Sidney is a Senior at Stanford pursuing a B.S. Honors in Science, Technology, and Society. She was born in Tampa, FL, and has played competitive sports her entire life. She works part-time at ICONIQ Capital and will be joining them full-time once she graduates.

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SWIB is a place where I get to be with incredible women who inspire me. I wouldn’t be where I am today without SWIB.


I was part of the Women’s Volleyball Team at Stanford. However, I struggled as an athlete – volleyball took away time from other things I really needed. I decided to leave the team after two years and opened up to other opportunities. I joined SWIB, decided to write a thesis, and took up a leadership position in a sorority.  


I spent the Summer of Freshman year in Italy. Sophomore year, I got a job with the New York Yankees, working with client services for luxury sales. I don’t like baseball but it was great to get the work experience. Junior year, I worked with a career accelerator, helping 40 to 50-year-old women get back into the job market. Finally, during Senior year, I took a part-time job at ICONIQ Capital, working mostly with growth equity, venture capital, and sourcing. I will be going back full-time once I graduate!


I always thought I needed to maximize my time. This initially meant being social, going out, and not doing much school work. I eventually discovered, however, that a much better way to maximize time is by doing things that are meaningful to you, such as studying something you love or working on a big project. My advice is to focus less on the grandeur of Stanford and more on what makes you happy. 


I wish I had taken Latin. I took it all throughout high school and had hoped to continue pursuing it in college. I also wish I had taken Chinese!


I love dark chocolate with almonds and sea-salt. I also like minty dark chocolate…or just chocolate that is so dark it is painful to eat!

Meet SWIB Board Member, Connie Li

Connie is a Senior at Stanford majoring in Computer Science, with a track in human-computer interaction. Once she graduates, she plans to continue her work with product management, but also nurses thoughts about entering the sexual health space. 

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The people are incredible and there is so much diversity in experience. When I first joined SWIB, I wasn’t a great communicator, and being around SWIB members helped me grow in that aspect.


I was really socially insecure during my freshman and sophomore year, but I made conscious choices to change. I invested myself in student groups that mattered to me (e.g. SWIB, AKPsi, and SHPRC), put my head down, and did good work. I have now found my niche and my resume looks fresh.


One of the most important things at Stanford is to learn how to be a good person – both to others and yourself - from the extremely emotionally mature people surrounding you. Emotional and personal growth are more important than professional and academic growth.


My shoe size is 7, I didn’t eat seafood until I was out of high school, and I’m on Alliance. I get hype about Arabic and Chinese calligraphy, have double-jointed thumbs and am proud of my knowledge of keyboard shortcuts.

2016 Most Powerful Women In Tech

Gender disparity in the tech industry is a frequently discussed issue, but it's also important to recognize the incredible women who have taken on some of its top leadership roles. Check out the list compiled by Personal Income below.

Meet SWIB Board Member, Tess Bloch-Horowitz

Tess Bloch-Horowitz is a junior at Stanford who is majoring in Science, Technology, and Society and minoring in Feminist Studies. After her quarter in New York at Venmo, Tess is back on campus and has provided some insights on school and career. She will be at McKinsey NY as a Summer Business Analyst after this school year.

Thinking back, what led you to join SWIB?

I joined SWIB because I was looking for a community of women who I could learn from and engage with. SWIB was the perfect opportunity to combine my interests in business and feminism, while spending time with amazing people.

What are some unconventional skills that you've gained from SWIB?

Years of event planning for SWIB have given me IT skills including the ability to work a projector and connect mics -- skills that I've been able to apply at work as well as in school.

What's changed most about you since your earlier years at Stanford?

When I came to Stanford, I never imagined that I'd pursue a career in tech. I thought I was going to be an English major, and wouldn't have dreamed of even taking CS 106A. SWIB helped me realize that non-technical roles in tech companies exist and that I was interested in them. Mentors pushed me to take challenging classes, and supported me through them. Now, I have the confidence and skill set to work in a technical environment, and I have realized how much I love doing so.

#1 best experience from SWIB?

There have been countless amazing events that I've had the opportunity to attend and contribute to through SWIB, but I think my favorite experience has to be one of the smaller moments in SWIB -- an elevator pitch workshop that we did when I was an intern. I learned so much in that workshop, but more importantly, that was when I really started to get to know my fellow SWIB members by hearing about their passions and interests.

You have experience with trendy startups, from Rent the Runway to Venmo. How did you work your way into those opportunities, and what were some of the defining moments?

SWIB gave me the confidence and skills that I needed to work my way into opportunities including at Rent the Runway and Venmo. I got my job at Venmo because of the advice I received from a SWIB mentor, which was to cold email companies that I was passionate about working at. I emailed Venmo never imagining I would get a response, let alone an offer. After I went through the interview process, I was told I had gotten the job because of my resume (redesigned with the help of SWIB), previous tech experience (gained through a Springternship), and my interview skills (learned in SWIB workshops).

#1 interview tip?

