheryl wants us to be.  But it’s a pretty big step forward.

copyright 2013 Nancy Keene All Rights Reserved

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A Morning with Seth Godin

The brilliant thought leader and marketeer Seth Godin shares his views on upheaval and opportunity in a brave new world, powered by the Internet.  The venue:  Wyly Theater, hosted by Dallas Social Venture Partners via luxury/retail guru Steven Dennis, a former classmate and partner of Godin.  Oh, it was a morning brimming with inspiration, generosity and encouragement!

Some snippets:

More is the mantra of the old industrial age — the era of Henry Ford who pioneered mass production for purposes of getting more work out of workers and processes for purposes of more productivity, profitability and power for Ford.

The model of an industrial era company was based on hierarchy, how everything is organized — with interchangeable parts and people.  Think of an org chart.  You have to fit in the box.  Someone else moves the boxes around.  You can be in one day and out the next.

That era is over, according to Godin. We are in a permanent recession, he says, with an entire way of life going away.  Old economic development models are dead.  There will be no new factories coming to town with a bounty of 10,000 new jobs.  He sees the end of six-figure jobs where someone else tells you what to do.  In the new era, you will have to make it happen — on your own or in a dynamic environment.

We’re in the midst of a revolution, now adjusting to the new vibes of the connection economy.  Old paradigms and power structures are dying.  The old record industry is dead, due to changes in technology and distribution.  But music is doing great — with new artists, content, platforms and fans.

It’s all about connecting.  No one person can build a computer.  It takes a team of talent, suppliers, supporters and innovators to deliver the final product.  Thus, we have to think that way in re-inventing with our own ideas, opportunities and enterprises.

Being boring is a bane.  No one wants to pay for something boring.  Plain white socks that you make in China and sell to WalMart vs. cool, colorful designer socks that might not even match.  Don’t laugh.  It’s a $40 million business targeting tween girls.

Customization and quality equate to value.  And people will pay for the experience/benefit of saving time.

In the new world,  average rarely leads to anything beautiful.  Average products can no longer command and demand attention.

Today, you have to expose yourself to risk and have the grit to stand for something.  Those who fear innovation seek out regulation and protection.  It is a false barrier.

Godin talks about the importance of creating art, which he defines as anything a human does that connects with something else.  Art is risky.  You have to be first. (Otherwise it’s just reproduction.)  You have to bring a different value, to put yourself out with your offering:  “Here, I made this.”

It’s virtually impossible to create something to sell to the mass market in the Internet era of so many choices and channels and platforms.  Thus, better to build a model that targets a niche where you can connect and create true fans.  Start small.  Be generous.

Find the confidence inside yourself.  Fight the resistance — all the messages and fears that squelch us.

There you have it.  Permission granted, Godin-style.  Get out of the box.  Innovate!

copyright 2013 Nancy Keene All Rights Reserved

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NSFW: Exploring Issues of Gender in Media

Photo Copyright 2012, Nancy Keene

British playwright Lucy Kirkwood staged a brilliant storyline at London’s Royal Court, the prestigious venue for new theatrical productions.  NSFW (Not Safe for Work, alluding to inappropriate internent content) parses the image of women in contemporary media.  First, from the point of view of a bawdy men’s magazine, Doghouse.   Then, a perspective from women’s fashion/lifestyle magazine, Electra.  Sadly, the images are both the same.  Must be perfect, thin, beautiful, bosomy.

As the play opens, the Doghouse editorial team is astir, navigating the decline of traditional print magazines and the need for revitalisation via social media.  But then the unclothed winner of their 2012 “Local Lovely” competition turns out to be a 14 year old girl, Carrie Bradshaw — whose consent forms were forged by her boyfriend.  Uh oh.

The outraged father (Kevin Doyle, who plays Joseph in Downton Abbey) shows up for revenge, but the glib and wily editor Aidan turns the tables, Racehorse Haynes-style, shaming him for discovering the uncovering as a Doghouse ogler himself. Aiden  villainously corners Mr. Bradshaw into accepting a £ 25,000 pay-off.

Editorial staffer Sam, a romantic planning a poignant proposal to his one true love, is distraught and teetering toward career derailment, as he was in charge of the contest — reviewing nearly a thousand submissions by young women or their boyfriends, seeking affirmation of desirability and the prize of media spotlight.

