Students Learn From, Network With Alumnae at Women in Business Conference

The annual event featured keynote speaker artist Maggie O'Neill '99, panel discussions with alumnae in varying fields and networking sessions

A talk about color theory might seem like an odd topic to hear at a conference for business-minded women. Maggie O'Neill '99, artist and co-founder of SWATCHROOM, a design and fabrication firm, begs to differ.

"The idea behind color theory, abbreviated, is that no two colors next to each other are ever the same," she said to a packed Hogan Ballroom for the 14th Annual Women in Business Conference through the Ciocca Center for Business, Ethics, and Society.

"People are the exact same way. Everybody in this room has a palette — you're not just one color, you're a series of colors. When you are next to somebody, they provoke something in you, they inspire something in you. If you think about how that translates to your professional life, your personal life, there's beauty in that. That means you should take advantage of everybody that's sitting to your right or to your left at all times. Because you never know what that person is going to do, or how they'll bring out the best in you."

And College of the Holy Cross students and alumnae had the opportunity to — quite literally — learn from those to their right and left throughout the day. Multiple panel discussions allowed students to ask questions about different post-grad fields, while networking sessions built in the time to talk directly with alumnae about the variety of opportunities available after graduation.

"I love hearing people's paths from their major to their first job to what they do now," says Sarah Anderson '20, co-chair of the event and an English major with a minor in religious studies and a concentration in creative writing.

"Regardless of if you're a student just starting to think about careers within business or you are an established businesswoman, the conference provides learning and networking across all industries."

Alumnae network at the 2019 Women in Business Conference. Photo by Rob Carlin

For Jessica Morrison '99, that path from first job to current career was less than linear. Morrison was a Spanish major at the College, and worked as a corporate paralegal in a Latin American practice group right after graduation. She considered law school, but decided it wasn't for her. After starting a family, Morrison started a blog on the side of her job teaching Spanish to pre-K children.

"I was able to turn it into a part-time career," she says. "I continued as a blogger and social media influencer for years before turning all of those skills into a new career and business. I now design websites and run digital marketing and social media for businesses."

The Holy Cross alumnae network has already helped Kate Beckerman '20, co-chair of the Conference and English and Spanish double major, in a variety of ways throughout her time on the Hill. Beckerman participated in a job shadowing program with an alumna, had an internship last summer with an alumna as her manager and has had numerous phone calls with alumnae to explore an array of career interests. Being part of the conference this year was just one more chance to engage with that strong, growing network of women, regardless of the career path she might choose.

Students and alumnae alike are eager to expand on the one-day conference and grow the community with a year-round network. Sarah Anderson '20, Lauren Esposito '14 and Maggie Scanlon '18 announced at the conference they would be planning the first Boston event for the spring. Casey Carty '18, former committee member, learned of this at the conference and volunteered to help establish an affinity group in New York City. On campus, Beckerman and Shannon Quirk '20 have started a student club to explore industries, become business savvy and gain the confidence to succeed.

"The Women in Business Conference generates a positive energy around female empowerment," Beckerman says.

"It's a space and opportunity for us to share and celebrate our professional and personal growth and achievements within our strong community, which inspires future leadership and success for both students and alumnae."