My #1 interview tip is to keep your energy up. Interviewing can be exhausting and stressful -- not just for you, but for the interviewer as well. Being energetic communicates your interest in and passion for the job, and it also just makes the process more fun.

What was your personal journey in choosing your major?

I wanted a major where I could challenge myself without being confined to one department, and STS fit that perfectly. It wasn't an easy journey -- I changed my major at least five times freshman year -- but I'm happy where I ended up. STS allows me to take classes across the disciplines and develop both creative and analytical skills, all of which I'm able to apply in the business world.

What was your personal journey in choosing your industry of choice?

I chose to work in tech and consulting because of my love of problem solving, my desire to receive mentorship, and my passion for working on teams. SWIB helped me realize that I thrive under pressure, whether that is dealing with a last minute IT or catering crisis, speaking in public, or helping people with recruiting. It also showed me how important it is to be working on a team, and to be mentored and trained by people you respect -- all of which I found in consulting and tech.

What is your coolest accomplishment from Stanford?

Last spring, I had the chance to take an independent study with Tobias Wolff, who is a professor here and one of my favorite authors. It was an amazing experience and really allowed me to explore my love of reading and writing while getting to know someone I'd admired for a long time.

A few words of wisdom?

The most valuable skill that I've learned through SWIB is to ask for advice, whether that is from peers, faculty, or friends. I've always been hesitant to reach out and ask for help because I didn't want to be a burden. As I've gone through SWIB, I've had the opportunity to mentor others. I've learned so much and had a lot of fun getting to know them, and it's made me realize that giving advice or asking for it isn't a burden. My words of wisdom would be to always ask for help -- the worst thing that could happen is someone says no, and the best is that you find a mentor and get invaluable advice.

Meet SWIB Co-President, Priyanka Jain

For this spotlight, we sat down with our co-president for 2015-2016, Priyanka Jain. Priyanka is a senior majoring in Science, Technology, and Society (STS), has extensive experience in Silicon Valley’s startup atmosphere as a Mayfield Fellow and IBM Watson intern, and has worked with Stanford Venture Capital Club. In addition, Priyanka has worked extensively to promote women's empowerment in many ways, including being a spokesperson for the United Nations Foundation Girl Up Youth Campaign, Kairos Society Regional Founder, TEDx speaker, and founder of the Women's Initiative at Questbridge, among others. You can read more about her accomplishments here.

Along with her fellow co-presidents, Priyanka has also overseen exciting changes and major growth for SWIB this year.

Thinking back a few years, what led you to join SWIB?

I was so excited about joining SWIB because of the opportunities to join a strong community of amazing women and learn from women leaders in industry. Since then, SWIB has become one of the most integral parts of my Stanford career. It has provided me with a diverse community of ambitious women, exposed me to a wide variety of potential careers, and showed me how to be an effective leader.

What are some unconventional skills that you've gained from SWIB?

SWIB has taught me so much about professional communication -- from interviews, to public speaking, to even writing emails. I find myself helping my friends with emails all the time -- it's surprisingly a really valuable skill!

What's changed most about you since your earlier years at Stanford?

I have grown a lot throughout my four years at Stanford and can credit a lot of my personal and professional development to SWIB. I have become much more confident about my skills and interests and am excited to apply everything I've learned to my first full time job!

Advice for SWIB interns and underclassmen?

Keep an open mind and don't be afraid to take risks. While many people will probably tell you to follow a conventional educational and career path, you have so much to gain from breaking the mold and following your individual interests. Take advantage of your internships and use your experiences to get a better sense of what you're looking for in your career. Think about what type of environment you enjoy in terms of size of the company, your role, and the general industry.

What was your personal journey in choosing your major?

I have always been passionate about the intersection of technology and social impact, so STS was the perfect major for me to explore how I could use technology to help people. I loved that I was able to take classes across departments and spend time with students in different majors.

How did you choose your industry of choice?

I was drawn to technology startups because I think they have the highest potential to impact people's lives all over the world. I would love to focus on harnessing the power of technology to empower women, both here in Silicon Valley and across the world in developing countries.

Most exciting thing in SWIB's future?

I am most excited about sustainably building the Society of Women Leaders. The mission of the initiative is to connect the leadership teams from the top schools' women in business groups across the country. I hope that the new initiative facilitates meaningful relationships between the next generation of women leaders.

Meet Next Year's SWIB Co-President, Kitty Kwan

This week, we are featuring Kitty Kwan, one of our two incoming SWIB co-presidents for 2016-2017! Congratulations, Kitty!

Kitty is currently VP of Community Management and a junior majoring in Management Science and Engineering. Kitty has some insightful thoughts and advice regarding her career track, and will be sharing her diverse experiences in tech and finance.


Thinking back, what led you to join SWIB?

I don’t have great reasons for why I joined SWIB – they’re very typical “freshman-looking-for-commits-reasons”. I wanted a place where I could learn more about my interests and be a part of a community of incredible women. I didn’t have a strong reason to join, but after I did, I got what I was hoping for and was stunned by the level of responsibility and growth opportunities that I was put into.

