Posts

In Historically Male Occupation, Ilya Marotta Leads Panama Canal Expansion

Her pink safety helmet and vest have become iconic in a a historically male occupation. Ilya Espino de Marotta is the Panamanian engineer who led the execution of the Panama Canal Expansion Program. Get inspired!

RSM Hall of Fame

RSM Hall of Fame

The new Panama Canal was inaugurated June 2016. An engineering feat that enables cargo ships with a capacity of more than double the current one, to pass between the Atlantic and the Pacific, which substantially reduces transportation costs of goods. Today we spoke with the leader of the project. An interview that will change your perspective on what you can or cannot achieve even when you enter a historically male occupation or field. This is why Ilya Marotta is in the Red Shoe Movement Hall of Fame.

The first Step towards a traditionally male career

RSM Hall of Fame 2017 honoree: Ilya Marotta, Executive Vice President, Panama Canal Authority

RSM Hall of Fame 2017 honoree: Ilya Marotta, Executive Vice President, Panama Canal Authority

What awoke in you an interest for engineering? How did you start your career?

I had won a Fulbright scholarship to study marine biology in the U.S. The ocean is a passion of mine. I loved to scuba dive and I loved Jacques Cousteau. A year and a half after returning to Panama, when I saw the work opportunities in Marine Biology weren’t the best, I decided to change careers. I gave up the scholarship because it was for that specialty at a specific university. So, I started to look for schools in the U.S. that had careers that would have something to do with the ocean and ships.. I was always very good at math and physics and I chose Marine Engineering because I was going to work with ships. My father told me he would only pay for four years of college and I wouldn’t have the three summers required for the sail practice. I chose a school that wouldn’t require me to sail in order to get my degree. So that’s how I applied and got accepted to Texas A&M University, which would give me the Marine Biology degree without the sailing requirement. So, I ended up studying Marine Engineering not because it was my passion but because it was close to the ocean. Once I graduated and came to Panama and started to work on the Repairing Dock of the Floating Equipment of the Panama Canal, however I fell in love with my career. It was very gratifying to design something in the office, go to the workshops where they built it, and then seeing the ship in operation with design I had made.

We could say then that you came into this career path from the sideways and you found the pleasure in it along the way.

Of course! 30 years ago we had a different mindset. Today we value choosing something that you are passionate about and that you enjoy doing. But at that time it was more like: “You have to get a job”. It was a more traditional system. So I started with what inspired me (Marine Biology), and I changed to a more practical career (Marine Engineering.)

And did you have the support of your parents, especially your father, to pursue what at that time (even more than today) was seen as a historically male occupation?

Yes, 100%. Both parents supported my choice at all times.

In a historically male occupation, Ilya Marotta inspires women in the workplace

In a historically male occupation, Ilya Marotta inspires women in the workplace

The role of sponsors in a historically male occupation

As you progressed in your career, what do you think was the role played by sponsors? Do you think they are an important factor to reach the highest levels in a male dominated profession?

It’s what paves the way, especially in a profession where there are no women. If I had not had the support of my various bosses at different stages, I would not have been able to get to where I am. The way I won the support of these sponsors is with dedication, work, ethics and transparency. Once your boss sees your professional skills, it opens opportunities.

All the people who have given me opportunities for promotion have been men. So sponsors are definitely needed, but their support is earned by the work one does.

Leading the Panama Canal Expansion, Ilya Marotta broke gender barriers in historically male occupation

Leading the Panama Canal Expansion, Ilya Marotta broke gender barriers in historically male occupation

Overcoming obstacles

What were the most important obstacles you had to overcome in your career?

I remember that when I was in the repair dam, a professional diver position for the Canal opened. I was a professional diver. I had done outside diving jobs, and I applied for the job but they did not fill it. Officially they told me that they were not going to fill the post at that time, but I knew they did not want to pick me because I was a woman. But you overcome those obstacles and learn from them. It has happened to me in other positions where I wasn’t chosen because of company politics. You have to make yourself known, because otherwise you do not move. In order to get to my current position I had to have the support of my direct boss, and my boss’ boss, because it was a position ratified by the board. One of the administrators at the time was very candid and told me that these positions are not reached by merit and professional ability. You also have to do a little lobbying. I was fortunate that my boss did the lobbying for me.

Ilya Marotta inspires you to take on challenges to prove yourself

Ilya Marotta inspires you to take on challenges to prove yourself

Advantages of women in a traditionally male profession

The expansion of the Panama Canal must have been one of the biggest challenges an engineer can face. In a male-dominated profession what do you think was your advantage as a woman to carry it out successfully?

You have to have a lot of emotional intelligence. You can’t take things personally. It is a big project, and you have to deal with many people, many contractors, and in this type of projects problems always come up. Things are not easy and simple. So when something happens, you have to look at it from both points of view: Your own and the contractor’s. I think I had the ability not to take things personally. To think that they are just situations and everyone is defending their own interests. Throughout this process of many years that we have been at work on this project, I had the ability to negotiate and be conciliatory.

In a male dominated occupation, Ilya Espino de Marotta has shattered the glass ceiling

In a male dominated occupation, Ilya Espino de Marotta has shattered the glass ceiling

What do you think is the impact of resilience, a trait that is abundant in Latin American people and particularly in women?

