Chicago – Day 2

Jenna Sumar, Vital Voices Digital Communications Coordinator


That was the theme of this second day of the Global Ambassadors Program in Chicago.

Trainer Kathleen Holland opened the day with a simple question: Why do strategic plans fail? Risks are overlooked, she warned. It sparked a fascinating discussion on the value of knowing your external threats in order to plan for the future.

Next came financial planning trainer Jennifer Mariani, who said that at the end of the day you need to keep your business “in” business. You have to have the right instruments for mitigating liquidity risk. She then walked participants through the essential elements of financial management in both the for-profit and non-profit sectors.

I was trying to wrap my head around the subject matter as a member of the support team, a “fly on the wall” during intensive trainings and workshops designed to strengthen mentees’ skills, business acumen and leadership. Looking around the room, there was nothing better than watching that light bulb turn on for the mentees, the “a-ha” moment of understanding that is the very essence of this program.

It was public speaking trainer Allison Shapira’s alternative take on “risk” today that moved me most. Effective, authentic public speaking requires practice – and, a total embrace of risk. The risk of putting yourself “out there,” into discomfort, anxiety and fear.

Mentee Asha Bhat faced that fear and took that risk.

I met Asha when we landed in Chicago. She expressed insecurities with public speaking and on-camera publicity. But she had a clear set of goals for self-growth and organizational development and I was in awe of her drive to work on her issue right out of the gate.

Part of Allison’s session required each mentee to write and deliver her own speech in front of the group. I was surprised to see Asha’s hand be the first to shoot up in the air to go first. Despite a lack of full confidence, Asha put herself out there. She took a risk, shared her speech, and was receptive to each piece of feedback that came her way. She did a phenomenal job, and set up one-on-one office hours with Allison to discuss how she can channel the feedback she received into positive growth and change.

As the day ended, each mentee met with their mentor in an effort to hone in on their goals for the rest of the week. I thought to myself, “Goal setting, risk taking, open and honest growth. Yes. This is what this program is all about.”

Asha’s story is a reminder of what can happen when you are honest, open, present and willing to put yourself out there to achieve your goals. 

Some risks – when it comes to strategic and financial planning – should be avoided. Other risks – going outside of your comfort zone – lead to “a-ha” moments and the other side of that “tipping” point. I can’t wait to see what’s in store for the rest of the week.

Stay connected:

Follow us on Twitter and Facebook, hashtag #GlobalAmbassadors.

Watch the program’s YouTube playlist.

Visit the Global Ambassadors page at Bank of America and learn about their other women’s empowerment programs.

Photography: Joel Plotkin