They didn’t have to surruptitiously connive victims to the camera lens.  As Aidan tells the father, “We don’t have to.  Why?  Because they queue up.  They come to us.”

Call it the Kardashian effect.  The young girl Carrie is given every range of educational and cultural advantage by her sacrificing parents.  But a designer dog and cosmetic surgery top her Christmas wish list and, according to the father, “her friends are bright young women who don’t give a toss about anything but shopping.”

Then it’s a quick switch to the sleek offices of upmarket woman’s magazine Electra where editrix Miranda is intent on erasing every female imperfection before the next issue goes to print.

The character is an uber-thin, golden maned, fast-talking fashionista.  Smart, sarcastic lines, seductively delivered.  Delivering guidance to anxiety-filled readers who write to say “Thank you. Thank you, Electra.  I thought I was alone and then I read an article in your magazine and I realised that I wasn’t.”

Former Doghouse staffer Sam — unemployed for months after the Carrie Bradshaw fiasco — is applying for a position and Miranda puts him through the paces.  He is to examine a photo of a gorgeous celebrity, then put red circles around her body flaws via Photoshop, and then caption them.

He is confused. “But she’s perfect….I mean she’s an actress.  She’s a film star.  It’s her job to be perfect.

Miranda counters.  ”She’s not perfect.  Nobody is perfect….I need you to point out the ways in which this woman is not perfect.”

As the Doghouse editor bullied the upset father, Miranda pummels Sam to think of flaws in his former girlfriend that made him flinch.  He truly adored everything about his beloved who abandoned him in the wake of the Doghouse scandal.  To survive and regain a paycheck, he has to conjure imperfections and complete the Photoshop audition.

Kirkwood’s satire about power and privacy in the era of internet exhibitionism is both comical and disturbing — a worthy addition to the conversation of gender portrayal in media.  There is a ripple effect from media to the workplace, according to powerful research funded by actress Geena Davis.  The topic is a strategic initiative of the Dallas Women’s Foundation which is sponsoring a Gender in Media Forum on February 8, 2013.

“I don’t think the play offers any solutions,” Kirkwood says. “It tries to suggest love as a thing to cling to when everything else is being eroded. But of course I don’t have any answers; none of us does. ”In different ways, both men and women betray women.”

Note of irony: As I was shooting a photo of the theatre marquee,  a red double-decker London bus pulled up — emblazoned with a massive Victoria’s Secret lingerie layout.  (see photo, above)

Sign of the times.  Art imitates life.  Life imitates art.

copyright 2012  Nancy Keene All Rights Reserved

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Report from the Eurozone: Milan Fashion Week

Designer T-Shirts -- Fashion Icons @ 10 Corso Como

Milan Fashion Week is a strategic convergence of style, branding and commerce.  The world comes to visit and the Italians live up to the mantra:   Una bella figura.  Make a good impression.

The city is abuzz and alive.  Storefronts glisten with seasonal fashion statements. Window-dressers add the finishing touch to glamorous mannequins.  Limos line the curbs.  Delivery trucks shuttle props and Prosecco for the runway shows and showrooms.

A happy coincidence to experience due to a last-minute business trip.  Alas…insufficient lead time to maneuver a way into a main event.  But scope the street-view and you’ll sense the sizzle. Photo round-up here. 

It’s not just about looking good.  The fashion business represents the essence of the Italian economy and way of life based on a discerning eye, fresh creativity, impeccable craftsmanship, high-quality manufacturing and global tastemaking.  It is a mission-critical export.

Innate style is not something that can be outsourced to China.  It’s a core competency that drives trade and tourism in Italy based on centuries of culture.  We can’t lose such unique country-specific contributions in a big, interdependent global market.

Women Making a Difference

While in town, I attended a meeting of the Milan Professional Women’s Association featuring author and digital strategist Sara Rosso on Personal Branding.  Thank you for welcoming a visitor to this impressive and vibrant group!  Proud to see women taking charge and making inroads in the European leadership landscape.  To promote women for corporate directorships, the PWA compiled and marketed a dossier of Board-ready members, thus refuting the rationale for all-male Boards.   It was a delight to meet Joyce Bigio who was elected earlier this year to the Board of Fiat-Chrysler, where she serves on the Audit Committee.