It is extremely important because you cannot let failures or errors discourage you. You have to always go forward, have the ability to overcome obstacles. What I always tell people is that they shouldn’t do something to prove anything to anyone. Do it because it is what you want and because you want to prove yourself that you can do it. I did not choose this career to show anyone that women can do it. I chose this career because it was something that caught my attention and I wanted to climb its ranks because I like it.

I have seen some photos in which you wear a pink helmet and vest, which highlights what is evident: that you are woman in a male occupation. What has been the effect?

It has been fantastic! Although in the beginning I did it to prove to myself that I could reach this position. In Panama women in traditionally male professions have proliferated but reaching a high rank in a male dominated career is very hard. So when I was in NY, at one of my son’s medical checkups, I told my husband, “I feel like I should buy myself a pink helmet to show that a woman can get to this position.” I saw it in a catalog and I ordered it. Now it has become an icon and fills me with pride for what that helmet represents for many other women. I get messages from women who tell me that they have sent the photo to their 9-year-old daughters saying, “Look at how women can reach leadership positions.” It was not planned, but the result has been nice. It sets you high standards, because now people expect more from me. I have to show that it’s doable, no longer just for me, but for those who see me as hope for themselves, as an example.

Ilya Marotta supports #RedShoeTuesday

Ilya Marotta supports #RedShoeTuesday

Advice for young people and women interested in entering a historically male occupation

What advice would you give to a young woman today who is deciding on her choice of career or study?

Definitely do something that you are passionate about. I had the blessing that although Marine Engineering was not my first love, over time I found in my profession something that fulfills me and I am passionate about. When you do something that you like, it brings out the best in you. Also, do not be afraid of challenges or changes. Whenever you get a chance, never think that you cannot do it. When I applied to different positions, maybe I did not know everything that they asked for, but I knew I could learn it. Finally, be a transparent person, treat everyone equally, be the same person in all environments where you work.

Any particular advice for those women who are thinking of entering historically male dominated fields?

Don’t take offense at everything in a world of men because they have their way of managing themselves and of being with each other. You cannot expect them to change for you. You have to adapt, as long as they respect you. For example, if they joke in a certain way, don’t get scandalized, unless of course, it’s something that refers to you. I learned how to deal with that, and so I earned men’s respect. It’s not about becoming a man either. I’m happy with them giving me their seat or opening the door for me. It’s about making it so you can coexist like men and women together pleasantly. And trying to be conciliatory, rather than antagonistic, that has also helped me a lot in my professional career.

Connect with Ilya Marotta via Twitter @MarottaIlya

In Male Dominated Occupation Captain Kate is Queen

Kate McCue is the first female American Captain of a mega ship. In a male dominated occupation, Captain Kate is at the helm of the Celebrity Summit. A 965-foot-long, 91,000 gross tonnage, luxury cruise-ship. And she’ll rock your boat!

She could’ve been a cruise director, her dream when she was a child. But her dad suggested she could “drive the thing.” And he reminded her of that long-ago conversation when it came time to go to college. He encouraged her to apply to California State University Maritime Academy, where there were 15 men to each woman. And only 8 girls in her graduating class.

What’s fascinating about Kate is that she started her career at the bottom, as an Apprentice Officer 3rd on a training ship and banana boat. In an occupation known for being predominantly male, she worked her way to the top by working hard, establishing strong relationships and smiling a lot.

Contrary to studies that show that smiling a lot can negatively impact your career, Captain Kate says her tendency to smile a lot has helped hers.

Contrary to studies that show that smiling a lot can negatively impact your career, Captain Kate says her tendency to smile a lot has helped hers.

How did it feel the first time you sat at the head of the Celebrity Summit as the captain?

When I took over the Celebrity Summit as Master, there is only one word that comes to mind: “EPIC”! It was the culmination of the dream, the hard work, and years of hope coming to fruition and it felt larger than life.

Do you feel a sense of added responsibility being the first female American captain of a mega ship? Is there something you must prove being a woman in a male dominated occupation?

Many are surprised to hear that I have always worked with women in this industry, whether they were my senior officers, my peers, or my apprentices. I am not alone and only on very rare occasions did I find myself as the solo female presence on the bridge.

One of the secrets to success, regardless of gender, is the ability to do your job, do it well, and do even more than what is expected. Then there is no way you can’t succeed.

Don't miss another great piece on a male dominated occupation: Bia Figueiredo, race car driver.

From the get go, you said you wanted to be a very visible captain. (And judging from your passengers’ comments you are!) How much of a leader’s role is staying in touch with her clients and her team?

Safety is and will always be the number one priority.

The ability to understand what your team, your guests and your ship need or want is imperative. Being a visible captain means that I am accessible for open communication and constant feedback, which makes a more cohesive environment.

"Safety is and will always be the first priority," says Captain Kate who is known for begin very friendly with passengers and crew.

“Safety is and will always be the first priority,” says Captain Kate who is known for begin very friendly with passengers and crew.

What kind of leader are you?

