Season 2 podcast guests share words of wisdom for Daniels grads
To celebrate the spring Commencement ceremonies, the Voices of Experience podcast team is putting on a cap and gown, sharing the most poignant pieces of advice from its second season. Senior executives from across the business world offered perspective on breaking traditional narratives, adjusting career paths, trusting your instincts and more.
“You can choose your own career and your own path”
The idea of climbing a corporate ladder comes with expectations, namely that it is a one-way street. Kirsten Benefiel (BA 1996, MBA 2014), a seasoned executive and former CEO of HSS, says the ladder can be moved or, in some cases, even disregarded.
Kirsten Benefiel: “I spent way too many years of the first years of my career trying to do what was expected of me on a corporate ladder I wasn’t sure I needed to be on. And when I was able to take a step back from that, and really think about what is it I wanted to do, I had so many great learning experiences and so many great mentors, and just so many interesting life experiences, that when I finally became a CEO, which is something I chose to be, I felt like I had such a great network of people to fall back on, to get help with and to bounce ideas off of. And so, I would just encourage people to remember that, you are enough and you can choose your own career and your own path, and it can go a number of different ways, and just continue to build that support group along the way.”
“Find those ways to be authentic to who you are without containing yourself to a narrative”
In pursuit of authenticity, it’s easy to create a story of ourselves that keeps us trapped and limited to what we can see and believe, said Lauren Guthrie, vice president of global inclusion, diversity, equity and action and talent development at VF Corporation. Breaking your own personal narrative can open up a world of possibilities.
Lauren Guthrie: “I think life and career offer so many unexpected opportunities to step into that will play on strengths you didn’t know you had, and passions you had not yet seen. And my career story is one of saying yes strategically to the right things, and many of those things were opportunities I could have never visioned for myself. So I say find the balance of passion, perseverance, and lean into luck, and lean into opportunity, and find those ways to be authentic to who you are without containing yourself to a narrative. So don’t be fearful of being expansive.”
“You can never really predict the future”
The hospitality industry has changed by leaps and bounds during Leigh Hitz’s (BSBA 1984) extensive career. She has managed to keep up, in large part because of the perspective she has used to pace herself throughout her professional life.
Leigh Hitz: “I think you never really can predict the future. So I think you have to remain nimble, flexible, and I always like to say to anybody, even my old colleagues and managers and executives, “What does every decade look like?” So when you’re 20, that decade, to when you hit 30, 40, 50. What decade are you going to give back? What decade do you want to grow in? What decade are you going to buy a house, get married and have kids? So I always talk to people about what decade are you in currently in your life and your career, and what’s the next 10 years look like? So that’s probably my biggest advice is think about where you are and where you want to go, and who can influence those decisions for you and help you.”
“Especially in this modern age, there’s so much ability to adjust”
Post-grad decisions can seem daunting because it feels like they set the tone for an entire career. Arjun Murti (BSBA 1992) doesn’t see it that way. The longtime Wall Street energy analyst told the Voices of Experience podcast that very few short-term choices have long-term implications.
Arjun Murti: “I think, people do think they’re making these 20- or 30-year decisions, they’re not at all. Now, it doesn’t mean you can’t set yourself in a bad way or short way that could compound, but the idea that whatever this student decides in the short term is going to impact him for a couple decades, I will actually disagree with that and say, ‘Don’t think about it that dramatically, quite frankly,’ especially in this modern age, there’s so much ability to adjust. I think the most important thing is, are you going to a place where you do have a good mentor to get back to that basic philosophy?”
“Be gentle with yourself”
Taylor Iascone (MS 2017) trusted her gut, even though it meant leaving a comfortable job, moving away from a familiar place and starting a new career. The process from far from easy, she told the Voices of Experience podcast in October, but it has certainly been worth it.
Taylor Iascone: “I would say follow your instincts. It’s the one and only truth we all have. It may not always lead us down the path we had envisioned. But eventually it always comes full circle. Just be gentle with yourself and know that balance is key to a plentiful life.”
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Each month, we sit down with CEOs and other business leaders to explore topics at the intersection of business and the public good, from ethics and corporate responsibility to lessons in leadership and where industries are headed. No matter the topic, you’ll gain valuable insights and advice to use in your own career and beyond. The VOE Podcast is an extension of Voices of Experience, the signature speaker series at the University of Denver’s Daniels College of Business.