Finding Your Resilience and Authenticity

By Lisa Crewe | Posted on May 6, 2021


Demonstrating its ongoing commitment to support the professional development of women, Acacia, now part of Cisco, participated in the annual Simmons Leadership Conference. While virtual this year, this conference has engaged, impacted and inspired over 100,000 leaders from around the world for the past 42 years and Acacia employees have benefited both personally and professionally through their attendance over the years.

The themes of the 2021 conference were resilience and authenticity and bringing to life the best understanding of these concepts for practical and inspired application. Keynote speakers included Jenna Bush Hager, Co-host of TODAY with Hoda and Jenna, Mindy Kaling, Writer, Producer and Actor, and Tiffany Dufu, Founder and Author of the Cru. In addition, the Simmons Leadership Committee extended it to be a month-long learning event – they followed up the first day with additional speakers every Tuesday throughout April concluding with Ally Love, Founder & CEO of Love Squad, Peloton Instructor & Host of Brooklyn Nets.  She was definitely one my favorites. I enjoyed her closing keynote on women empowerment.  She’s a great storyteller and her belief that “True self-care is taking care of the 3 Ms: your Mind, your Matter, and your Meaning.” really resonated with me.

I sat down with this year’s Acacia participants to find out what their key takeaways were from the event. Almost all of them were impacted greatly by the over-arching message of “authenticity” and the call to bring their authentic selves to everything they do. This was never so apparent than this past year when work and home lives converged as people hunkered down in their home offices with their kids going online right next to them. While most people admitted to generally having a “work voice” and a “home voice,” these different voices became less apparent as people everywhere exposed more of their personal lives to work colleagues as a result of the new “work from home” environment.

Here are a few notable comments from some of the Acacia team on what they found most insightful from the various speakers.

Samantha Surprenant, Executive Assistant
“Dr. Tererai Trent’s story was completely captivating. I could have listened to her all day. This is a woman who launched herself into the unknown, guided by her fierce determination to beat the odds. Nothing scared her and nothing seems to have deterred her. She was humble and worked hard.  She looked to and learned from others for inspiration and mentorship and then she shares her collective experiences as well.  Many of us can relate to the premise of her story, but she takes that desire to survive and thrive to a whole new level.   I just loved her story and I love the confidence in the way she tells it.”

Valeria Arlunno, Ph.D., Technical Consulting Engineer
“I loved how the speakers made the point of realizing who they are based on the previous generations of women that came before them. It was what they accomplished and sacrificed that paved the way for women today and we are much better off because of them. I found this true in my own life and I also agree with the point made about being the best version of yourself even if it might not please everyone. When I was younger, it was assumed if you were a girl you could not be smarter than a boy. It took me a long time to realize that I didn’t have to pretend to not be as smart. I learned I could be myself which might not have been what people expected of me, but it was my true self trying to do what was best for others.”

Wendy Kump, Project Specialist
“Lynn Perry Wooten’s story about the broken Japanese bowls really resonated with me. We can all find beauty in the broken – and take things that break or impact us and use them to make ourselves stronger.”

Christiane Schnaidt, Product Lifecycle New Product Program Manager
“I liked Tiffany Dufu’s presentation. Her talk about being intentional about your job is spot on.  It’s important to know where you want to be.”

Karen Gellatly, Leader, People Consulting
“This was, by far, the single most informative and enjoyable seminar I have ever attended.  Rhonda Henley, Sr. Director, Global Partner Organization at Cisco really resonated with me. She talked about evaluating oneself to be their authentic self at work and how it can be empowering if you do show that true side, and the benefits of working at a company that allows us to do so.”

Finally…. a Good Virtual Conference
In a time where most people are complaining about COVID fatigue and the ineffectiveness of online conferences, the Acacia conference participants unanimously agreed that The Simmons Conference knocked it out of the ballpark as a virtual event. Several thought it was even more exciting online than in person.

We can’t wait to see what next year’s conference holds and until then, as Samantha Surprenant said “Let’s be open to learning from those who are willing to share their experiences with us. That’s how we pass the baton.”