I strive to be an approachable manager who can reach out to others with warmth and sincerity. Besides being quick to offer a smile, the most valuable contributions, as a manager, are the commitment to teamwork, empathy, and the ability to connect with others.

What traits are clear advantages you bring to a male dominated occupation?

Before becoming a Captain I was sent to Sweden for a Marine Profile, which is a series of psychological tests, specifically for mariners. The results surprised me as I was diagnosed with excessive tendency to smile, even under the pressure of the tests. Many people will tell you that if you smile too much, you won’t be taken seriously. I found the contrary because a genuine smile breaks the ice, makes people feel comfortable, instills trust, and is contagious. I have even read that smiling can be a more effective leadership technique than having great management abilities.

Hear Rosemary Rodriguez talk about being a film director, a male dominated occupation.

What are some of the aspects of your personality or your style that you’ve had to adjust for this role?

On the way up the ranks, I liked to do it all. However, when I was promoted to Captain, I came to the realization that I couldn’t do it all myself. I needed help. I had to share the responsibility and tasks or I wouldn’t be able to build a team or even sleep. Luckily I have an incredible group of experts in their respective fields that constantly exceed my expectations. It makes my life and my job that much more enjoyable.

As in any profession, in a male dominated occupation you will work hard. Having fun along the way is a must.

As in any profession, in a male dominated occupation you will work hard. Having fun along the way is a must.

It seems that the captain uniform was originally designed for an all male workforce. Do you think eventually there will be some adjustments to accommodate more women in this male dominated job? What would be some of your suggestions for a uniform that would be more feminine?

My husband is from Croatia, home of the Cravat. While I must respect that, I have to add that when it comes to a woman in uniform, neckties detract from femininity, so it would be best to make them optional

My husband is from Croatia, home of the Cravat. While I must respect that, I have to add that when it comes to a woman in uniform, neckties detract from femininity, so it would be best to make them optional.

When I started sailing, I had to buy my own uniform pants because the women’s pants never came with the basic necessities: Pockets & belt loops. Try carrying around items like keys, a radio, and flashlight with no belt or pockets!

When I came to Celebrity Cruises, they actually asked for my opinion on several uniform pieces, which I thought was pretty fantastic. We now have more tailored evening jackets and pants with all the bells and whistles!

I have a few more suggestions for uniforms, for example, work shoes. My go-to shoe for evenings is a Christian Louboutin black patent leather platforms. You simply can’t go wrong there! In a perfect world, every one of my female crew would have access to that fabulous feminine addition to their uniform!

Another suggestion I would make for any company uniform is regarding neckties. My husband is from Croatia, home of the Cravat. While I must respect that, I have to add that when it comes to a woman in uniform, neckties detract from femininity, so it would be best to make them optional.

You are a role model to women and girls who might not have considered a career like yours. How do you embrace that role?

I am honored and humbled to be considered a role model by any means. With that comes the obligation to uphold the position.

I do like to use social media, Instagram in particular, as a platform to answer questions or impart advice to inquiring minds. The focus of my Instagram account is to provide a behind the scenes look into the life of a Captain, making it more tangible and hopefully interesting to others attracted to the career or the shipping industry.

Kate McCue is ready to embrace #RedShoeTuesday!

Kate McCue is ready to embrace #RedShoeTuesday!

Finally, do you keep up with the comments your guests leave on the Celebrity Cruises website? What are some of the most surprising comments you’ve read?

A guest posted on the Celebrity Cruises Facebook page, the following, which really rocked my world: “On our Celebrity Silhouette transatlantic crossing in April, a man sat with us one night for dinner. I apologized for not remembering his name but you, Captain Kate, I am sure will remember him. He lost his wife and has been cruising alone. He could not say enough about you and how kind you were to him. He was on the cruise with you and your parents. He even travels with a 8×10 photo of you and proudly shows it to all of his dinner mates. I just wanted you to know how much your kindness touched this man.”

On a much lighter note, a guest once told me at a cocktail party that I am to Captains what Southwest is to airlines. I hope I can assume that Southwest’s reputation of incredible crew who strive to provide Positively Outrageous Service with a fun-loving attitude was what she meant! Just don’t hold your breath waiting for me to dance in the corridors or sing on the public address system. I save that for special occasions!

Connect with Captain Kate McCue on Instagram!

@captainkatemccue

Skills and Talents of Pianist Make for Great Perfumer

So many of us grew up thinking that you need to have specific skills and talents to enter a career in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math.) That unless you are a nerd with a highly analytical and logical mind, you couldn’t enter the field. Today we interview a mother and daughter who prove our assumption wrong.

For the past 24 years, Judith (Jude) Hollingshead has developed perfumes for Olay, Pantene, Herbal Essence, Fabreze, Pampers and other P&G brands. Mind you, there are only around a thousand perfumers in the world.

Judith Hollingshead had the skills and talents of a pianist. She ended up studying Chemistry and entering a career as a perfumer.

Judith Hollingshead had the skills and talents of a pianist. She ended up studying Chemistry and entering a career as a perfumer.