There is an entrepreneurial bent to the mix of members.  About 40%  of the attendees are pursuing their own businesses and consulting practices.  While the women were upbeat about their own ability to contribute and thrive, concerns about the economy, now and in the future, are top-of-mind.  What will await their children?  What can parents do now to equip their sons and daughters for the uncertainties of tomorrow?

Promoting Self-Reliance

Entrepreneurism is the root of the American success story, but much less part of the European sensibility.  In the 1990s, I observed at a Scottish Enterprise conference that it was much more prestigious to have an endowed professorship at a university, as an example, than to be a start-up CEO.

That viewpoint is changing, thanks to a public service campaign developed by the European Association of Communications,  in partnership with M&C Saatchi and other ad firms, to encourage young Europeans to take charge of their economic future by starting businesses.  Story ran in International Herald Tribune, available here. 

“We wanted to introduce a positive voice into the European debate,” said Moray MacLennan, chief executive of M&C Saatchi in London. “The idea was to take young people and say: I will not be a victim of other people’s pessimism. I will control my future.”

“Entrepreneurship is one of these things where everyone says we could do things better, but nobody gets on and does it,” said Robert Madelin, director general for communications networks, content and technology at the European Commission in Brussels, which is supporting the campaign. The campaign, he added, sends the message that “entrepreneurship is part of the European dream.”

Love to see the American spirit of enterprise being embraced internationally!

copyright 2012  Nancy Keene All Rights Reserved

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The Power of Focus: Success Attributes of Steve Jobs

                              Flashback to Esther Dyson’s PC Forum, 1984, year of Macintosh launch.  From left:  Nancy Keene; John Sculley, Apple;  Steve Jobs;  Apple;  Robert Toda, Seagate Technology.   Photograph © Ann Yow-Dyson                             

I had a ringside seat during the ramp-up of the personal computer industry — serving as public relations counsel to CEOs and entrepreneurs who were re-inventing the way we would do business in the modern world.   A pretty heady experience for a young, non-engineering female, not to mention an amazing learning laboratory.

A key barometer of industry clout was Esther Dyson’s PC Forum, where the elite players would convene, preen and be seen.

You could see early on that Steve Jobs was a different kind of cat.  He had an aura of cool amid a sea of self-proclaimed tech geeks.  He was a marketing impresario, not a programmer.  A liberal arts major, not an engineer or MBA.  He even dressed differently.  (Note blazer and bow tie, forerunner of the black turtleneck, in photo above.)

He didn’t play nice with the other kids.  When the industry moved toward standards and compatibility, Apple stood alone with a proprietary system.   When the IBM “clones” (Compaq, Dell, HP, DEC et. al.) dominated the high-volume Enterprise sector, the Mac was beloved by students, graphic designers and creatives, a much smaller niche.

Today, Apple reigns as the world’s most valuable brand with a market capitalization of nearly half a trillion dollars.

Competing in the ultimate leaderboard of brains and brilliance, how did Jobs accomplish this feat? Here are some clues:


Instead of letting product lines proliferate or permitting a thousand ideas to bloom, Steve Jobs insisted that Apple focus on just two or three priorities at a time, according to the best-selling biography by Walter Isaacson.

“There is no one better at turning off the noise that is going on around him,” said Tim Cook, now CEO. “That allows him to focus on a few things and say no to many things.  Few people are really good at that.”

Jobs had a rigorous whittle-down process that started in a retreat with the top 100 people in the company.  He would stand in front of a whiteboard and, according to the book, ask:

 “What are the ten things we should be doing next?”  People would fight to get their suggestions on the list.  Jobs would write them down and then cross off the ones he decreed dumb.  After much jockeying, the group would come up with a list of ten.  Then Jobs would slash the bottom seven and announce, “We can only do three.”

2.  Buck the Trend

There is a frenetic pace of activity inside companies today. Consider the ferocity of global competition and technologies that enable 24/7 access. Add this jaw-dropping statistic:  Since 1989, more than 18 million jobs cuts have been announced, according to the outplacement consultancy Challenger, Gray and Christmas.

The mandate is to do more with less.  Leaders, managers and individual contributors are straddling unwieldy ranges of responsibilities with minimal support resources — resulting in fragile bandwidths and decreases in workforce productivity,  as reported by PricewaterhouseCoopers Saratoga Group.