For me, the reasons for joining SWIB are not nearly as important to me as the reasons that I’ve chosen to commit to this organization the past three years.

What are some unconventional skills that you've gained from SWIB?

Apart from learning how to juggle multiple things and being really good at multi-tasking while speaking on the phone with someone I’ve never met, I think that one of the most important things is knowing how manage relationships that are both personal and “professional”. SWIB really gave me the opportunity to step up into leadership positions where I had to manage a team and work with women who were also my good friends.

What's changed most about you (professionally and personally) since your earlier years at Stanford?

I’ve learned to take criticism a lot better and be able to use that to change in a better way. At the same time, I’ve learned to discern productive versus unproductive criticism.

#1 best experience/moment from SWIB?

My favorite experiences from SWIB are those that make my team or teammates feel a huge sense of accomplishments and closer, as friends. Freshmen year, I had the most amazing fellow finance interns. We put on this event called “Women in Tech and Finance”, which was a huge hit. While in hindsight, it wasn’t super creative or unique, but WOW we were so proud of ourselves. Even today, we still talk about how great it was and we still grab meals. Those are the moments that make SWIB special to me.

You've worked at a lot of successful companies, from Merrill Lynch to Salesforce. What were some of the defining/milestone moments?

It’s hard to pinpoint specific moments, but it’s always a great feeling to feel that others really believe in my work ability and be handed responsibility that I don’t necessarily feel like I deserve. But at the same time, I’ve learned that company culture and being surrounded by intellectually stimulating and fun people are just as important as the responsibility.

Additionally, each work experience is a learning experience that leads me away from some careers and hopefully towards something else. While I still have no idea, I’ll be pursuing Tech investment banking at Goldman Sachs this coming summer. I’m a bit scared, but I know that it will be challenging and move me in yet another direction.

What was your personal journey in choosing your major?

I was really intrigued by how Management Science and Engineering looked on ExploreCourses before freshman year started. I started off freshmen year with it and have really thoroughly enjoyed the breadth of classes that I’m exposed to. What’s better, I feel like the major has only gotten more interesting because I’m now at a point where I have the flexibility to choose between so many amazing MS&E classes. I really think that what I learn in my classes are no longer “in one ear and out the other”, but really relevant to life and everyday interactions with people.

What was your personal journey in choosing your industry of choice? Do you see that changing later?

I can’t say that I’ve chosen an industry yet. So far, I’ve dabbled between Tech and Finance and really can’t say that I have a preference. I love the pace and rigor of both industries and so I really hope to pursue more internships/job opportunities to truly figure it out. This coming summer will definitely be my most integrative summer for the two, doing Tech investment banking.

I think that I will always be willing to change industries to be at a place that excites and challenges me. I know that this summer will be a formative experience, and am really excited to keep learning other industries.

What is your coolest accomplishment from Stanford?

I have a pretty high centrality score in my social networks class. Even though it’s only a sample of about 60 students, it reminds me how lucky I am to have met and interacted with so so many amazing people at Stanford.

A few words of wisdom?

In my opinion, good people are good to everyone. Surround yourself with these people!

Meet SWIB Board Member, Priyanka Sekhar

Priyanka Sekhar is a junior at Stanford University, majoring in Computer Science. She serves as the SWIB Director of Finance and also dedicates her time to Applied Cybersecurity, a student group on campus that educates students about cyber security and hacking. Priyanka has interned at a range of workplaces, from startups to Google, and is looking into early-stage opportunities for the summer.

She was also recently named one of the 12 most impressive students currently at Stanford by Business Insider.


Why did you join SWIB?

I'm not sure exactly why I joined, but before SWIB I'd always been working in male-dominated fields (science, business, etc). SWIB seemed like a great way to work with very intelligent women, and I'll admit I was nervous at first because I had so little exposure to motivated and ambitious women. I didn't know if I could do it. Of course, SWIB was a great decision and I learned that competent women come in all forms and joining was one of the best decisions I've made at Stanford.

What is the most useful knowledge that SWIB has given you?

SWIB definitely taught me the art of the email. Email communication is so important and very underrated. When to follow up, how to follow up, how to close, what words to avoid (like just, wondering, hoping.. etc) all these things are important but never really taught, and SWIB helped me become more effective on that front for sure.

What’s changed most for you since arriving at Stanford?

It's really weird to have people assume you are competent. When I first got to Stanford, I was used to fighting for professional attention and trying to compensate for my lack of experience with "... but I'm a really fast learner.." Now that I have a few years under my belt, I feel a lot more confident and don't feel like companies are doing me a favor if they offer me an interview. I feel like I have a little more negotiating power. I feel confident in my skills and know that I could add real value to whatever place I work.  

Best SWIB moments?

I really like it when my advice helps people. I remember helping my mentee with an elevator pitch and then her telling me the next day how well the career fair went/how many people were interested in calling her back. That was probably when I realized that I could have a tangible impact in women's professional development.