When I first met her I was curious about what skills and talents are required to be a perfumer and how does someone even decide to become one. The answer surprised me and I wanted to share it with you. See, Jude is not the stereotypical nerd most of us imagine would choose chemistry as a career plan. She was a piano player who studied Chemistry and became a perfumer. And most of it happened because someone saw skills and talents in her that she didn’t yet see.

Because she was always curious and willing to try new things she explored the possibilities presented by others and has had an incredibly successful career as a result. Along the way she has raised, as a single mother, two children. Her daughter Shealyn, a very artistic child, is now finishing her sophomore year as a student of Chemical Engineering at Ohio University – Russ School of Engineering. We talk to both of them about their unusual experience.

Skills and talents required for the job

MD- You are currently a perfumer at P&G. What skills and talents does your job require?

Judith Hollingshead in the P&G lab

Judith Hollingshead in the P&G lab

JH- Perfumery is a blend of Art and Science. A perfume is made up of a blend of

100’s of individual ingredients. A perfumer needs to understand how the ingredients’ smell and how they blend together to form specific odor. For example, an orange is made of materials XYZ, and an Apple is made up of materials ABYZ. A perfumist needs to understand how all the 1000’s of materials smell and how to combine them to achieve a specific and pleasant odor.

So the skill necessary to become a perfumist is, first and foremost, an excellent sense of smell. Another skill that is a close second in importance is the joy of smelling, and desire to constantly want to push out on the boundaries of what is possible. Most perfumers are never satisfied with the perfumes they make, they are constantly working on making them better.

MD- Did you grow up wanting to be a perfumer?

JH- I grew up in the Midwest in the USA. I had a very traditional family. My mother was a stay at home mom who managed the family and my father was a banker

Some of the most important skills and talents Judith Hollingshead transferred from being a talented pianist into chemistry were her perseverance and drive to achieve perfection in her work.

Some of the most important skills and talents Judith Hollingshead transferred from being a talented pianist into chemistry were her perseverance and drive to achieve perfection in her work.

with a 9-5 job. I was not even aware that the career of perfumer was a possibility. In fact, I grew up not even thinking about having a “career” because I did not have very many role model females in my life for this. Throughout my childhood I studied piano, and as I got into my teen years I began to think about what I would do for the rest of my life. Since piano was such an integral part of my life it made sense that continuing to study music, specifically as a performance major in college, would be my course of action. And I pursued that thru about my senior year in High school. It was that year, that my High School Chemistry/ Physics teacher approached me to discuss my high aptitude for Chemistry, Math and Physic. And encouraged me to investigate this as career and major in College.

I am always up to trying new ideas so I began to investigate this direction as an alternative. I found the world of science that year and while I still play piano today and love classical music, I have never regretted becoming a scientist/Perfumer!

We can help you explore your interests and passions at any level of your career! Sign up for our Step Up Program!

MD- Which of the skills and talents needed to be a concert pianist could you transfer to a career in Chemistry?

JH- The most important skill that transfers from music performance to chemistry/perfumery is hard work, tenacity and the pursuit of perfection

As a performer you must work hard and practice constantly to get a piece to perfection. This is the same for perfume experiments. We are constantly reworking the blend of ingredients to make the perfume the most perfect execution of the idea that we have in our head.

Both represent a sensorial experience. A piano performance is an auditory sensory experience and a perfume is an olfactive sensory experience. And both should give the receiver of the experience a sense of pleasure and enjoyment.

Sometimes people see in you things you still don't. The interviewer at P&G saw in Judith's extra curricular activities something they were looking for. A creative person with a hard science background.

Sometimes people see in you things you still don’t. The interviewer at P&G saw in Judith’s extra curricular activities something they were looking for. A creative person with a hard science background.

MD- What exactly did you think you’d do in this field?

JH- My high school teacher was a huge influence to help me understand I had an aptitude for the hard sciences and the job opportunities that were available.

I realized that while I could always have music with me, that science was a new pursuit I would have to learn.

In college, I fully immersed myself into my science studies, I was not sure what I wanted to do, but as I went to Graduate school to pursue my doctorate, I started working in the area of superconductors and semi –conductors. This was an emerging area, and I loved the research.

It was only after I finished graduate school and started to investigate potential companies that the idea of becoming a perfumer became an option.

Definition of perfumer

Definition of perfumer

As part of the job placement services at Iowa State University, our resumes are posted for recruiting companies to review and request interviews.   Procter and Gamble chose me to interview. I had no intention of seriously considering working for P&G because they did not do work research in the area I had focused on in my studies. I was frankly surprised that they even wanted to interview me.

The interview took a strange turn as the interviewer did not ask me about my research or my work in chemistry, as was the case with all my other interviews. He continually probed me on the hobbies I listed on my resume: playing piano and needlework.

I finally asked him about this and he told me that P&G was interested in someone with a strong scientific background and with a strong interest, skills and talent in artistic, creative endeavors. He explained the job of perfumers, and I was immediately intrigued by the idea of being able to use both my creative, artistic side and my technical work. I loved the idea so much I took the chance and shifted my career to perfumery.

Here's a post about an orthopedic surgeon "I find my passion in the most unexpected places."

