Setting yourself apart through volunteer leadership, taking ownership of your career and development, and finding unique opportunities that align to your career goals were major topics of discussion during a recent podcast.
In the podcast, Thomson Reuters Transforming Women’s Leadership, in collaboration with Ms JD, brought together Nefertiti Alexander, Senior Associate at Kasowitz, Benson & Torres; Shanin Farmer, in-house attorney and aspiring general counsel; and Candace Gomez, Partner at Bond, Schoeneck & King to elaborate on these crucial issues for professional women of color.
Alexander discusses how she gained experience leading associates in high-stakes matters through work on a class action lawsuit in a pro bono case. By focusing on pro bono and volunteer leadership opportunities involving causes about which she cares, Alexander says she found another avenue for sharpening her legal skills and developing a wider professional network.
Alexander’s desire to improve police and community engagement, combined with her ability to leverage her connections within her prior law firm and police accountability law clinics, played an important role in the movement to impact policing practices in Chicago. Alexander emphasizes how steps taken to galvanize support internally at her current firm and in previous positions have proved to be critical first steps to advancing change. “Leading from wherever you are” became her guiding mantra, she says.
Bar association leadership and writing articles
Gomez shares how she gained influence by giving presentations and writing articles after joining local bar associations. This was the next logical step, she says, because she focused on topics that were new — such as a recently passed laws or regulations, and for which there was little expertise in the community.
“The fact that you have read up on it and that you know those details that other people haven’t had the time to flesh out, makes you an expert even in that very small area of the law,” Gomez says, adding that as an associate you are already working on research memos, learning new things, and gaining so much experience. “It doesn’t take a lot of time or effort to then translate that research memo into something that can be made into an article for public consumption.”
Leading internal learning groups
Farmer explains how she gained influence at her company by leading a learning group to help herself and others increase their financial acumen. First, as part of her career goal as an aspiring general counsel, she conducted a skills assessment. One of her gaps she identified was her ability to read financial statements and understand what information they communicate about how the business is performing.
To acquire this knowledge, Farmer says she thought “why not invite some other women to do this with me… to create a great learning experience for the other women… and a built-in support system for myself.” Farmer and 11 other women got together monthly to study key financial ratios and discuss assigned readings from the Harvard Business Review and books on finance.
With the meetings occurring during the months of quarterly earnings releases, she invited senior leadership from the corporate finance and investor relations teams to do a deep dive on the issues impacting performance and explain aspects that she and the other learning group members did not understand from the earnings calls. By doing so, she made great connections with those senior leaders.