At Apple, Jobs did the opposite.  He did less with more, i.e., putting more effort into fewer initiatives.

“In order to do a good job of those things that we decide to do, we must eliminate all of the unimportant opportunities.”

3. Go for a Hit.

My former ad agency colleague Deborah Stapleton worked with Jobs for six years as outside investor relations counsel for Pixar.  ”He was focused on hits, much like a musical producer.  He would always say, we’ve got to make this a hit.”    Thus he looked to build in a masterful formula of performance features and design elements that would deliver a high level of market enthusiasm and customer delight.  Other companies focused on quantity and variety, pumping out volumes of products and line extensions.

According to the Isaacson book:

” …he would care, sometimes obsessively, about marketing and image and even the details of packaging.  ’When you open the box of an iPhone or iPad, we want that tactile experience to set the tone for how you perceive the product.’ “

4.  Be Curious.

Jobs was constantly collecting input from diverse sources, Stapleton reports.  ”I didn’t see him dismiss an idea out of hand,” she says.  ”He listened, evaluated and decided.”  He explored outside the business/technology box — with an appreciation for music, creativity and the visual arts.  He was influenced by the zen of simplicity.

5.  Dump the Dogs.

The Newton was Apple’s early design for a tablet-sized personal digital assistant.  It was ten years in the making, but did not deliver on the goal to re-invent personal computing.  When Jobs gained control of the company a second time, he did not want to build a new product on an erroneous foundation.  He wanted to ditch the Newton architecture and start fresh.

“Shut it down, write it off, get rid of it.  It doesn’t matter what it costs.  People will cheer you if you got rid of it. “

6.  Pursue the White Space

By clearing the decks, Jobs could target unoccupied territory that offered high opportunity.   Apple was successful in crossing industry lines to penetrate new sectors and create new categories — a sneak attack on those facing inward in the silos.

The iPod upended the music industry. The iPhone stole business away from mobile, cameras and fired up a whole new market for apps.     The iPad became the Big Daddy of gamechangers:    eReader.  Show-and-tell device.   Near laptop functionality.  Fit-in-your-purse convenience.  It hooked tens of millions of fervent new users into the Apple world.  And here’s the brilliance of Job’s compatibility conundrum:  Kludgy syncs with BlackBerries and PCs drove additional migration to iPhone and Mac.

7.  Too Much can Miss the Mark

The writer Malcolm Gladwell, who probed secrets of success in the best-selling book Outliers, suggested in a talk to the Association of American Publishers that many professions need essentially editorial skills.   This from Publisher’s Marketplace:

In terms of national security, “…We didn’t have too little information [before 9/11], we had too much. We needed an editor…to take what mattered and throw out what didn’t matter.” 50 years ago, all you needed was a spy plane. Today you need something much more sophisticated–you need an editor.”

In another real-world example, Gladwell painted Steve Jobs’ great skill as editing down to what was most important.  Gladwell said “an expert’s job is to place limits and impose standards” and “it’s the editor who is the king.”

8.  Curator of Not-Invented-Yet

Jobs could see how components of design and innovation could be combined and calibrated to be presented optimally in products that no one ever imagined. He had the genius of creating demand for something you didn’t know you wanted — at a premium price, to boot.

Individually, these strategies are not earth-shattering, but combined, they are transformational. What will work for you?

copyright 2012 Nancy Keene All Rights Reserved


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Jacki Zehner: Game-Changer in Focused Philanthropy

Jacki Zehner saw first-hand the importance of helping others, watching her mother take the initiative with those less fortunate in her Canadian hometown — driving them to doctor’s appointments, cooking for them, generally seeing a need and filling it.

Then,  she was the recipient of someone else’s philanthropy.  Some men who worked in the financial services sector each donated $250,000 so that students at The University of British Columbia could act as real-world portfolio managers — also creating a pool of future job candidates with some actual investment experience.  Jacki was one of the first people to be chosen for this special program that also involved summer internships and professional mentorship.

Then, something really BIG happened.

She became the first graduate of UBC to be hired by Goldman Sachs in New York — applying intelligence and determination to capitalize on opportunity in the most competitive playing field in the business world.  In 1996, Jacki became the youngest woman and first female trader to become a partner of the firm.

