As NJBIA holds its 9th Annual Women Business Leaders Forum this month, we celebrate the stories of four New Jersey-based women business leaders who have overcome the odds and achieved success in their respective professions. Sally Glick, a master at networking, became a marketer for her father’s accounting firm before this field even existed, while Alyssa Wilds – a “friendly introvert” – forced herself to step into the limelight to advance her career. And both Casey Carpenter and Julie Mulvihill refused to let the COVID-19 pandemic keep them down, instead turning a difficult situation into a moment of clarity and accomplishing great things. Here are their stories.
Alan Sobel, the managing partner at SobelCo (now CliftonLarsonAllen), calls Sally Glick, “Ambassador.” She officially is one of CLA’s Business Development Advisors. Regardless what titles she holds, Glick has always been a business pioneer who bucked tradition.
“To succeed, I have brought passion, energy, determination, and commitment to my role every day,” says Glick, who holds a degree in Liberal Arts with a major in marketing from Northwestern University. “I’ve listened to others, learned on the job, read incessantly, and continued to expand my knowledge of the accounting profession so I could help my partners be their best as we grew the practice.”
Glick’s career path has been anything but traditional. In her first job at her father’s accounting firm, she designed a robust communication platform that included writing newsletters, conducting surveys, holding seminars, and making presentations for smaller clients. In other words, she became an accounting firm marketer before that career even existed.
After earning an MBA from Lake Forest Graduate School of Management in Lake Forest, Illinois, Glick moved on to roles as vice president of marketing for a Chicago-based company that designed marketing materials for CPA firms, and marketing director for an Atlanta-based accounting association before spending 20-plus years with New Jersey-based SobelCo, becoming their first woman partner and first non-billable partner.
Glick believes that while women have made great progress over the years, there is still a long way to go to achieve professional equity.
“Women need to promote each other, speak on behalf of their women colleagues, and give each other a voice,” she says. “We need to help young women entering the business world by being their mentors, champions and cheerleaders – guiding, sharing real world experiences, and supporting them to fill key leadership roles whenever we have the chance.”
When Alyssa Wilds was growing up in Camden, her father called her a “popular loner.” Friendly but introverted, she worked hard through school and the early stages of her career, but soon realized if true success was to be achieved, she needed to step out of the shadows and into the spotlight.
“People were reaching out for me to speak, do podcasts and other outward facing things, which was out of my comfort zone,” says Wilds, senior manager of corporate relations at Morristown-based Covanta, an environmental services company. “But I knew if I didn’t take the microphone, I’d never reach my full potential.”
Wilds credits three women with helping her rise above her fears and through the corporate ranks: image consultant Yolanda Whidbee, who helped her get comfortable speaking in front of an audience; mentor Martha Chavis of Welcome NJ, who helped her put together a career advancement budget; and Covanta Executive Vice President Tequila Smith, who became her advocate and encouraged her to lead initiatives, panel discussions, seminars and the like.
Wilds, who has undergraduate degrees in sociology and accounting from Rowan University and a masters in educational school leadership from Wilmington University, started her career as a case manager at The Planning Council in Norfolk, Virginia. From there, she took a job with Child Protective Services before moving on to positions as executive director of a childcare facility, community and public relations for a school district, and behavioral specialist.
“My professional path has been anything but straight. Still, I’ve been laser-focused on advocacy, standing on the front line for children and families in communities like my hometown of Camden,” she says. “At all stops between The Planning Council and Covanta, I’ve been able to use my passion for community, lived experiences, and extensive knowledge to advance agendas and drive successful outcomes.”
Wilds continues to pay it forward by supporting young women professionals as well as organizations such as B.O.S.S. Mentoring, which helps boys of color ages 8-18 reach their potential, and I Dare to Care, which equips and empowers women and girls of color.
In the last quarter of 2019, executive coach Casey Carpenter decided to rebrand her leadership development business. An in-person ribbon cutting was scheduled for May of 2020, but when COVID-19 put a wrench in that plan, she decided to regroup and turn the launch into something even more impactful.
“Once the pandemic hit and we could no longer network, socialize or speak in person, I realized most people were not accustomed to speaking virtually,” says Carpenter, CEO and founder of Speak & Own It Communications, which supports women executives in leadership, presence, and public speaking. “Since I had been doing this as a speaker/coach for years, I decided to begin putting out free information on conducting business virtually, and people ate it up like ice cream.”
Carpenter offered a webinar on maximizing your presence on Zoom, and more than 300 people signed up. She called it an “Oh, my gosh” moment, as it not only got her name and brand out there, but validated she was on the right track in helping her executive clients move forward during and after the pandemic.
This wasn’t the first time Carpenter had experienced a career-defining epiphany. A shy person by nature, she hesitated to assert herself and was almost fired from her first sales job. This taught her the importance of sitting with decision makers, asking questions, and discovering their challenges and hardships.
“I went from worst to first in that area, and I try to pass that along to current and future women leaders,” says Carpenter, who went on to be a senior executive at Aetna, Cigna, and Sunrise Senior Living, closing millions of dollars in business during her sales career. Today, her work includes speaking engagements, writing and training, which allows her not only to share her business experience as a woman, but as a woman of color.
Carpenter says her ultimate goal is to have her work reach one million women globally, adding, “I always say, ‘Show up early, look good, and do stellar work. And if you’re a woman of color, your work has to be that much better.”
Julie Mulvihill, CEO of Hamburg-based Crystal Springs Resort, had been in the resort business for almost four decades when she reached the most difficult – and defining – moment of her career. It was 2019, and after years of expansion and being “tight on cash,” the resort had just sold the ski portion of the business and refinanced all debt. Then the pandemic changed everything.
“When COVID hit and I laid off 850 employees overnight, it was crippling on so many levels,” says Mulvihill, who since high school had worked in the family business – the famed Action Park – until it was sold to Intrawest in 1998. “We had very little cash on hand, having just closed the loan during our slowest quarter. It was incredibly stressful, but when I stopped wasting energy on being upset about what I couldn’t control, I had more mind space to focus on what I could.”
Crystal Springs – a sprawling resort with two hotels, two spas, 12 restaurants and six upscale public golf courses – was able to rebound by opening the golf courses as soon as it was permitted and taking advantage of the hotel closure to renovate all rooms at its Grand Cascades Lodge. Golf underwent a boom, the hotel did extremely well because of its outdoor spaces, and the resort had its best year ever – leading to the rehiring of many employees.
“Nothing about that time was easy, but I am blessed with an outstanding team that was determined to right the ship and get the resort back in operation,” she adds.
Mulvihill, the only girl among six children, says her father, Gene Mulvihill, was her mentor. They had worked side by side for 30 years, and he always pushed her to take on more responsibly and new challenges.
Mulvihill’s advice to young women is to take the time to know what they want from a career, making sure it fits with their other priorities. “Spend time during college summers trying out different career environments. You’ll know pretty quickly what feels good and what doesn’t,” she says.
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