ITWomen Inaugural Leadership Summit Great Success

ITWomen’s inaugural Leadership Summit was a phenomenal success, thanks to amazing speakers, corporate partners, volunteers and women attending from throughout South Florida. The all-day Summit was held Dec 1 at the FAU Tech Runway in Boca Raton. 

The Importance of Courage and the Failure of Arrogance

Global leadership coach and keynote speaker Angela Sebaly, author of “The Courageous Leader,” stressed the importance of courage and humility for the growth of a leader, whether you’re leader of a small team, a CEO or the owner. 

Courage – even more than knowledge – makes the difference between growth and stagnation, she said, adding that in her years of experience she’d seen instances of people who learned what they should do to solve a problem and were motivated, but could not, in the end, take the steps to change. 

Arrogance at some point will end up in a humiliating fall from grace, she said. Those who can’t learn from a humbling experience will continue to fail, but others who learn from a humiliation can rise like a phoenix to transform into a great leader with a wider picture of their role, she said.

Panel Topics

  • Leadership Insights
  • Developing a Culture of Innovation
  • Female Founders & Startups 
  • Work-Life Balance / Negotiating for Success 

Thank you to our panel moderators for insightful questions inspiring animated discussions, including : Claire Marrero, ITWomen president, Principal/CEO The Talent Source; Arlene DeMita, Partner, PwC, ITWomen advisory board; Rhys Williams, Managing Director, FAU Tech Runway; and Susan Semilos, Managing Partner, Accenture.

Some of the takeaways: 

Leadership Insights

  • Take those stretch roles, the ones that scare you ! Follow the leader you believe in. – Neena Vicente, Director, E-Commerce, Celebrity Cruises 
  • It’s essential to develop your domain expertise and understand the business. When you do shift from manager or individual to a leader,  you need to be able to take ambiguous concepts from your CEO, COO, CMO and frame them into growth enabling initiatives. Cultivate a ‘telephone relationship’ with execs so you have the access you need to ask quick questions to continually clarify what they really mean – Sharon Moura, ITWomen advisory board, VP Commercial Enablement, Johnson Controls 
  • No single individual can solve the problems they are working on. As a leader you need to create space for your people to progress and be able to scale up. – Patric Edmondson, Senior VP Product Development

Developing a Culture of Innovation

  • Cultivate the courage to stomach uncertainty and encourage diversity, because it increases company productivity and development of new products. Urge your team to do their homework and assess the pros and cons of the risks, then go with the best option at the time, focused on the long vision. Maria Hernandez , Culture and Innovation Advisor to Modernizing Medicine and former Chief Innovation Officer, IBM ; ITWomen advisory board
  • Screen In vs Screen Out candidates and figure out “how you can leverage an individual’s unique strengths and superpowers to increase diversity and power innovation.” –  Jennifer Condon, Global Recruiting Manager, Citrix 
  • Find savings in operational budgets to reinvest in innovation and proof of concepts. Separate innovation out so you can focus on that and create processes for capturing ideas from employees, leaders and customers to fuel continuous innovation. – Michelle Barzargan, Business Innovation Strategist, Align Innovations, TED Speaker

FAU Tech Runway Female Founder & Startup Showcase

  • Don’t get your ego engaged, especially in your 20s, you’ll pay for it later. Listen more and learn to love meetings! Attend them as a developer and participant rather than a tourist or critic. – Peter Marcus, Peter Marcus Coaching, Founder Mentor FAU Tech Runway, Entrepreneur Coach in Residence for Startup Palm Beach 
  • Be prepared to be a student again. Learn social media, leverage support of your network of mentors to gain legal advice, earn patents for your technology, how to find offshore sourcing to drive down cost of manufacturing, plus . . . take the leap sooner! – Janice Haley, Founder and CEO, Tone-y Bands 
  • You’ll need to raise your first $3 million to startup from yourself, and friends and family. If you can’t get them to invest, no VC will invest in you either. To prepare for your VC pitch, have your financials in order, know your ROI, and your goals. If you’re set to become an IPO, then know who might want to acquire you. – Marti LaTour, ViaMar Health, VP Finance & Srategic Growth, BELLE Capital USA, Venture Capitalist 
  • If you are a not-for-profit startup, you need to prioritize what is critical and what is going to make the most impact. One of the keys to the company’s success in tracking down child sex predators is the technology they’ve developed, and providing their software free to law enforcement. – Carly Asher Yoost, Founder and CEO, Child Rescue Coalition. 

Work-Life Balance, Negotiating Success

Negotiating Raises

1. Make sure you’re performing.
2. Know your worth
3. Keep track of your accomplishments throughout the year.
4. Know the market supply and demand for your job description.
5. Know what your company’s growth objectives are.
6. Suggested approach: “I just want to be compensated for the value I offer to the company.” – Sharon Moura 

Timing also figures into your ask: check your company’s budget cycles. If the business has already set their budget for the year, it may not be possible, no matter how compelling your request is. – Maria-Victoria Gonzalez

Jo Moskowitz, Director, Corporate Citizenship, Citrix, from the audience also reminded women of additional negotiating points important to you that can be used besides money, such as annual leave, personal time off, or job flexibility. 

Work-Life Balance

Outsource functions such as cleaning so you can focus on spending time with your family, leverage your support network , block your calendar off in advance for important things in your family’s life. – Vicky Osejo, VP Applications, Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casinos

Thank You 

Thank you to our speakers, volunteers and partners who helped make our inaugural ITWomen Leadership Summit a day of inspiration and celebration.


“This was a great event. Love the way it empowered all the women in the room. The panelists were very relatable and open to discussing what really matters. I will make the time to come to every event.”

“Loved the panels and the interaction. I always learn the most from my fellow female leaders. Thank-you” – Vicky Osejo

“Speakers were very diverse in industry, experience, personality, so anyone can relate to their experience.”

“This was awesome!”

“This event was very beneficial. It helped to open my eyes and be a witness to women in IT. . . this helped me to continue my path and to be confident. ”

“Well done, great panelists.”

Thank You to Our Corporate Tables 
Modernizing Medicine
The Talent Source
Ultimate Software