Her discipline and focus as an athlete helped.  (A two-time  junior Canadian bodybuilding champion is not to be underestimated.)  But Wall Street was not the most female-friendly environment.    It ignited her awareness of gender inequity and inequality. Her rise to partnership was the exception, not the rule.

Like her mother and grandmother before her, she became a community activist, first inside Goldman, then on a global scale.

Jacki became involved in the firm’s diversity initiatives — working to change the barriers and biases that held back talented women and minorities.  She undertook a full-time role to infuse a gender lens to the human capital management process, developing policies and practices that would level the playing field.

This experience at Goldman gave her access to some of the world’s best thinkers on gender inequality in the workplace, as well as the financial resources to commit to her cause.  Thus, she began a new career path as a board member, donor and activist on women’s issues in general.

Imagine adding a multiplier factor to Jacki’s passion, prowess and financial asset base.  Voila!

She found her tribe and now serves as CEO of Women Moving Millions, a growing community of women (and a few men) who have made gifts of $1 million or more to organizations/initiatives that support the advancement of women and girls around the world.  Already WMM has inspired over $200 million in commitments.  There are over 160 members.

To me, this is the WOW factor — a game-changer in the way women deal with power and money. An example of the new face of philanthropy, as well as female consumer spending/investing at the highest level.   It’s about focus, rather than fragmentation.

Women Moving Millions brings a professional, best practices mindset to the business of helping others.  Splintering donations among a myriad of requests can be dilutive.  Specificity and strategy can deliver a bigger result:

  • Consider a cause that is important to you.
  • Commit to it with gusto!
  • Research.  Get specific.  Maybe there is a subset under the umbrella of need where you can make a bigger difference.
  • Become a thought leader.  Become an expert in the issues and be a speaker/writer for the cause.
  • Consider the full range of dollars you can apply.

Note:  The last point is major — the core of high impact philanthropy.   Using her Wall Street acumen, Jacki teaches women how to harness the full potential of their financial resources that include:

  • Grant-making/giving dollars
  • Investable assets of foundations
  • Personal investable assets
  • Everyday consumer spending

She is influencing change at the highest level and leading by example — investing with a gender lens in support of women-led businesses.  Selecting female fund managers.  Voting her proxy, saying no to all-male corporate boards.  The Capgemini World Wealth report estimates that high net worth individuals control $42 trillion of financial assets, globally.  Total annual consumer spending in the U.S. is approximately $10 trillion.  You get the picture.

I met Jacki in Dallas at a reception hosted by Texas Wall Street Women and Texas Women Ventures.  To say she is a dynamo is an understatement.

The cumulative approach to allocation of dollars is what can truly change the world — spending and investing with companies and initiatives that represent our values.  This is a collective impact mindset that capitalizes on focus, mass and scale.

It’s a worthy strategy for anyone who wants to make a difference, regardless of net worth.

copyright 2012 Nancy Keene All Rights Reserved

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Going for the Gold….Girl Scout-style

If you were an Olympic gold medal winner – or even a team member – wouldn’t you include that on your resume?

Particularly for those transitioning to a new post-sports career, it would telegraph a powerful message:

  • High performer
  • Dedicated, disciplined
  • Mentally and physically strong
  • Can go the distance/extra mile
  • Battle-tested

When evaluating early career stage candidates, hiring decisionmakers look for examples of leadership and personal distinction.   Since there is less actual work experience to evaluate, it’s important for young talent to showcase other examples of achievement that lead to future potential.

Young men who achieve the Eagle Scout award typically add that bullet on the resume – even if it is in the tiniest font at the bottom of the page.  It’s a known milestone of achievement – and offers a value-added level of assurance:

  • Cool-headed, diligent
  • Can fix things, finish a project
  • Relishes a challenge

Did you know that there is a counterpart achievement for Girl Scouts? It’s called the Gold Award.

During ten years in executive search, I reviewed thousands of resumes and never noticed this designation on a C.V. –  even though I had a NextGen CEO specialty practice targeting best-of-the-best young talent for clients focused on long-term bench strength and succession planning.

In the 100 Year Anniversary of the Girl Scouts, we should incorporate the Gold Award into the vernacular of excellence.

