Thinking Outside the Cube
The accomplished women of this year’s Women to Watch feature represent a wide variety of industries in our region, but they all have something in common—hard work and determination. They also remember where they came from and the people who helped get them where they are today. Here, they share with us who their most inspirational mentors were throughout their life, from their parents to their first boss.
Heather Simmons (pictured)
“When I was a teenager, I was diagnosed with a chronic illness that remains a challenge for me today, and my father was a shoulder and my rock. Whenever I would get down, he would hold me and let me cry. But the next day, he would push me to get myself together because, he said, I had a choice: I could sit on the sidelines and let things happen to me, or I could get in the game and make things happen for myself. I hope he is watching from heaven now. I’m all suited up, Dad!”
“My first mentor was my mother, who encouraged me every day to follow my dreams. She told me I could do and be anything. I guess I believed her because I never let anything stand in my way.”
“My mentors were my parents. They taught me by their examples; they sacrificed a lot for the sake of their children. They always believed that the best inheritance they could ever give their children is education, as no one could ever steal that away from you. There were eight children in our family. All of us have a college degree. The best advice from them: ‘You must leave a place better than when you found it.’”
“My early mentor was Charlie Gillespie at ARAMARK. He inspired me by never putting limits on what I was permitted to do and always throwing new things at me so I could continue to learn and grow. The best advice he gave me was to run my life with the following three priorities: Put your health first, your family second and your job third. Without your health, you cannot take care of your family or work. If your family isn’t taken care of, you can’t work properly. I use this for my life and for the team members who work for and with me and it has always helped me build strong, committed teams.”
“I would have to say my father, Bernard Brown, has always been my mentor. He suggested I get my real estate license back in 1985. My father has been my inspiration from when I was a young girl growing up and continues, to this day, to inspire me. His dedication to a strong work ethic, perseverance, never taking ‘no’ for an answer, always looking to the future and what one can accomplish, and seeing the ‘big picture’ has inspired me to emulate those ideals in my business with my clients. The core fabric of my business practice is my profound belief to provide outstanding customer service to each and every one of my clients. This has been my success and the best advice my father ever gave me.”
“I am very lucky to have had several mentors and strong leadership partners throughout my career. They inspired me by modeling leadership: excellent listeners, strong communicators, strategic, innovative and decisive. Best advice: Hire great people and inspire them to do extraordinary things.”
“My honors high school English teacher, Janet Greco, hired me after she changed careers mid-stream to head up the PR department at Elkman Advertising. When I asked her how she managed to make such a move, she shared that ability to write well—particularly how to write a killer letter—can take you anywhere you want to go. It has proven to be true over and over again, and I have shared that advice with my children and those who I have mentored.”
“Bill Doyle, a former boss and owner of an advertising/PR agency, gave me the opportunity to advance to PR director and assume significant responsibilities, despite my young age. I was inspired by his entrepreneurial spirit and success in building several businesses. He taught me about the ‘power of networking’ and how critical it is to invest time to regularly expand your network and build relationships. His best advice: Don’t miss cocktail hour at a work function as it’s the most valuable networking portion of any event. In business for 13-plus years, my business partner and I have built Thomas/Boyd Communications through networking and client referrals.”
Susan Bass Levin
“I remembered one day when I was a young girl, playing with my brothers in our backyard, my mother said to me, ‘Always set a goal higher than you think you can reach. What’s important is that you try.’”
“My mentor was my father, Bill Rohrer. He passed away in 1989. He inspired me very early on by challenging me to better myself by having a college education. I now have a degree from Upsala College and became a high school teacher. He gave me a commercial property, which triggered my interest in real estate. I have been in real estate for 36 years and have had my own company for 27 years. I handled the financing and refinancing of his personal properties, which introduced me to banking. I have been in banking for over 24 years, including chairman of the board of 1st Colonial National Bank for 11 years. Upon his passing, I became a trustee of the William G Rohrer Charitable Foundation, which introduced me into the world of philanthropy 23 years ago. Ironically, he guided me during his life and is still guiding me in his passing. The best advice he gave me was ‘Little pigs get fat, fat pigs get slaughtered.’”
Devan J. Theiler
“My mentor was Theresa A. Lyons, Esq., managing partner of Lyons & Associates, P.C. in Somerville. She inspired me with her enthusiasm for her work and her compassion for her employees and clients. The best advice she ever gave me was to always comport myself to the highest ethical and professional standards, even when others do not. I am confident that my firm will be a success if I can approach my practice with a fraction of the humor and regard for others that she has.”
Published (and copyrighted) in South Jersey Biz, Volume 2, Issue 2 (February, 2012).
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