By Maria Valdez Haubrich

“Stay true to yourself and ask for help!”
“Leadership should be inspiring and motivating.”
“I’ve been the good girl, a good teacher and a good wife—and where did that get me?”
“When I walk into a room, instead of wondering who I can work, I ask ‘What can I contribute.’”

These were some of the comments I heard Monday in Los Angeles at the inspiring, informational and at times, emotional NAWBO-LA Speaker Series featuring Women of Influence.

Held at L.A. Live in the Grammy Museum, the event started with a networking continental breakfast on the Target Terrace overlooking Downtown L.A. Since the Emmy’s had just been held the night before in that same area the air was still charged with excitement and activity—I even walked the red carpet to get to my destination. Attracting about 100 women (and some men) from all walks of professional life, the air at the event was just as charged. Attendees ranged from entrepreneurs to high-powered executives and politicians. From the breakfast, attendees were lead to a small auditorium to hear a panel discussion on how mentoring plays a crucial role in business and in life.
The panelists were: Linda Russell, regional President of Wells Fargo; Jane Wurwand, founder of Dermalogica skincare line; Gisselle Acevedo, President and CEO of Para Los Ninos, a nonprofit family organization; and The Honorable Wendy Greuel, Los Angeles city controller.

Jane Pak, CEO of NAWBO-LA welcomed the audience to the discussion and set the tone by invoking the words her one-time mentor imparted to her when she was starting out. The 3 stages in your professional career will be:
1. What you do. Finding out what you are capable of.
2. How you do it. Being creative in your endeavors.
3. Who you are. Determining in what your character is and understanding the big picture.

The Who You Are is where mentoring takes a huge role. Moderator Daphne Anneet, Board President of NAWBO-LA and partner of prestigious law firm Burke, Williams & Sorenson, introduced each guest speaker and asked them to share their story of success and how they benefitted from both being mentored and mentoring others.

The stories were amazing, and I found myself relating to many of the same issues in my new entrepreneurial life. Each woman shared how they started, the obstacles they faced, and specific instances where mentoring changed the course of their life.

When Linda Russell was working her way up the corporate ladder in the financial industry, she almost called it quits when the demands of raising a family became too much. When Wendt Greuel decided to run for public office, she was met with still lingering sexist ideas of women as elected officials. Both were encouraged to go on and have dedicated themselves to do the same for others.

And the question of how to encourage was also discussed. Gisselle Acevedo challenged the notion of always mentoring by saying “everything will be fine” and encouraging people to face their negatives head on and explore deeper within. Jane Wurwand supports nonconformity and believes mentoring by getting a person to always think of the “what ifs” generates creativity and success.

When each speaker had shared their story, the floor was thrown open to questions and many stories emerged from the inspired crowd. It was evident each person in the audience was touched by these women’s stories and personalities. Not a bad way to start out the week!

Later, I’ll share more on these women of influence’s personal stories of triumph. Click here to join NAWBO-LA and here to check out the national NAWBO site.