Executives share lessons from path to C-Suite: Be True to Yourself, Learn from Mentors
The importance of being true to yourself, learning from mentors, and shaping the future you want are some of the key lessons shared by three prominent Dallas-area CEOs at an event hosted by professional services firm EY in late July.
Moderated by Dallas-based EY Advisory Partner Andrea Carter, the panel featured Marvin Ellison, CEO of JCPenney; Ron Hill, Chairman and CEO of Goodman Networks; and Fred Perpall, CEO of The Beck Group. The event was organized by EY’s Black Professionals Network in Dallas, and attracted more than 200 professionals and students for a candid discussion of success, diversity and inclusiveness.
“Building diverse teams that respect, value and harness each member’s differences is embedded in EY’s culture,” said Michelle Vopni, Dallas Office Managing Partner, Ernst & Young LLP. “I’m proud of our Black Professional Network for organizing an event that encourages local professionals and students to learn from these successful CEOs while also emphasizing the importance of creating an inclusive culture so all professionals can leverage their full talents.”
Throughout the panel, all three CEOs touted the importance of being authentic and staying true to your values within the corporate culture. They also implored attendees to find the right mentor(s) and encouraged them to lead change throughout their careers.
The first black CEO at JCPenney, Marvin Ellison explained that early in his career at another company he tried to blend in with those around him in order to be part of the group. Conforming was exhausting. Soon after embracing his own personal, professional style and sharing different points of view (with data and facts to back them up), he was invited to be a part of influential groups because he stood out.
“Be yourself from the beginning,” Ellison emphasized. “The right company will choose you because you bring something unique to the table.”
Goodman Network’s Ron Hill echoed this sentiment and implored event participants to maintain their values — especially as they rise through the ranks.
“The challenge is that sometimes the higher we go, the more we tend to deviate from our values,” Hill explained. “As you move up, advance your skills, but let you values stay constant.”
Finding the right mentor(s)
Another common theme emphasized throughout the panel was how critical it is for each professional to have mentors in their career journey.
Hill explained that demonstrating high-quality work, taking on hard assignments, and executing on your goals can frequently attract mentors. Additionally, all three panelists encouraged professionals to be proactive in their search for mentorship and to be broad – looking past gender and ethnicity.
“Determine what you need to get better at and find someone who has that skill who you can learn from,” Ellison said. “Own your future. Own your career. Don’t wait for someone to come to you.”
Throughout the event, the panelists recognized that while leadership is challenging, it also offers the opportunity to impact real change.
“If you want to be on the road to the C-suite, get ready for challenge,” Hill said. “But, know that you are also creating a path to bring about exponential results.”
The EY-hosted panel in Dallas is one example of the firm’s commitment toward building a better working world through diversity and inclusiveness.
“Our professional networks and efforts like this event create strong relationships among employees and provide a professional support system that emphasizes diversity, cultural awareness, education and professional excellence,” said Kevin Muskat, Dallas-based Partner and Black Professional Network Sponsor, Ernst & Young LLP. “Diversity and inclusiveness is essential to EY’s exceptional client service, the development of our people, and our leadership in communities around the world.”