You've worked at a lot of successful companies, from Google to Constellation Wealth Advisors. What were some of the milestone moments?

Well, switching to Computer Science was a big deal. I think that's when I gave up the premed notion that many freshmen have and decided to just go for something that seemed promising. There were a lot of failed interviews along the way, but eventually something works out.

What was your personal journey in choosing your major?

I started Econ and Premed, became Econ and Pre-Med with a minor in CS, then dropped everything and majored in CS. I realized the field had a lot more that interested me and was very empowering. No one can argue with your technical skills. There's no BS there, no explaining what you really do, no trying to convince people you are competent. I liked that, it allowed me to focus on other things.

Words of wisdom?

You'll never really know what you're doing with your life so don't worry about it. Try things, see what gets traction, see what gets you out of bed in the morning, and run with it. What's more important is knowing who you are. Everything else will follow from that knowledge. :)

Meet SWIB Board Member, Jessica Ancajas

Jessica Ancajas, SWIB VP of Partnerships, is currently studying abroad in Capetown, South Africa. We checked in with her to collect her insights on SWIB, Stanford, and career so far. An Economics major and Stanford junior, she'll be working as an Investment Banking Summer Analyst at Bank of America Merrill Lynch in New York after this school year.

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Let's hear from Jessica about studying abroad, pursuing what makes you happy, and finding balance!

Thinking back, what led you to join SWIB?

I joined SWIB because like all freshmen, I felt a bit directionless. I knew I liked finance and economics, but I had no idea how to break into those industries. Throughout my freshman year I’d seen some of the events that SWIB put on: they were extremely well organized and interesting. I wanted to learn from these impressive women, be friends with them, maybe eventually become one, but unfortunately it was too late by then for me to apply. I wasn't deterred, however. I applied the following year and was accepted onto the CM team. Joining SWIB has been one of the best choices I’ve made at Stanford.

What are some unconventional skills that you've gained from SWIB?

Some of the more subtle skills I’ve picked up are simply how to carry myself professionally. Now I refer to my peers as “women,” I’ve stopped adding “just” in emails, and I greet others with a firm handshake, among other things. These acts may seem insignificant, but I believe they are extremely important in making a good first impression.

What's changed most about you since your earlier years at Stanford?

I have grown more confident since I first walked onto the Farm. I used to care a lot more about what people thought of me, if they liked me, if I could compete with them academically, and so on, but now I'm much more comfortable with the woman I am. I know what my strengths and weaknesses are, and I’m proud of them.

As cheesy as this may sound, I’ve stopped trying to “fit in” with the crowd and do what everyone else is doing; rather, I figure out what I actually want and go after that. This applies to my professional choices as well as personal, and is what has pushed me to move away from tech and Silicon Valley and instead pursue finance in New York (which was very different from what I wanted two years ago).

#1 best experience/moment from SWIB?

When I was on the Community Management (CM) team, the other interns and I put on a “speed-dating” event with diverse representatives from the industries our members were most interested in. This was my proudest moment because it showed me that even though we were quite young, we still carried influence and could really accomplish something. Our peers enjoyed our event and even used the same format for following events. It was great knowing that my team and I had a positive impact on our organization.

You've had a lot of experience with finance, whether at Morgan Stanley or with your sorority. What were some of the defining/milestone moments?

I don’t think I’ve had an extremely defining moment or milestone. My experiences have more so been a long journey, and looking back I know that I have changed, but I can’t say what exactly happened and when that caused me to change. My summer internships, classes, and extracurricular activities, whether they are finance-related or not, have all been very impactful on making me more productive, determined, and knowledgeable. But who knows, maybe this summer at BAML I’ll have some eye-opening moment and that’ll completely change the trajectory of my career—we’ll see.

#1 recruiting tip?

Know your story. Know who you are, why you want the job, why you deserve the job, why you’re fabulous and they should want you for the job. I actually bombed my first interview this year because I didn’t know my story—I had a mini panic attack in the middle of it and couldn’t even explain why I liked finance. But after that, I sort of sat myself down and examined the path that got me to that point. That self-examination helped me realize what I really wanted and just how much I wanted it. With this renowned focus, I stayed motivated through the marathon of ups and downs that is recruiting and ended up with multiple offers.

Another key thing to remember throughout the recruiting process is that what’s meant to be will happen. If you don’t get the job you really wanted, it probably just wasn’t a good fit, and you’ll find where you belong. You may think you want to work for a certain firm in a certain position, but that may not actually be the right place for you, and you may end up learning a lot more elsewhere.

What was your personal journey in choosing your major?

