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News & Press: Leadership Lines

Inspiring Panels Showcase Women Military Veterans and Innovation Leaders

Monday, November 25, 2019   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Leadership California

Throughout the year, the 2019 CIT Program has showcased panels featuring women who are leading in all arenas in California from government to academia, tech to innovation and military service to utility services. The final session of CIT 2019 was no exception and included two inspirational and insightful panels of women leaders – one focused on military service and the other on innovation & science. 

The first panel kicked off on day one of Session IV and focused on “The View from Military Service Veterans.” It featured moderator Darnisha Hunter, Senior Community Representative and Active Duty/Veterans Advocate for San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer; Elizabeth Perez, Former Deputy Secretary of Minority Veterans at the California Department of Veterans Affairs; LC Alumna Dr. Felicia Haecker, Founder & CEO of Dog Tag Divas; and Billekai Boughton, Founder of the San Diego Women Veteran’s Network. 

Each panelist shared their personal story and experience with the military, touching on why they enlisted, their experiences, challenges and how it impacted them. The Class heard about the struggles of trying to fit in with other women after service, about growing up overnight after losing a boot camp classmate, and how the experience transformed them into “proper badasses.” 

After sharing the experience growing up in a military household, Haecker encouraged the Class to “listen to your own hearts, go against the grain, and do what feels comfortable to you. You don’t need to justify it. You don’t need to listen to anyone else’s truth but your own.”

In reflecting on their leadership since the service and what advice they can offer to others, Boughton told the women to “stop hanging on to what doesn’t serve you,” and Perez told the women “don’t be afraid to be the first, don’t be afraid to speak out,” much like women veterans do every day in blazing new paths in and out of service. Overall, the panel presented the Class with a unique view into a world not experienced by most and an opportunity to learn how we can better support women veterans. 

The second panel focused on “Innovation & Science: Bringing Ideas Together” and amazing STEM women who are innovators and CEOs running huge companies and startups in San Diego. The panel included moderator Dr. Silvia Ma, President & COO of Connect with San Diego Venture Group; Dr. Orianna Bretschger, Founder and CEO of Aquacycl; Dr. Debbie Chen, Founder and CEO of Hydrostasis; Shan Cureton, Founder and CEO of Kiddie Commute; and Cheryl Goodman, Head of Corporate Communications at Sony Electronics.

There is no doubt California leads the way in innovation and the conversation between the founder of a wastewater management company, the first “Uber”- like serve for kids, the inventor of a wearable hydration monitor, and head of communications for a leading electronics company provided clear evidence of that. Throughout the discussion, the incredible group of science and tech women leaders proved that nontraditional paths are at the root of so many innovative ideas and that sometimes the best ideas spring from necessity.  They also reminded the Class that there is still much work to do to increase the number of women in STEM fields.  Moderator Ma said that women are natural innovators because they can zero in on need and social benefit. She said, “As women we need to innovate.”

In reflecting on what they would say to their younger selves, Goodman shared that she thinks it is helpful to “have an objective voice in your life. Someone who can help you sort through priorities and push the extra out of the way.” Ma and Chen would encourage younger professional women to seek help along the way, especially if they are taking on nontraditional roles as they did in going from scientist to CEO. And Cureton, who doesn’t come from a tech background but has started a tech company, has found that it is worthwhile to “take the time to develop the process on the front end and visualize what you want your end game to look like” to best determine how you build and run a business. 

As with all the panels throughout the 2019 CIT course, these two panels gave the Class a deeper understanding of critical issues in California and how women leaders can positively impact their workplaces and communities. 

 
Darnisha Hunter, Senior Community Representative and Active Duty/Veterans Advocate for San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer; Billekai Boughton, Founder of the San Diego Women Veteran’s Network; LC Alumna Dr. Felicia Haecker, Founder & CEO of Dog Tag Divas; and Elizabeth Perez, Former Deputy Secretary of Minority Veterans at the California Department of Veterans Affairs.