Like mother like daughter

MD- Shealyn, you are finishing your sophomore year in college. You’re studying Chemical Engineering but you also have the skills and talent to follow an artistic career. What made you decide to give engineering a shot?

Shealyn Holligshead

Shealyn Holligshead

SH- My mom was very persistent in showing me that I would exceed in my academic endeavors as a woman in STEM even though she knew I would be successful in the art field. What really persuaded me to turn my attention to STEM was that she showed me a Ted Talk by Debbie Sterling about a woman in the engineering field. This Ted Talk was about how Debbie created a children’s toy for young girls that will inspire them to build and create like most boy toys that are currently sold today. Her point was that most girl toys, like Barbie’s, teach girls at a young age to focus on building relationships not physical things.

Deb’s talk discussed her struggle to get through school as a woman in STEM, and then on getting her toy design to the market. This Ted Talk really caught my attention, and I decided that I should give STEM a shot because I have the creative ability to innovate. I just needed to apply this ability to a more advanced curriculum to create/innovate more practical inventions that I believe can have a larger impact on the world.

MD- Jude, what are some of the aspects of your career that you love the most?

JH- In my job I get to develop a perfume that is used by millions of consumers. I consider myself very lucky to be able to touch peoples live and make them more enjoyable. I love the ability to work on perfume design for our products. A tremendous amount of effort goes into making sure the right perfume gets combined with the right product at P&G. In addition to that, in other parts of my job, I get to also work on technical upstream research this allows me to use my technical scientific talents. I have the best of both worlds.

Skills and talents needed to enter a career in STEM

MD- From your own individual experiences, what recommendations do you have for young women and their mothers regarding careers in STEM? Do people need to have a specific set of skills and talents or should a wider range of women give careers in STEM a try?

JH- Having a career in the STEM field can be exceptionally rewarding and I believe we need more women to bring their viewpoints to the problems of today. So many women are brought up to believe that they are nurturing, caring or creative and that this is the direct opposite of STEM. It is a misconception that STEM careers require highly logical and analytical mindsets. In reality, we need MORE highly Creative people to be trained in STEM to develop new Inventions and solve today’s problems in NEW and CREATIVE ways.

If you have creative skills and talents you (or your child) may find great satisfaction in a STEM career. Make sure to explore the possibilities!

If you have creative skills and talents you (or your child) may find great satisfaction in a STEM career. Make sure to explore the possibilities!

Another post on finding your passion with your nose you'll love.

SH- When I talk to young women who are considering going into the STEM field, the first thing they ask is, “how hard is the schooling and the work?” It took me aback the first few times I heard this because I never considered this when I chose Chemical Engineering. Maybe this was because my mom is a woman in STEM and my whole life I saw how possible it was to succeed in this field. I never considered the difficulty. But being asked this many times has given me the chance to really consider how to answer this question. It has led me to my most common recommendation for young women:

Whatever you choose to do for your education and/or work life is going to be difficult whether it is STEM or not. It is going to take a lot of work and effort to be successful in any field you choose. So, if you are interested in STEM fields, go for it!

My experience has been that every class I have taken has been nothing but foreign and intimidating to me. The only way to get through it is to just apply yourself and do the work. Eventually, it won’t be so foreign and intimidating. After working thru a class for 15 weeks, by the end, you will be close to mastering the material if you put in the work. I strongly believe that a wider range of women should give STEM a try, especially if you have any interest in science, math or technology.

I would never recommend it, however, to someone who has no interest in these topics.

 

You can connect with Jude Hollingshead via email at Hollingshead.JA@pg.com or on Linkedin: Judith Hollingshead.

She shares her artistic endeavors (weaving, sewing quilts, knitting and other lace making techniques) on her Instagram: Judeh22

You can reach Shealyn Hollingshead at: ShealynHollingshead@gmail.com or on Linkedin under Shealyn Hollingshead.

 

I find my passion in the most unexpected places

The story of a woman surgeon, woodworker & sailor

“I’m an orthopedic surgeon. I like building furniture and sailing. All fields usually dominated by men. I find my passion has never been limited by my gender. I’ve never looked at anything through that lens, until I noticed that others did.”

Dr. Margareta Berg was born in Gothenburg, Sweden where she also went to the University Medical School and obtained her MD in orthopedic surgery and a PhD degree. She has dedicated her life to her passions, which frequently found her in a male-dominated field. Her latest project is her biggest challenge yet and it could save many lives. This could be the story that changes your view on what you can do!

Dr. Margareta Berg, Swedish orthopedic surgeon who works part of her time in Laponia, an area of Sweden close to the Arctic Circle.

Dr. Margareta Berg, Swedish orthopedic surgeon who works part of her time in Laponia, an area of Sweden close to the Arctic Circle.

Read more about how to find your passion here.

When we first met, you told me, “An equal opportunity household helped me find my passion.” Could you expand?

When I grew up there was no difference between male and female chores at home. I still don’t know if this was a conscious choice made by my parents, or just a sign of their true nature. My elder brother liked cooking and baking at a very early age, and as a 7-year old I thrived in my father’s simple woodworking studio. One of my favorite hobbies was to carve wood with a very sharp knife, most often holding the piece against my stomach and directing the knife towards my own abdomen. Nobody would have guessed that these early exercises helped me find my passion for orthopedic surgery.