I applied to Stanford “undecided,” but I really was not that undecided—I knew I liked Economics and wanted to major in it, but I wanted to take ECON1 first before I made any decisions (I didn’t want to have to change my major a bajillion times). Turns out, my initial instinct was right and Economics was the major for me. I absolutely loved ECON1 and was pretty good at it (or at least I worked hard enough that I was competent at it). I even enjoyed reading my textbooks, which is something that still holds true today (and that my friends often tease me about). I love the real-world application of economics—now I can read the WSJ and actually understand the driving forces behind global market trends. I am also pursuing a minor in MS&E to complement the theoretical teachings of economics with some technical applications, but my heart will always belong to the Economics department…we rule! #gojohntaylor

What was your personal journey in choosing your industry of choice?

I’ve never had a specific passion, but I knew I liked math and loved economics, so I thought that the finance industry would be a good application of those interests. I first learned about investment banking when I was a junior in high school, but to be honest, I didn't truly understand what investment banking was until I was a junior in college. But, I knew that that position required someone who was willing to work extremely hard, and I knew that I was that kind of person.

I’ve never been naturally good at everything—I’ve had to really push myself to be as good as (or beat) my peers. I thought that my competitive drive, coupled with my academic interests, would be a good fit for investment banking, and so I’ve spent the past few years working toward a banking internship. I cannot tell you how relieved and excited I am to finally get that experience this summer.

What is your coolest accomplishment from Stanford?

I don’t really have any incredibly impressive accolades from Stanford, but I was nominated for the Lunsford Award for my PWR2 presentation on microfinance and female empowerment. People usually hate their PWR classes, but I absolutely loved mine. My topic was something that I was very passionate about, and actually what inspired me to go abroad to Cape Town instead of Madrid. This may not be a super cool accomplishment, but it is something I am proud of and thankful for.

A few words of wisdom?

College is all about finding balance. This applies to your studies, your job hunt, your social life, your bank account—everything. It's very easy to get caught up in midterms, psets, interviews, parties, and so on, but you need to remember to take care of yourself and “treat yo’self” when necessary. If you’re too tired to finish that last pset problem, take a study break and go to Fraiche (but really go to Fraiche because they’re great and support SWIB!). If you’re too tired after a long Friday of sections to go out, then Netflix and chill. I feel like at Stanford, we’re constantly trying to do everything and keep up with everyone, but it’s exhausting and impossible. Just do you!

One major way that I applied this mindset was in deciding to study abroad in Cape Town instead of following my friends to Madrid. I had grown a bit tired of the same scene at Stanford, and new Madrid would be more of the same, at least for me. Don’t get me wrong—I absolutely love my friends and the things we do on campus. But sometimes, you just need a change. I knew being in a completely new environment would make me happy, and it did. This experience abroad has been so eye-opening and humbling, pushing me to discuss issues of race and equality, as well as question what I considered to be “normal.” Now, I’m not a completely new person, but I definitely see the world from a new perspective. I would not have achieved this personal development had I not followed what I truly wanted. I urge everyone to find what makes you happy, accept it, and follow it—that’s how I’ve been approaching things lately and it’s made me a lot happier.

Meet SWIB Board Member, Jenna Berkenkamp

Jenna Berkenkamp is a Stanford senior, Symbolic Systems major, and the VP of Business Education. Having been a Mayfield Fellow, Jenna has unique insights on the startup world and will be returning to Gusto full-time in the fall as a Product Manager.

Let's hear from Jenna!

Thinking back, what led you to join SWIB?

I joined SWIB as a sophomore because I was looking for a strong community of women who are interested in supporting and learning from one another. I was interested in business generally, but wanted to hone more specific skills and learn about what opportunities existed for women interested in business.

What are some unconventional skills that you've gained from SWIB?

One skill I’ve gained from SWIB is how to delegate work to others - I think as Stanford students we tend to want to take on all the work ourselves to make sure it's executed perfectly, but I’ve learned you can get so much more done if you collaborate with others and have the benefit of multiple perspectives and ideas.

What's changed most about you (professionally and personally) since your earlier years at Stanford?

I have gained a much clearer sense of my interests and what I want to pursue and have developed the confidence to get there. I am now comfortable speaking in front of a large audience or cold emailing the CEO of a company that I’m interested in talking to. Stanford can make you feel small sometimes, but the confidence I’ve developed over the past few years has helped me achieve so much.

#1 best experience/moment from SWIB?

There have been so many great moments in SWIB, but one of my favorite experiences was leading an internal negotiation workshop. That was such a rewarding experience. Most of our members came in with no previous exposure to negotiation and left saying they had gained so much confidence in their abilities to negotiate. It’s such an important skill particularly for women in the workplace.

You've had some very cool experiences in the startup world as a Mayfield Fellow. What were some of the milestone moments?

As a Mayfield Fellow I gained a lot of exposure to some incredible entrepreneurs as well as venture capitalists, but the most defining part of the Mayfield experience was my internship this past summer at Gusto. I got to work with an incredible team and make a real impact on the company. I had such an amazing experience that I’ll be returning to Gusto as a full time product manager in the fall.

What was your personal journey in choosing your major?

