Learning by example

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Westborough High girls hear advice from local business women

The WHS students pose for a photo with the Chamber business leaders.
Photo/Catherine Twing

By Catherine Twing, Contributing Writer

Westborough – There are some topics unique to women in business that are rarely discussed in a public forum.

Recently over a dozen female leaders gathered at Westborough High School to discuss these topics and share advice with the next generation of women as part of the Corridor Nine 495 Chamber of Commerce BFF (Business Forward Females) Program.

“[Students] need to see women as role models and hear other women’s stories to know what they’re capable of,” said Darrell Potosnak, chair of the Business and Computer Science Department at Westborough High School.

She heard of the program through her involvement with the Chamber, and was very interested in bringing it to her students. It was open to all junior and senior girls enrolled in business classes at the high school; there was 100 percent attendance at the event.

The program, which has also been held at Shrewsbury High School and Assabet Valley Regional Technical School, is designed for the next generation of leaders to learn about key topics for success, and interact with women leaders in the local community.

“It was very inspirational. I think everyone learned something,” said junior Jahniya Watson. “Their tips were really great.”

The program started with table networking where the students and leaders discussed their role models, and future goals, followed by introductions and a panel discussion.

During the discussion, four BFF members shared their vastly different experiences as women in business, but there was one message they all agreed on: Do what you want to do, not what someone says you should do.

Tracey Turczynski, account executive at Black Bear Coatings and Concrete, listed the many jobs she’s held, from selling radio ads to construction.

She advised the girls to find a job they love, and not to be afraid to change jobs or industries.

Denise Kapulka-Cariglia, Sales Manager at Knight’s Airport Limousine, knows this well. She started her career in catering, but due to a medical situation began working in the limo business. She is now back in the catering industry as owner of Elm’s Cafe and Catering.

Barbara Jorda, co-founder and Program Director of STEM Beginnings, grew up in the Philippines and was encouraged to get a job in physical therapy, but her heart wasn’t in it. Years later she started teaching and loves it.

“You have to choose a career path you’re happy about. Something you’re passionate about. It has to be something you look forward to every day,” Jorda said.

Junior Savannah Shephard liked this advice.

“When I graduate college I want to have a job I’m happy with, because being happy is important to me,” she said.

When asked about work/life balance, the panelists had varied experiences.

“Get the most out of your time at work, but don’t forget your family or yourself,” said Turczynski. “You will never be able to recreate time.”

Cherie Comeau admitted she doesn’t have much balance, but that is by choice. Comeau serves as Senior Manager, Leadership & Organization Development for Consigli Construction and is working on her doctorate from Northeastern University.

“Own your decisions with how you balance things. My work is my choice, my schooling is my choice,” she said. “You have control over a lot more than you think.”

The leaders also shared about their current careers.

Turczynski is the only female account executive for any epoxy coating company on the East Coast, and Pam Stevens is the first female partner at Seder & Chandler LLC in Worcester.

The Business Forward Females (BFF) group started six years ago when a group of women approached Karen Chapman, the Chamber’s president, about starting a group just for women.

“Women want to empower other women to be leaders,” Chapman said. “We think differently, we network differently. This is the fastest growing group of my chamber.”

Turczynski summed it up best: “We are better when we support each other.”

For more information visit www.corridornine.org.