Event Recap: Design Your Future Self

Hello WIN! We hope you’re feeling energized after Women’s History Month. We enjoyed celebrating with so many of you at our breakfast event at SYPartners. Our panel and workshop, “Design Your Future Self”, dove into the challenges many of us face when working in innovation, such as getting unstuck, fostering creativity, practicing adaptability, building confidence in trying situations, and listening to instincts.

First, meet our panelists:

Amy Jung, Co-Founder at Raw Haus, an ecosystem for emerging talent in design and technology that fosters a collaborative platform for sharing ideas, opportunities, and advice.

Jodi Kahn, former CCO of Fresh Direct and Executive VP at NBC Universal.

Kelli Farwell, Co-Owner and Captain at The Water Table, a New England tavern on the water which invites guests to enjoy a meal while touring Manhattan waterways.

And our moderator:

Jessica Tillyer, Managing Creative Director at SYPartners, a business strategy and innovation consultancy.

Here are the top five things we heard from these inspiring experts:

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New opportunities can come from unexpected places.

One ferry ride helped Kelli transition from working as a wine sales representative to a ship captain, and eventual business owner. Several years back, she felt stuck in her job, and happened to take the East River Ferry on a whim. After a run in with the captain led to a short tour of the boat, she realized she wanted to lead her own ship. Soon after, she obtained her license and started working cocktail and party cruises. Convinced she could create a better guest experience, Kelli launched an Indiegogo campaign and raised money to create her own dinner boat business.

Amy, on the other hand, deliberately invested in jobs that allowed her to join great teams, even if it meant taking on unfamiliar roles. By exploring a diverse range of opportunities, she discovered new talents and passions like a love for learning from great leaders: “I truly believe in following people, and I think that’s what has led me to such amazing positions.” She also emphasized the importance of cultivating a strong team: “I think the idea of ‘build it and they will come’ is super antiquated…It’s always about how can you get a group of amazing people, figure out what it is that they want and what it is that they need, and be able to support that.”

Be persistent — seriously.

Designing your dream can feel easy compared to the challenges of actually pursuing it. Jodi walked us through the frustrating experience of when she graduated college on the heels of an economic downturn. Because she struggled to get a job in her ideal industry, she accepted a position unaligned with her interests. After eight months of patience, one of the companies that initially rejected her offered the perfect role where she could travel while continuing research she started in college. The brief post-grad detour turned out to be a great experience, because it instilled appreciation and set her on her current career path.

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Reframe failures as learning opportunities.

Running a business or taking on a new position can be risky, but our panelists warned not to be too hard on yourself if something goes wrong. Amy argued, “There’s nothing wrong with not being able to get exactly what you want, but if you don’t learn anything in the process, then you haven’t learned anything at all.” To this day, she practices open communication with her team and encourages the same of them.

Kelli stated that our perception of failure can set us back more than an actual mistake. Her mantra: “I don’t have to be great at everything, but I have to try.” Jodi concurred with both panelists, summarizing, “Failing is really about being honest about what you learned and how you can move on from it”.

Own your confidence.

Women are notoriously more likely to suffer from “imposter syndrome”, when people fear they are a “fraud” and don’t actually deserve their accomplishments. Jessica encouraged everyone in the room to strive for the opposite, and believe they are capable of achieving more than they think.

Jodi agreed, and stated that “pretending” usually helps you. She defined two kinds of “good” pretending: acting as though you feel capable of taking on an important role, and second, acting as though you fully believe in something you’re doing. "Acting as if" can help develop a confidence in yourself as you practice a new skill, and will win the confidence of others.

In Amy's experiences at Raw Haus, where she hosts events with entrepreneurs, self-doubt is common among even the most successful. In fact, speakers often reflected on their journeys and said “I didn’t know what I was doing”. Amy added — from her personal experience, she found that, “You don’t exactly know the steps of how you’re going to get there, but if you feel strongly that’s where you want to be, you’ll figure it out.”  In short, many of us actively share this discomfort and anxiety when stretching into bigger roles, but we all figure it out along the way.

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Know what you offer.

Understanding the unique value you bring to an organization and advocating for yourself with those in mind opens new opportunities. Jodi advised, “My own advice to people has gone from finding your voice to knowing what it is that you bring to the table.” Her own superpower was finding a simple, fast way to solve complicated problems. While some people’s skills are easier to define than others, Jessica pointed out, “being able to know what you can offer really starts from within.”

On that note, after the panel, SYPartners led an exercise designed to help WIN women in the audience determine their "superpowers" — the best of what they offer. In pairs, they reflected on their skills, work style, desired impact, and support network. Some of the superpowers shared by the group included empathy, energy, deconstructing complexity, and recalibration. To access the activity, request access to the WIN Public Drive at team@womenininnovation.co.

To conclude...

Designing your future is more about cultivating a mindset than writing out a specific plan. All of our panelists experienced unexpected career moves, both good and bad. But they built on their experiences and created amazing platforms through openness, persistence, and confidence. Along the way, they both developed new skills and discovered the “superpower” to bring the best of themselves to the table.


Do you have a story about your career journey? Want to share your superpower? Email us at team@womenininnovation.co or share via our private Facebook group. Until next time!


Written by Christina Clark, Emma Anderson, Ilse Paanakker, and Katie Burwick

Photos by Katie Burwick