“We use pressure to our advantage,” said Briana Scurry during her keynote address to the 2021 Women of Isenberg Virtual Speaker Series in January. “When you have high pressure and expectations, you can either let it crush you like a vise or you can allow it to turn you into a diamond.”
Scurry, who played soccer for UMass from 1990 to 1993 before joining successful United States teams, went on to describe her own story: amazing success as a goalkeeper making the dramatic save that led to her team winning the 1999 World Cup championship as well as gold medals in the 1996 and 2004 Olympics, to a career-ending brain injury in 2010, and the despair and struggle that followed. She thinks back on the dark time she spent feeling disoriented and suicidal and suffering from migraines after the injury.
“Being in the wilderness and the darkness—does that sound a little like 2020 for you?” she asked
Scurry explained that once she convinced herself to do something every day, even if it was just to go for a walk, she began regaining the motivation necessary to fight for an experimental surgery that her insurance company did not cover. Her recovery process since then has led her to become an advocate for concussion awareness, and she encouraged the audience to see dark times as opportunities for growth.
“Now is the time to refocus and recommit yourself to what you want in your life,” she said.
Professional Networking and Learning
The panels and presentations that followed for the three days of programming brought together students, alumni, faculty, and corporate friends to share ideas and strategies for creating fulfilling professional lives and a meaningful careers. The Women of Isenberg event—which took place online because of the pandemic this year after seven previous years of in-person conferences—was organized and executed by students as an opportunity to network among professional women and gain career insights.
"Over 700 folks registered," said Maggie Mulligan '21, president of the Women of Isenberg Conference. "Attendees could tell that our planning committee went the extra mile to bring great value and high quality events to the virtual space this winter. I'm proud of what we accomplished and want to give special recognition to my team of ten for always bringing their enthusiasm and innovative ideas to each meeting that led to an impressive series of virtual programming."
An Inclusive Leadership discussion featuring Isenberg MBA alumni Stefanie Wagner and KristenDube, who both work for panel sponsor Raytheon Technologies, included frank assessments of how leaders have had to adapt during the pandemic to ensure that team members were able to work effectively around a variety of circumstances.
Breakout panels focusing on mental health, embracing obstacles, and mentorship featured professionals offering students their most honest suggestions for making the most of circumstances.
“Finding a mentor requires building a network as a foundation,” said Margery Piercey ’84, who is CFO and COO of Mass Insight Education & Research, a national nonprofit focused on closing achievement gaps for underserved students. “You have to start to build a relationship, and find out if someone is synergistic to what you’re looking for.”
A conversation about diversity, equity, and inclusion in the workplace and beyond was moderated by Isenberg Director of Diversity and Inclusion Alaina Macaulay in conversation with four leaders committed to promoting anti-racism in their jobs. They provided insights into how real organizations were reacting to the protests and activism that arose last summer after the killing of George Floyd.
“My team trained our leadership on how to have conversations about race,” said BriannaPina ’12, head of diversity and inclusion for the Broad Institute, who also explained how her organization is collecting metrics on diversity of the board and leadership team as well as doing pay equity analysis. “What isn’t measured is not done,” she said.
Dozens of students participated in each session from their own homes, asking panelists thoughtful questions and offering comments while dressed in “business smart” attire. The event also included guided networking and sponsor information sessions.
"The presentations made by alumni such as Susan Callendar and Kim Bilawchuk, as well as the nine panels featuring forty-plus alumni and sponsors, have such great advice for students about career experiences, challenges, and lessons learned," said conference president Mulligan. "I'm inspired by all the women I've had the opportunity to work with and meet—the conference team, advisors, faculty, sponsors, and alumni. We have a great community of Isenberg women and I'm proud that this conference continues to support them."
Find more information as well as videos and photos of the virtual speaker series at womenofisenberg.com.