This week, my colleague Jen and I attended The Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce’s Women’s Network Breakfast where Margaret McKenna, President at Suffolk University, spoke. McKenna is an extremely influential and inspiring, an educator and lawyer who has spent her career advocating for social justice. She began her career as a civil rights attorney for the U.S. Department of Justice and later served as the Deputy Counsel in the White House, as Undersecretary of the U.S. Department of Education, and led the education transition team for President Clinton. McKenna’s experience in higher education also includes serving as Vice President of Radcliffe College and as President of Lesley University for 22 years. In addition, she served as a fellow at the Institute of Politics at Harvard University. Impressive right? Well, today she spoke to a group of women professionals (and a few men) about what she’s learned throughout her career. Here are just a few key takeaways:

  1. Hire people that are smarter than yourself and share your values: By filling a team with people who are smarter than yourself, your team and company will thrive. You always want to surround yourself with those you can learn from. Additionally, people can be taught skills but they cannot be taught values. By hiring employees that have the same values as yourself and your organization, your team will be more willing to work together towards the same goals.
  1. Work for a company you respect: When you work for an organization that you respect, you often push yourself harder to fulfil its goals. You don’t want to be in a position where you’re pushing back on your peers because you don’t respect the company’s/non profit’s outlook – that’s counterproductive.
  1. Learn when to speak out and whom to speak out to: When you’re itching to make a positive change, remember to get the right people on your side to help make that change. Look for those opportunities.
  1. When starting new at a company, respect its past and build on it – don’t try to change it, make it better: Don’t disregard everything the institution has stood for. Respect the values that the organization represents and find ways to build on what’s already there to make it better.
  1. Shake the trees: Speak out and help make things better for those people in your community who don’t have a voice. Stand up for what you believe in and always follow your intuition.