“This is our time,” said Colleen Walker, CEO of the Girl Scouts of Northeast Texas, the largest girl-serving organization in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex — encompassing 35,000 girl members, 17,000 adult members, 8 service centers and 6 camps. “Preparing and propelling girls to be future leaders is a mission that will make the world a better place. We are the ones who have to stand up, advocate and make a difference. ”

Here is a call to action for headhunters, corporate recruiters, troop leaders, high school counselors, college admissions offices and career centers, newspaper editors, parents and Girl Scouts everywhere.

Let it be known that:

  • The Girl Scout Gold Award is an equal counterpart to the BSA Eagle Scout designation.
  • Gold Award winners are equally proud of their accomplishments.
  • It is important to encourage girls to take credit for the hard work expended and showcase achievements that have been earned.
  • The Gold Award is an impressive addition to one’s resume.
  • Achieving the Gold Award is worth an announcement in the newspaper.

If we don’t elevate awareness of the Gold Award as an early career accomplishment,  what message are we sending to our young women?  Some very unhelpful, old-fashioned attitudes of gender inequality.

What can you do to help?

  1. Send this blogpost to someone who can favorably impact the career of a Gold Award winner — HR leader, recruiter, hiring decisionmaker, local news editor, blogger, etc.
  2. Encourage the Girl Scouts in your circle of family and friends to showcase the Gold Award on the resume – particularly during the first ten years of a career.
  3. Share this post on Facebook or Twitter
  4. Do your own blog or tweet about Going for the Gold!
  5. Word-of-mouth.  Mention the Girl Scout 100 year Anniversary and the Gold Award at your next business meeting or Book Club!
copyright 2012 Nancy Keene All Rights Reserved

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Inventing Julia

In honor of the late, legendary Nora Ephron who immortalized another legend in the movie Julie & Julia

Living in Paris, Julia Child knew she was not a culture fit in the world capital of Coco Chanel chic. She was an Ivy League-educated, big-boned, man-tall expatriate wife, now following her husband’s career in the forerunner of the CIA. The Childs were childless, so she had no tethers into the local American School, which drives the social scene in many foreign postings. What’s a young empty nester to do?

Even when dressed in my very best clothes and with a lovely hat on, I felt like an old frump in those luxe surroundings…

One night, my friend and I got dressed up for a fancy party at the U.S. Embassy. We had expensive hairdos, put on our nicest dresses, chicest hats and best makeup.

Then we looked at each other. ”Pretty good,” we declared, ”but not great.” We had tried, and this was the very best we’d ever look.

My Life in France

Julia was realistic, but aspirational. She was an achiever, but didn’t try to be something she could not accomplish. She combined her strengths and passions and targeted another opportunity native to her new international home: French cuisine.

She had discipline, organization, creativity, perception, foresight and — uniquely, a first-hand knowledge of ”housewives” on both sides of the Atlantic. She attacked her mission with a vengeance. It’s a case study in career development. She enrolled in the best school, Le Cordon Bleu. She gained core skills, practiced and achieved mastery.

Then, brilliantly, she applied it all for the perspective of a growing breed of stateside American women — educated and talented like Julia and also seeking excellence and adventure in their lives. She researched and reformulated what she learned — truly approaching her work as a science of ingredients, tools, methodologies and results. Mastering the Art of French Cooking is a multi-media classic, decades later a hot topic with a new generation of followers and fans in le blog and cinéma. How fabulous to be portrayed by Meryl Streep in one of Nora Ephron’s wonderful films Julie & Julia!

I love the gender interplay. Julia first had to compete in a man’s world of chauvinistic French chefs. At 6′ 2”, she dominated them in stature and likely intellect. Oddly, she had better odds to succeed there than in the Parisienne woman’s world of fashion and society. But she knew her initial female cookbook audience and captivated them with a fresh way to expand their horizons and deliver a satisfying outcome.

Then, she converted her readers to viewers, when she added a dash of luck and timing in an era when television was an emerging technology in need of content and eyeballs.

Julia Child created a recipe for re-invention. She singlehandedly defined a new career, paving the way for other domestic divas, media darlings and celebrity chefs. Julia was strategic, but pure of heart. She tapped into her passion — but with a process and dedication that goes beyond the self-help utopia of following your dreams and waking up in a bed of cash.

So here’s to you, Julia. Bon appétit!

copyright 2012 Nancy Keene All Rights Reserved

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Copyright © 2012 Nancy Keene