"I find my passion in many things: making furniture is one of them," Dr. Margareta Berg

“I find my passion in many things: making furniture is one of them,” Dr. Margareta Berg

In elementary school in the 1960s we had to choose between sewing or woodworking. As I had sewn my own slacks since I was ten and I liked carpentry, I chose woodworking. I was the only girl out of a thousand students in the class. Of course I was bullied for this choice, even by some woodworking teachers. But I didn’t care, and continued to find my passion in unusual places. I don’t know where this stubborness and strong-will came from. Maybe it was a combination of genes inhereted from my ancestors. I come from powerful men in the iron and steel production and I’m distantly related to the prominent Wallenberg family with ties in most industrial groups in Sweden.

When you were 14 years old you wanted to be a psychiatrist and as you graduated high school with top grades you were able to enter Med school right away. Then, after your “surgery semester” (or rotation) you changed your mind. How did you find your passion for orthopedics?

When the surgery-semester started, students were placed as medical candidates at different surgical wards. It started with three weeks in orthopedic surgery in August 1979. The very first day, not knowing how to scrub or how to behave in an operating room, our supervisor pointed at a friend and me and said, “Our first case is a hip replacement and you will be my first and second assistants.” We were both thrown into the OR and did as we were told. Now, remember that back in 1979 a hip replacement was a much longer procedure and not the kind of “assembly line” we know today. During those few weeks we assisted in all kinds of orthopedic surgery, even in children.

"I find my passion in orthopedic surgery after my rotation in orthopedics. I entered Med school to be a psychiatrist." Dr. Margareta Berg, founder of Surgicon Foundation

“I find my passion in orthopedic surgery after my rotation in orthopedics. I entered Med school to be a psychiatrist.” Dr. Margareta Berg, founder of Surgicon Foundation

After my three weeks rotation in orthopedics I did find my passion. So I changed my mind. I wouldn’t be a psychiatrist but an orthopedic surgeon.

Did you realize you were entering a male dominated field?

There was not a second of hesitation or any thoughts whatsoever about this profession being a “male” or “female” occupation. I just wanted to do something I liked, instead of spending my lifetime in a specialty with better working hours but for which I had no passion.

Dr. Margareta Berg, Founder Surgicon Foundation

Dr. Margareta Berg

The first time I realized that just being a female resident in orthopedic surgery was a provocation, was at age 30. It felt like I was being interviewed nearly every day at work when people asked me:

“How do you feel about being a woman in orthopedic surgery?” To which I’d usually answer:

“Well, how should I know? I don’t know how it feels to be a man in orthopedic surgery.”

So from the very beginning I entered the field completely free of any preconceptions. I just did my job, as everybody else. It took me several years to understand that it was something special to be a woman in this profession. The gender question was thrown at me after I had already been in this field for a while. Why couldn’t I be left in my innocent, equal world? The truth is that if I had known this reality from the start, it would certainly have given me second thoughts about this specialty.

Laughter is always a great way to navigate an awkward situation.

Laughter is always a great way to navigate an awkward situation.

You might enjoy reading “Women mentors: A group of surgeons like no other

Were you treated differently because you were a woman?

I was bullied, almost every day. But this just helped me develop a very useful method to defend myself: A very rapid, sharp and efficient sense of humor. I did not want to raise my voice for fear of being seen as a bitch, and I did not want to cry (as I never do) showing a useless weakness. When things got awkward, making everyone burst out in laughter was the best way to handle the situation.

This film director is another powerful woman in a male-dominated field. Don't miss her story!

You worked hard and yet you found time to continue to find your passions elsewhere. Tell us about that.

I spent days and nights at work, just to learn, doing a lot more hours than expected. I would usually go home at 7 or 8 PM, had a rest, and then returned to work until midnight.

"I find my passion in sailing. The silence helps me rest and unwind," Dr. Margareta Berg, founder Surgicon Foundation

“I find my passion in sailing. The silence helps me rest and unwind,” Dr. Margareta Berg, founder Surgicon Foundation

But I also needed to unwind. So, faithful to my habits, I did this wholeheartedly. During Med School I had saved all my student loans for eleven semesters by working on weekends to support myself. In 1980 I made a large withdrawal and bought a 26 ft sailing boat. (I had been sailing with my family since I was a child.) It took a week of being all alone on the boat to get back to normal sleep and to feel well rested. As the boat had no engine I developed the technique of entering and leaving harbors and desert creeks by sail during ten years. To some people, this was a strange thing for a single woman do to. And I find my passion for woodwork is still alive today in my furniture-making.

You shared with me that through your career one of your ongoing concerns had been the standarization of practical surgical training. How did that become your latest project and passion?

Well, trying to continue to find my passion in surgery led me to something I had been observing for years.

By 2010 I had spent 30 years in orthopedics. I had observed the lack of structure in surgical training and also I had experienced the differences in quality of surgical training and the potentially harmful consequences of this differences. So I decided that we needed to do something about it. I contacted key colleagues in my own network of surgeons across the world and organized a two-day brainstorming meeting in September 2010 in Howth, Ireland. Along with a group of leaders in surgery we decided to create the Surgicon Project.