I have a lot of very diverse academic interests. Symbolic Systems seemed like the perfect major to combine my interests in computer science, cognitive science and philosophy. It bridges the techie/fuzzy gap and has allowed me to develop both my creative and logical capacities.

What was your personal journey in choosing your industry of choice?

My decision to go into tech (and specifically product management) was largely influenced by my Stanford experience. The Mayfield Fellows Program exposed me to the fast-paced lifestyle and excitement of the tech world and I was immediately hooked. Startups are very scrappy and are not weighed down by bureaucracy or hierarchical processes - I knew I could make a big impact in tech even at a young age and develop a broad skill set. Product management lies at the intersection of business, engineering, and design, so it was a perfect fit for me as someone coming from such an interdisciplinary major.

You've had some very cool experiences in the startup world as a Mayfield Fellow. What were some of the defining/milestone moments?

You can make all the four-year and ten-year plans you want, but ultimately a lot of what happens in your life will be serendipitous. Try to embrace every opportunity that comes your way and speak to every interesting person you meet. Enjoy the ride!

Meet SWIB Co-President, Cyerra Holmes

For our next feature, we sat down with another SWIB co-president, Cyerra Holmes, to hear about her experiences as a student here at Stanford and as a woman in business. She will be joining Goldman Sachs full-time after graduating this June.

Thinking back a few years, what led you to join SWIB?

At the conclusion of my freshmen year summer internship, one of the female Vice Presidents in the Engineering division handed me the book “Powering UP! How America’s Women Achievers Become Leaders” by Anne Doyle. As I was handed this book, I was told to not be dissuaded by the overwhelming number of male executives I would see as I climb the corporate ladder. In this book, Doyle explains some of the reasons why women are few in leadership positions in major corporations and how women achievers of all ages can begin to step up and more importantly work together to become leaders. My summer internship experience and that moment motivated me to join SWIB when I returned to campus for my sophomore year. I wanted to meet and learn alongside other like-minded individuals who had an interest in business. SWIB was impacting the lives of its members and the community through events, conferences and networking activities. I yearned to work with the future CEOs, Managing Directors and powerful women leaders to learn how I could “power up” to help organize efforts that make an impact.

What are some unconventional skills that you've gained from SWIB?

In my past two summer internships, we had countless networking events where the onus was on us to approach and engage in conversations with individuals we did not know, ranging from Partners at the firm to other interns. At times, it definitely would have been easier and more comfortable to be a wallflower. However, not until attending these events with a room full of initial strangers did I realize that SWIB had given me the confidence to walk up to anyone, regardless of title, and feel comfortable striking up a conversation. Through working with industry professionals, alumni, and students of all ages, SWIB exposes you to such a diverse group of individuals. From interacting with these individuals at our company crawls, networking receptions, and leadership team meetings, one cannot help but develop confidence in interacting with individuals in a variety of business settings.

What's changed most about you (professionally and personally) since your earlier years at Stanford?

What has most changed about me professionally and personally is my ability to communicate effectively and powerfully in non face-to-face settings. My time in SWIB has enabled me to build relationships with Managing Directors at finance firms, founders of some of the most exciting start-ups in Silicon Valley, senior leaders at Fortune 100 technology companies, and more. The vast majority of these relationships started with me crafting one carefully worded e-mail. Crafting a message through e-mail that conveys one’s goal and tone is one of the most valuable and underrated professional skills that we will all need to master if we want to succeed in the world of business. I am grateful that I have had the opportunity to hone this skill in SWIB.

Words of wisdom for our underclassmen?

Develop the necessary skills to succeed in what you want to do, but ultimately do what you enjoy. I have discovered that you will be happiest in classes, activities, organizations, and internships where you are truly excited and passionate.

#1 SWIB moment?

Traveling to the Intercollegiate Business Convention at Harvard University with six members of SWIB in October was an experience I will never forget. This year, we set a goal for SWIB to create a strong national network of collegiate women leaders that would transcend the mere geographies of our college campuses. To achieve this lofty goal, for the first-time as an organization, we raised money from various corporations and received enough funding to travel as a group to this Business Conference. Not only did this experience further our goal by allowing us to network with other collegiate women leaders at over 50 universities, but it also resulted in 48 hours of lasting memories among the seven of us SWIB members who undoubtedly became closer during this trip.

#1 interview tip?

Before all interviews, I conduct mock interviews with myself using iMovie. For nearly every job interview, you can compile a list of frequently asked questions from Glassdoor. I ask myself these questions and film my response. It may sound strange at first, but in watching my filmed interview, I have learned so much about how to pitch myself and am able to critique myself in real-time. I notice when I am talking too fast, trailing off, and sounding monotone or when a story I am telling was not as eloquent as I intended. This has been instrumental in my interview preparation and has allowed me to feel significantly more confident during my interviews.

What was your personal journey in choosing your major?

