On November 3, 2023, the Lam Family College of Business (LFCoB) at San Francisco State University welcomed a sold-out audience to its ninth annual Women’s Emerging Leadership Forum (WELF), hosted in collaboration with KPMG at their San Francisco office, located at 55 Second Street. An inspiring, one-day event designed for those seeking to advance in their profession, WELF 2023 featured informative and motivational discussions tied to the event theme, ‘Embracing Change and Alchemizing the Future,’ and delivered by prominent community thought leaders and top managers.
The speakers, representing a variety of industries and fields, included Kelly Wong Craven Director and Associate General Counsel for Facebook, Meta; Sally Thornton, CEO and Founder, Forshay; Chia-Lin Simmons, CEO, LogicMark, Inc.; Rachel Konrad, Chief Brand Officer, The Production Board; Heather Watkins, Co-Founder and COO, Bold Reuse; and Thuy Vu, Co-Founder and CEO, Global Mentor Network. They shared their unique stories, which demonstrated how they materialized various forms of change in their professional and personal lives.
The event started with a welcome and opening remarks from Guisselle Nunez, Associate Vice President of Strategic Marketing and Communications and CMO at SF State.
Kelly Chow Craven took over the speaker spot for Rebecca Tierney - the inspiration for the event theme - who couldn’t make it due to a last-minute health issue. Craven shared an insightful presentation on the ways companies and employees think about change, especially within the context of Silicon Valley, in general, and Meta, in particular.
After a coffee break, the keynote speaker, Sally Thornton, took the stage to share a presentation on the future of teams, work, and well-being. She shared her personal story of change that led her to start Forshay and her insights on change with behavioral science references that captivated the audience.
Representing a wide range of industries and professions, including students, the 100 attendees had time to network with one another throughout the day.
After the lunch break, a discussion with a three-person panel made of Chia-Lin Simmons, Rachel Konrad, and Heather Watkins, was moderated by Bahar Javadi, Assistant Professor of Management at SF State. The discussion allowed each panelist to not only share their own perspectives on change in the world, in their professions, and in their personal lives, but also to interact with each other, creating a robust conversation and an exchange of ideas about the different tools and strategies to deal with challenges and change.
The last session of the event was a fireside chat featuring Thuy Vu, with Guisselle Nunez as the moderator. The audience appeared highly engaged and inspired as they listened to Vu share her story of immigrating to the U.S. on a boat separated from her family, followed by a long and successful career.
One of the event attendees was last year's keynote speaker, Carine Schneider, FGE, now Founding Partner at Compass Equity. Asked what she thought of this year's WELF, Schneider replied, “it was a really good conference, great speakers and good guidance for people of all ages.” Another attendee, Kelly Chuck from LinkedIn, said, “It was special to take a step away from the day-to-day of work to network and invest in my own professional development.” Dominique Hoover, another attendee from LinkedIn, added, “It was also inspiring to connect with the students present and hear about their goals, career aspirations, and fresh perspectives on the job market and future of work.”
Rachel Konrad, one of this year's panelists, commented, “What a spectacular event. Big enough to get a diverse, engaged crew together but small enough to facilitate one-on-one networking. I talked at length to people throughout, and they raved about the content, the networking sessions, and the overall convenience [of] a one-day gathering in the heart of San Francisco. I plan to attend again next year. Congrats on an excellent event, and huge thanks for inviting me to be part of it. It was a highlight of the entire year.”
WELF is the flagship event of the Lam-Larsen Community Engagement Initiative, led by Marketing Professor Gulnur Tumbat, who commented, “as a public education institution, we value our collaboration with KPMG greatly to materialize this event in a very professional space. Such external partnerships are key to what we aim to accomplish with these events, that is, connecting with more people within the communities we are part of, inside and outside of our campus.” She added, "We are also grateful to all the inspiring speakers who donated their time to this event and generously shared their personal and professional journeys and insights."