What exactly is the Surgicon project and why is does it matter so much to you?

Surgicon is a worldwide network of leaders in surgery with a common interest in Surgical Training and Equalized International Certificates of Surgical Skills. There is a high incidence of surgical errors that are a direct result of the lack of a structured surgical training. In general, across the world, a surgical resident is placed with an attending surgeon who functions as a mentor for 4 or 5 years. After that period he/she becomes a “specialist.” Yet there is a lack of standardized curriculum during this learning period and different attending surgeons teach different things to their residents. Consequently, many preventable mistakes take place and even lives are needlessly lost.

The Surgicon Foundation is a worldwide network of leaders in surgery with a common interest in Surgical Training and Equalized International Certificates of Surgical Skills.

The Surgicon Foundation is a worldwide network of leaders in surgery with a common interest in Surgical Training and Equalized International Certificates of Surgical Skills.

A 2008 Swedish retrospective study of medical records showed 105,000 injuries caused by hospital care in one year of which nearly 50% were related to surgery. Of the total number there were 3,000 deaths, all in a population of 9 million inhabitants. Each injury resulted in a prolonged hospitalization of an average of 6 days.

Surgicon held two congresses in 2011 and 2013. The delegates called them “The Davos for Surgeons” due to the high concentration of world surgical leaders in the same geographical spot for several days. In 2012 the non-profit Surgicon Foundation was created with the goal of creating the needed curriculum to standardize surgical training and drastically reduce preventable mistakes and deaths. In 2013 Surgicon was invited to collaborate with the World Health Organization.

What do you need to move this passion forward?

Everytime I find my passion, I invest all my efforts, time, energy and money into it. This is no different. I’ve spent the last five years working overtime just to organize these two major medical congresses and I’m now involved in fundraising to create the curriculum. We are looking for corporations, non-profit organizations, and governments interested in taking this project to the next level. It will highly benefit patients and their families around the world. And it will help drastically reduce medical costs.

You can connect with Dr. Margareta Berg via:

Twitter: @SurgiconProject

Email: congress@surgicon.org

Website: www.surgicon.org

 

How to negotiate with confidence for what you want

The successful story of Elaine Del Valle

One of the best ways to learn how to negotiate in your career is to ask those who have done it successfully. Enter Elaine Del Valle. Award-winning actor, writer, producer and philanthropist.

You think you can’t have your cake and eat it too? Think again. When you are multi talented like Elaine Del Valle, it’s not really about how to negotiate for the roles you want but how to create them. And these roles are not only on stage or on screen but also as a writer and producer of the material she really cares about.

Elaine Del Valle headshot

Elaine Del Valle, actor, writer, producer and philanthropist is a great example of how to negotiate with confidence

Trained as an actor under the legendary Wynn Handman, Elaine wrote and developed her multiple award winning off-Broadway one-woman play “Brownsville Bred“– her true coming of age story set in the tough neighborhood of Brownsville Brooklyn NY. She’s been featured on films such as “Elliot Loves”, in comedies such as the web series “Los Angeles” and in the short film “Stereotypically Me.” Recent television appearances include CBS’s Blue Bloods opposite Donnie Wahlberg Elaine. She has hosted the Annual Hispanic Choice Awards taped for broadcast on CBS. And she also enjoys a long, lucrative voice-over career. Most recently, she licensed the series “Gran’pa Knows Best” to HBO. As a philanthropist, Elaine has raised over a million dollars for children with autism through the charity cycling event she founded The Mansion Ride for Autism Charity Cycling Event.

Having a career as an actor is not easy. When did you learn how to negotiate your roles?

I learned that being an actress, especially an ethnically ambiguous, commercial-looking Latina Actress, yielded little power. It wasn’t until I took on the role of writer that I yielded power. The question for me was not so much how to negotiate a role but how to create a role that fitted my interests and talents on the stage and on screen, and also behind the scenes.

I am best known for writing my autobiographical one-woman play, “Brownsville Bred.” The play has led me down more paths than I can state and is still creating inroads for me. Because it was my true Latina coming of age story, my audiences were privy to me and my life philosophy. It created powerful connections between me and those who saw it.

One such connection was with the Multicultural Media Forum and Time Warner Hispanic Employee Group, Viva. The groups invited me to perform my life story several times…I had the gift of being seen by network people and later being able to call them my friends.

I learned that my Latino community was hungry for a voice, especially a female voice telling a true story. I also learned that the voice was so strong that people remembered it.

Inspirational quote on how to negotiate by Elaine Del Valle . "I went into the meeting with a basic trust. The dealings were never adversarial. We all wanted the same thing."

To learn how to negotiate, you first need to know what you want.

I knew that I had to continue to write and so I created a web series, “Reasons Y I’m Single”. Writing, producing, directing and acting in the series became an impressive feat that marked me as a proven player in what we, in the NY Latino Entertainment inner circle, call “The Latino Media Mafia”. I built my reputation with hard work, fairness, helping others, appreciation and a very Latina Point of View. And getting to that point enabled me to negotiate projects that were always close to my heart.