I chose Science, Technology, and Society (STS) because it allows me to combine my varied interests ranging from engineering to marketing, finance to entrepreneurship, and more. My diverse STS coursework has enabled me to create a business plan for a viable start-up in the course of ten weeks, conduct in-depth financial analysis of a retail company to determine ways they can capture more market share, and work on a team comprised of students at the Grenoble School of Management in France to learn about the challenges of global work. STS is allowing me to develop an inter-disciplinary approach to problem solving and it is exciting to see this way of thinking carry over into my professional experiences.  

What was your personal journey in choosing your industry of choice? Do you see that changing later?

During my freshman summer, I worked for AT&T and rode the train from the Dallas headquarters to my home every day. To pass the time on the ride, I began reading my younger brother’s Investing 101 book. He caught the investing bug much earlier than I did, so my journey into finance began because I was wondering what was so engrossing my 15 year old little brother. Since picking up this book, I have not put it down. I spent my past two summers at Goldman Sachs in Private Wealth Management (PWM) and am excited to return full-time! I love PWM given it is driven by both the ever-evolving financial markets and complex asset allocations for diverse clients, but also rooted in developing client relationships (I love talking to people). I didn’t realize it was possible to learn so much about investing, professionalism, and more in a ten week internship and given this, I am excited to see what my career holds at the firm.   

Meet SWIB Alumna, Isabella Tang

Where have you worked/what have you done so far?

After graduation I worked as a management consultant at McKinsey & Company, which gave me the opportunity to travel widely and immerse myself in different industries. Two years later, I joined a new McKinsey SaaS startup (software as a service) as the marketing and operations leader. Today, the startup has grown significantly and merged with several other products; my role has evolved into Marketing Manager, focusing on marketing strategy and brand management across the product portfolio. I also run a program in the Los Angeles office, McKinsey Scholars, which provides mentorship to underprivileged local high schoolers.

Outside of work, I've found time to pursue projects as a singer-songwriter, a passion of mine since participating in the Stanford talent show my freshman year. Last year (2015), I released an original album, If I Could Tell You, a collection of 6 pop songs with electro/classical inspirations. I also produced a music video for my single "Passenger," a surreal, fantasy-adventure story about traveling through life side-by-side with the person you love.


How did your experience with SWIB influence where you are now?

I was accepted into SWIB's Associate program my freshman year. The training and the exposure to other business-minded women have been truly tremendous in shaping my career ambitions. In fact, it was one of the SWIB leaders who inspired me to pursue consulting!


What's something interesting you've learned along the way?

Opportunities come to those who ask for them. 

What's a fun fact about yourself?

Before I became a singer-songwriter, I loved writing poetry. At age 8 I wrote my first poem about the birds and bees - literally; we had just learned about pollination and ecosystems in science class. Also, I'm terrified of heights but I like roller coasters because they remind me of line integrals!

Also, I've always wanted to go into space. I found a way to make it happen through my music video ("Passenger"). Thanks to a talented crew and special effects, we were able to incorporate kaleidoscopic galaxies, glowing super-size planets, and other surreal elements. If only everything was real....

How did you find the time to balance your consulting work and your artistic aspirations?

At work, we often hear the motto "Make your own McKinsey," which encourages employees to find their own path. And that is what I did. By openly sharing my desire to pursue music projects with my colleagues, I eventually heard about an exciting new internal startup role. With the support of McKinsey leaders, I was able to shape an unprecedented role with minimum travel and less rigorous hours, compared to the typical McKinsey job. As a result, I was able to spend much more time in Los Angeles, join the local artistic community, perform across Los Angeles venues, and lay the foundation for my eventual album and music video projects.


What do you wish you had known at the start of your career?

Coffee is not a substitute for sleep.  I'm still learning to apply this one.

Power poses really do help build confidence before critical meetings.

Unless you ask, the answer is always no. So ask!


What's the difference between working for a large company and a startup? Pros, cons, changes you didn't expect?

I would say the differences are simultaneously pros AND cons. For example, the startup environment is very fluid and full of new challenges every day. Since we're exploring new territory, we don't always have a proven McKinsey "playbook" or standard approach to follow. This can be both exciting and daunting (and frustrating). As a result, we often have the opportunity (or challenge) to experiment, find out what works, and share what we learn with the broader McKinsey organization as a model for future groups to follow.


How has mentorship factored into your path?

I am super lucky to have had some fantastic mentors and sponsors, who have made a huge difference in my trajectory. The term sponsor is probably less well-known, but I'd highly encourage SWIB members to seek them out, in addition to seeking mentors. You can look at the difference this way - a mentor is someone who will ask you "How are things going? Let's catch up over coffee." Mentors are fantastic to have. A sponsor takes it to the next level --  they will say, "Come with me to this meeting" or "How would you like to lead this upcoming project?" They invest in you, believe in you, and challenge you, knowing that sometimes you might fail, but they'll still have your back anyway.


What's something you're trying to learn right now?

I bought a slow cooker last year in an overly excited attempt to gain some skills in the kitchen. Naturally, it's been sitting in a corner gathering dust since. So, one of my resolutions this year is to finally open the box, learn some recipes, and throw a dinner party for friends. Wish me luck!

