Inspiration Abounded at 2016 Booth Women Connect Conference

Recap: 2016 Booth Women Connect Conference The sixth annual Booth Women Connect Conference inspired and excited, bringing together more than 900 alumnae, students, faculty, and Chicago business leaders for a day of personal and professional growth. The sold-out event on October 27, 2016, at Hyatt Regency McCormick Place far exceeded last year’s gathering of 600.

The day kicked off with Marianne Bertrand, Chris P. Dialynas Distinguished Service Professor of Economics at Chicago Booth, sharing her research on the glass ceiling and the role of public policy in closing the gender gap in corporate America.

Sessions throughout the conference covered a variety of in-demand topics, from mentorship and social impact, to entrepreneurship and reinventing a career. Throughout the day, small-group sessions, presentations, and networking opportunities allowed Boothies and business leaders to expand their professional circles across generations and industries.

Capping the event was a plenary session on “Resilience: Essential for Professional and Personal Success,” moderated by Roxanne Martino, ’88, managing partner of OceanM19. Panelists Debra Cafaro, chairman and CEO of Ventas, Inc., and Adela Cepeda, ’84, founder of A. C. Advisory, shared how they learned to “let go” of the nonessentials to focus on career success in the face of formidable challenges.

A highlight of the day was the keynote address on the power of storytelling, given by Julie Roehm, ’95. Roehm is the senior vice president of strategic relationships and chief storyteller for software giant SAP, as well as a mentor to Booth students and an advisor to Booth’s James M. Kilts Center for Marketing.

Her entertaining and informative presentation catalogued a history of famous “firsts” and how they transformed the way we communicate: cave paintings, the Gutenberg printing press, the introduction of TV ads, the first Super Bowl commercial, online banner ads, and more. She argued marketers can harness today’s dominant form of social media storytelling by creating visual, highly shareable content.

“We’re cave painting again—we’re just painting on digital walls,” said Roehm, noting that messages like this abound on Pinterest, Facebook, and other similar channels experiencing rapid growth. “The access, possibilities, and worldwide reach are unprecedented. This is the visual age.”

The 2006 Distinguished Alumni Award winner advocated for three tenets of good storytelling: Get back to basics, eradicate complexity, and find your true essence. Peel back the layers of the onion, she said, and zero in on what it really is you want to say not just to your customer, but to your customer’s customer.

“We can say we’re the software company behind Disney Parks, which is great,” said Roehm, drawing on an example from SAP. “But we want to get to the point of explaining why your visit to a Disney park was better because of our product.”

She noted her Booth experience was key in tackling complex challenges like these, since it taught her to think through problems strategically, and to know when to ask the right questions. Roehm also urged attendees to think about how they can more powerfully tell their own stories to achieve their career advancement goals.

“Think about that human component, and don’t be afraid to put yourself out there as an individual,” Roehm said, encouraging the women present to share their “true selves.”

“What is going to make them remember you? Is it that you’ve worked at these two or three companies? Maybe. But maybe it’s a story about you that gives them a glimpse of who you really are.”

—By LeeAnn Shelton