Right now, I am feeling more inspired than I have ever felt in my life. I have to admit, it's hard to keep up that drive that I feed on when I'm exhausted from working overnight shifts and being a night owl who actually has to get up early, but over the course of these past two days at the Smart Girls Conference have woken me up and it is a great feeling! So, on to Day 1!
I got up super early on Wednesday so I could get a quick dose of Insanity in before I headed out. The conference was at Fordham's Lincoln Center campus so I just took the D train down and got to appreciate the super-express rush hour route which is always a relief. I had a lot of stuff that day since I brought my purse with all of my pouches and my planner and the usual load, and then I had a Whole Foods tote with water, spicy lemonade, cut up cucumber and carrot sticks, my clothes for the conference, and the Smart Girls Group banner along with three framed Smart Girls Guide magazine covers. WOW! It was a quick ride down and I got there right at 8:00 so I could change into my conference clothes (black dress pants, raspberry embellished tank, pale pink JCrew cardigan and heels(!) ), check in, get breakfast, and mingle before everything started. There was an amazing spread of New York bagels and Maia yogurt (both of which I don't normally eat but, when in Rome….) I also got my gift bag which, I'd like to add, was full of *amazing* treats! We got Whitney English Day Designers (I'm still an Erin Condren girl so this might be my mom's birthday present!), a Stella and Dot laptop case, a Stella and Dot wallet (number 49 on my "101 Goals" list!), nail polish, a gift card to Tieks (Oprah's favorite Italian leather foldable ballet flats!), conversation cards from Onli Beverages (these amazing sparkling juice/soda drinks they were serving!) and so much more, all in a Kenneth Cole reusable tote bag! That was enough to impress me :) I met one of my writers for Smart Mail, Brooke, as well! She and I actually live a few towns over from each other and it was great to finally meet her in person:
We mingled a bit and then….it was starting!
We opened with a welcome from the Dean of the Business School at Fordham and then Emily Raleigh herself (who had been running around all week/for the past 6 months but still managed to look adorable and give me a hug when I came in!) got up and introduced the two most inspiring days of my life, the Conference! Then came Smart Girl Surprise #1 which was the official announcement of Smart Girls Media Sisters which is going to be an online community for bloggers, v-loggers, and social media gurus to build their brands and learn from each other and learn how to turn their online personas into even something bigger! The energy in the room was buzzing and about half of us were either live-tweeting or scribbling down notes or just sitting mesmerized. I was doing all three because I was THRILLED!
The first panel was called "How to Achieve Your Dreams by 30" which was quite the way to start off the day, no? It featured Tammy Tibbets of She's the First, Kendall Ciesemier of Kids Caring 4 Kids, and Soraya Darabi of Zady. Quite the powerhouse of women, I'd say! I mean, Kendall is only a year older than me and she's been running a nonprofit since she was about 12. No big deal or anything. What amazed me about this particular panel is that I learned that it really is possible to be young and to make a huge difference. You just need to put yourself out there and commit. Kendall actually summed it up quite well when she said, "Put out who you want to be instead of having life speak for you." LOVE that!
Then came the Chief Communications Officer of Comast, D'Arcy Rudnay. To be honest, when I saw her on the agenda and speakers list, I wasn't super pumped because I was more focused on the high-profile speakers but she was probably my favorite speaker of those entire two days. I'm serious- this woman killed it! She had this no-nonsense, strong woman energy that I was so drawn to. I can now see why she is number 6 on the "50 Most Powerful Women in PR" list! She spoke about being a woman in a professional setting and how you have to read and stretch your thinking and believing that you can succeed. To her, being a leader is about having the ability to bring people on and respect them and give them the opportunity to grow, which I think is so important. One of my favorite parts of her keynote was her discussion of working as a woman in a professional setting and learning to not assume that, as a woman, you're going to be discriminated against, or oppressed because that's what you're going to see if that's what you're looking for. I managed to catch her as she was leaving and I told her that she was my favorite speaker so far (seriously, I could have listened to her all day!) and she said, "Wow, that made my day!" *cue fangirl scream here*.
After a light lunch of my cut up veggies (lunch was grilled lime chicken and rice) and Onli soda:
it was unfortunately time for me to go to class since I couldn't miss two days in a row and Thursday was going to be even more jam-packed! I did have time to poke around the Smart Expo a little because they had representatives from She's the First, an organization dedicated to girls education worldwide, Charity Miles, an app that donates money for every mile you run (I use it all the time!), and Natural Day, started by an incredible young woman named Sanah Jivani. To make a long story short, she lost all her hair when she was in middle school and, after experimenting with wigs, decided to just go natural and let herself shine through. At middle school, let's face it, we have no confidence whatsoever, so I admire this girl SO much! She has this spirit and light about her that you are drawn to because she is so sweet and truly beautiful. She started a movement called Natural Day on which you don't wear makeup or style your hair and you just be YOU. Anyone with me on February 13th??? I got a picture with her but that was on Day 2 so stand by!
I was dying in class because I was missing Shiza Shahid, co-founder and CEO of the Malala Fund! My class got out early so I got to catch the last few minutes of her keynote and wow, is all I can say! I just finished Malala Yousafzai's book and her commitment to education is incredible. While the Taliban were threatening her, she continued to go public about her belief in education for both girls and boys and a gunshot to the head didn't stop her. I don't know about you, but I'm feeling a little spoiled right now…. Shiza had this serenity about her when she was talking about her vision and I wish I could have heard more. What I did catch, however, was inspiring as well! They believe in the power of local leaders and investing in communities, which is a value I share as well, because it often helps to start small to solve problems. It's a holistic approach that makes so much sense. She said, "If we keep pushing, pledging, and trying to be better than we were last year, we will succeed." Malala turns 17 on July 14th so I'm definitely celebrating!
The day culminated with Stephanie Ruhle, Editor-at-Large and Anchor for Bloomberg news and let me tell you, she had some serious girl power. Being an important figure in the business world in general is tough but she is so strong and I was amazed. She spoke about how she worked her a** off in her 20s because she believed that it was important to become financially independent and she didn't want her husband to have any control over her income or financial situation so she just kept working crazy hours, knowing that this was important. I think one of the best parts of her talk was when she was talking about "having it all" which is such a hot topic these days for women. She basically said that there's no such thing as having it all and no one does because you're always figuring your life out. She is a successful woman and she has kids and a husband and she tries to be there as much as she can for her kids but you never have it completely down and that's okay. She was talking about how she often feels lonely when she's volunteering in her son's classroom because she's not like the other moms and having tea and PTA meetings and then she said this about how she deals with it (not an exact quote but as close as I could get): "And yeah, it sucks that my son and I weren't invited to lunch with the other moms and their sons but you know what? I took my son to lunch at the Four Seasons." Yup, this woman is the queen of sass and strength.
I couldn't believe Day 1 was already over but it was okay because we had Baked by Melissa cupcakes! They're these little, tiny cupcakes in amazing flavors so I could try every flavor (I probably did….) without my internal organs shutting down. That's always a good thing!
In short, Day 1 was absolutely incredible and inspiring and I was buzzing with ideas! The only thing that got me to sleep that night was the fact that I was actually exhausted and I had to be rested for Day 2!
Day 2, by the way, is coming soon so stand by!
Inspired to be,