On the more professional side, I think facilitation is such an invaluable skill to have, both at work and in one's personal life. This is different than presentation, which tends to be more of a 1-way communication (e.g., presenting a PowerPoint in a meeting). As a facilitator, you bring together a group of people and guide the conversation in a way that empowers them to self-discover insights and make effective decisions. It's a highly nuanced art which requires you to understand the mindsets, objectives, and group dynamics of the people in the room. I recently completed a fantastic facilitation training at work, and I'm hoping to learn and get more practice this year!

Meet SWIB Co-President, Katherine Evers

For our first member feature, we sat down with SWIB co-president Katherine Evers, Class of 2016. Katherine is an Economics major and Art History minor, and has accepted an offer as a consultant at Bain and Co. in New York after graduation.


Thinking back a few years, what led you to join SWIB?

I joined SWIB in the first few weeks of my freshman year. Even though I was a freshman, I was immediately impressed by the young women that were a part of the organization. Throughout my years in SWIB, I can say without a doubt that the best part is working closely with other talented, motivated young women. The mentors and friends that I have gained through SWIB will continue beyond Stanford into the working world, something that I am enormously grateful for.


What are some unconventional skills that you've gained from SWIB?

Although it sounds insignificant, one of the best skills I have gained from SWIB is my ability to write a good email. My friends actually ask me for email advice now!


What's changed most about you (professionally and personally) since your earlier years at Stanford?

Through my academics and extracurriculars (such as SWIB), my confidence has really grown since I began Stanford. I am now able to stand in front of 300 people to introduce high profile speakers such as Ruth Porat, or raise my hand in large Economics lectures to ask a question. I think it is this sense of confidence that has been one of the key changes during my time at Stanford.


#1 best SWIB experience?

Although there have been many fantastic moments throughout the years, one of my favorite experiences was walking through the Main Quad with the founders of SoulCycle after their talk at the Executive Leadership Series. Not only were they able to provide me with invaluable career advice, but we also discussed the challenges of being a female entrepreneur and the future of their business. It was a fantastic insight into what it takes to be the founder and leader of a successful business such as SoulCycle.


What was your journey in choosing your industry of choice? Do you see that changing later?

I have decided to pursue a career in Management Consulting. This decision was driven by several factors, including a desire to work in teams, to be constantly learning, and to see how the world's leaders are tackling the problems that face their businesses. I think that Consulting will provide a fantastic foundation for any career that I choose to pursue, but for now I am excited to delve into the work of a consultant next year!


Advice for interns and other underclassmen (words of wisdom)?

Throughout the job and internship search, the most important thing you can do is to talk to people. Set up as many coffee dates as possible and ask people questions about their industry, their day to day work-life balance, what they wish they had known when they were your age, and anything else that comes to your mind. Not only will you learn about their job, company, and industry, but you will be able to develop personal relationships with these people that will be incredibly useful throughout the rest of your career. Never be afraid to ask someone to take time to do this – I can guarantee that someone did the same for them when they began their career!


Meet SWIB Alumna, Anna Khan

For our second post in our alumnae feature series, we asked rockstar and former SWIB co-president ANNA KHAN ('10) about her experiences in SWIB, what her career has looked like so far, and the interesting lessons she's picked up along the way.

Where have you worked? what have you done so far?

After I graduated Stanford, I worked as the Chief of Staff to the CEO of 4INFO, a mobile advertising platform based in Silicon Valley that raised over $50MM in venture funding. At 4INFO, I was part of the executive team and managed product development, fundraising, and ad sales. I later moved to New York to become a venture capital investor at Bessemer Venture Partners, the oldest venture capital firm in the US with over $1.5B in deployable capital and $4B of assets under management.

This summer, I founded Launch X, the first accelerator of its kind that helps female CEOs learn how to raise venture capital financing. We graduated two cohorts in San Francisco and New York City in 2015 and are looking to expand to new cities. Currently, I am also pursuing my MBA at the Harvard Business School and am an Arthur Rock Fellow. I am also a World Economic Forum Global Shaper.

How did your experience with SWIB influence where you are now?

Being SWIB Co-President was one of my most influential experiences at Stanford. It was a luxury and a challenge to build a vision through consensus and debate with 20+ other women about the future of the organization. It taught me about leadership, flexibility, and creativity. During my time, we introduced a number of new programs like the winter conference for high school women and the fantasy stock trading competition.

What's something interesting you've learned along the way?

Always listen more than you talk (I'm still trying to be better at this.)

What's a fun fact about yourself?

I grew up in Lahore, Pakistan in a house with 21 people. As a result, being in a dorm for the first time was not unusual at all. I have a giant family full of different personalities and strengths and it has taught me a lot about how to build relationships in one's personal and professional life.

Anything else you think might be cool or relevant!

Before I fell in love with technology, poetry was my greatest passion. I started writing when I was 10 years old and was lucky enough to get published as a teenager. I still try to write in my free time!