These days I wear the hat that I need to in order to accomplish my to do lists. Every morning I wake up and say “I run my own studio. Del Valle Productions, Inc.” It has many divisions, and I act on the needs of each division as they arise. It also means I’m constantly negotiating.

Don't miss 3 Key Negotiating Strategies for Women

Where did you learn how to negotiate larger and larger contracts like the one you just signed with HBO? Did you have mentors and coaches that guided you through the process?

When I was going into the negotiation for HBO to license “Gran’pa Knows Best” I did my homework on the network and how to negotiate with it based on its past negotiations. I spoke with three people who had had former dealings with them. They acted as my mentors and coaches. I felt this was important to get a foundation, so that nothing would take me by surprise.

I was reassured each time that HBO was the very best network to deal with, especially for first timers. I went into the meeting with a basic trust. The dealings were never adversarial. We all wanted the same thing: For the series to air on HBO. I didn’t bring in an attorney until the very end, because I learned long ago that attorneys make money when there is conflict and I didn’t want anyone to mess up a relationship that I worked so long to cultivate. I went to the attorney with the contract that I was happy with and consulted with her to ensure that I understood the legal language correctly.

In a way HBO held my hand through the process. They spelled out what they needed and I worked my way through to the fulfillment of their needs. It was a great example of how to negotiate by focusing on the outcome both parties want rather on what only you want.

Read more about coaching and mentoring here!

Tell us a little bit about the series. It’s a first of its kind on HBO, right?

Elaine Del Valle and William D.Caballero, director / creator of "Gran'pa Knows Best", the new HBO series

Elaine Del Valle and William D.Caballero, director / creator of “Gran’pa Knows Best”, the new HBO series

Yes, it is. I am currently in production of Season 2 of Gran’pa Knows Best—A comedy web-series starring a 4 inch 3D printed likeness of our Director/Creator, William D. Caballero’s 87 year old grandfather, Victor Muriel. Originally from Puerto Rico, Muriel voices the character and offers his real advice on various subjects. The series offers viewers an interactive experience as advice seekers. The questions that grandpa answers.on each episode are selected from social media users who post tweets tagging @ask_granpa and using hashtag #GranpaKnowsBest. Those whose questions/topics are selected get featured in an episode by way of their first name and social media profile photo.

The Gran’pa character poses are modeled by Chang Kim, using the computerized Zbrush program, and are printed in polymer resin using 3D printer technology. Each one is hand painted by Amy Yamashiro and Kate Keisel. They are then placed in a miniature model home designed and 3D printed by Seth Burney. Graphic design and text animation by Chris Cookson accompany the voice and real advice of Gran’pa Victor Muriel. William D. Caballero directs the series, filming in macro perspective, alongside dozens of miniature and life size props. B roll is added to enhance the visual and comedic effect.

Elaine Del Valle and William D. Caballero film HBO series GKB

Elaine Del Valle and William D. Caballero film HBO series GKB

Were you nervous about meeting with HBO about how to negotiate with a large media company?

As anyone could imagine the idea of sitting in the offices of a huge, respected network such as HBO could be intimidating. While I was nervous, my years of stage performances afforded me the luxury of being able to work through the nerves. Of reaching a relaxed center that gave me the ability to focus and more importantly, LISTEN. I think listening is the most important thing you can do in any meeting. Active listening allows for organic reaction. Knowing what you want to accomplish in a meeting is important. But being overly rehearsed, can make you anxious to get your point across and never leads to the openness that the best working relationships are built on.

More on negotiation: 3 Sure Fire Negotiating Tips

What were some of the lessons that can help others learn how to negotiate with a much larger counterpart?

Know what you are willing and able to give before you enter the meeting. Click to Tweet
Never over promise. Get a baseline on what to expect, so nothing shocks you out of sorts. Take notes. Use those notes to follow up with. In my case, we negotiated terms and I sent an email that spelled out the agreed upon terms. They were happy to have them and used my notes to develop the contract.

Elaine Del Valle Headshot

Elaine Del Valle has succeeded in her career thanks to finding her voice and letting it be heard

Listen to the needs of the company. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. For a licensing deal, there are insurance requirements, deadlines you have to be able to make, Trademark and copyright, clearances, etc. It is a long and arduous road that I learned a great deal from accomplishing. And I’d add that if you have never negotiated anything important before, seek mentors and coaches who can guide you on how to negotiate.

For many women it’s hard to negotiate salary and contracts. Particularly difficult for women who are in the arts and social sciences. Do you have any suggestions for them?

Research. In my case, I reached out to a friend whose attorney had many negotiations with the company, another colleague who had a deal that did not reach fruition and a friend who had successfully licensed a film to HBO. I learned from listening to all those experiences.

 You can connect with Elaine Del Valle at:

Tweet her @BrownsvilleBred or @Ask_Granpa

Instagram users can follow her on @DelValleProductions. Follow her on Facebook @DelValle Productions & Casting and @GranpaKnowsBest

And Best of all WATCH GRAN’PA KNOWS BEST on HBO Latino, HBO GO, and HBO NOW! New episodes are on every Wednesday at 7:55pm and also air in between programs on HBO Latino.