'Women in Business' Panel Gives Insight to Students Hoping for a Future Business Career

Category:  News
Wednesday, March 16th, 2016 at 9:33 PM
'Women in Business' Panel Gives Insight to Students Hoping for a Future Business Career by Tracy Geibel
Pictured above, Linda Breakiron and Linda Stevenson take part in the ‘Women in Business’ panel on Wednesday, March 2.

The ultimate goal of most college students is not only to graduate, but to land the job of their dreams. Students spend four years studying for the field they will work in, ideally, for the rest of their life before leaving the late night study sessions and roommate struggles behind. They will enter a new world. A world they might be unfamiliar with.

On the Wednesday before spring break, business students had a chance to peak into that unknown world, to hear from professionals in their field. The school of business arranged the “Women in Business Panel Discussion: Women Sharing Professional Insights” where finance professor Shuang Feng moderated a panel of four business women who are either working or retired from local businesses. These panelists discussed their experiences in the field and provided advice for students to use when seeking employment.

Feng had 10 questions before the panel opened up to questions from the audience. They discussed the importance of teamwork and certain skills in the business environment.

“You have to be able to work with others and listen to them and respect them,” Candace Maxwell, a retired businesswoman, said.

She said that while personalities likely will clash at work, people must be able to put differences aside. Kelly Byers, a certified public accountant at Shaffner, Knight, Minnaugh, and Company discussed how difficult this can be.

“You might have a lot of talent, but it’s hard to make sure everyone is working cohesively,” Byers said.

At Shaffner, Knight, Minnaugh, and Company, Byers nearly always has her office door open. “They know I am approachable. People go by and knock at the door and ask ‘are you busy?’ and I’m never busy,” she said.

Sometimes, this is a lie. Sometimes, she is busy. But her answer is consistently, “No, come in.” This open-door policy helps build relationships with those she works with. This helps her to be a better team player.

She also brought up empathy, saying that it is important to recognize “life situations.” At certain times, people won’t be able to take on as much work as they normally could handle. Everyone has lives outside of the workplace, and sometimes people need help, a team member to pick up the slack.

It’s whenever a team works towards a common goal together that the results will be most impressive, said Byers.

“[It’s about] feeding off each other’s ideas and keeping an open mind because together we can be successful,” Linda Breakiron, owner of Breakiron Diamond Jewelers said.

The panelists agreed that the business world is a place where learning is a constant. They said that being able to learn new things and adapt to procedure and workplace changes is essential in their careers.

“I am a life-long learner, and it’s what helped me throughout my career,” Maxwell said. “You are always learning new things, so you always have to take things and revise them.”

Byers said that in new employees she appreciates those who can quickly pick up new skills and put them to work by pushing themselves. She said that she encourages people to approach her whenever the problem could better be solved by consulting her, but someone who is eager to learn, who challenges themselves without constant guidance is the type of business employee she looks for.

More so, the panelists talked about the ability to multi-task and the significance of passion and enthusiasm.

“How you present yourself comes out in everything you do,” Linda L. Stevenson, a retired businesswoman who now volunteers at Athena Powerlink said.

The panel also served as a networking opportunity to students, many of whom exchanged business cards and contact information after the presentation.

This was the third year that the school of business offered this event. Feng hopes to continue the trend and offer a similar panel in March 2017.

Tracy Geibel is the Executive Editor for the Spectator and she can be reached at edinboro.spectator@gmail.com.

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