Q&A with Chicago Women in Business Co-Chairs Nicole Lapka and Sarah Reinemann (Chicago Booth '16)
CWiB (Chicago Women in Business) is one of the largest and most active full-time student groups at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business. The organization strives to build a supportive community for female students through a multitude of professional development and social events.
One of the club's marquee events, the popular annual CWiB Fall Conference, connects students, alumna and employers "to provide inspiration, share advice, and encourage the women of Booth to pursue their ambitions," advises event co-chair Nicole Lapka (Chicago Booth '16). This year's "Dare To" theme challenges its members to break barriers through keynote speeches, inspiring panels and breakout dicussions. Nicole and co-chair Sarah Reinemann (Chicago Booth '16) kindly share with us a behind the scenes look on this year's Conference.
Q: Background: Welcome! Can you tell us a bit about yourselves and your backgrounds?
Nicole: My name is Nicole Lapka, and I'm a 2Y at Booth concentrating in Marketing Management, Strategic Management, and Managerial and Organizational Behavior. I'm a Chicago native and sponsored student, returning to managing consulting in the summer with Strategy&.
Sarah: I'm Sarah Reinemann, and I'm a second-year at Booth with concentrations in General Management and Managerial and Organizational Behavior. I'm also a Chicago native, and, like Nicole, will be returning to my consulting firm (BCG) following graduation. This summer I interned at both Hyatt Hotels as well as a Booth start-up called The Eastman Egg Company.
Q: Event: Please tell us more about the 2015 Chicago Women in Business Fall Conference. What was the source of inspiration for development of this event? How has the event evolved from previous years?
Nicole: The CWiB Fall Conference is one of our club's marquee events each year. It is intended to bring students, alumna, and employers together to provide inspiration, share advice, and encourage the women of Booth to pursue their ambitions.
The theme of this year's conference was "Dare To", inspired by the many women who are daring to take on new challenges (e.g, presidential office, coaching in the NFL, Army Ranger School, etc.) Our event evolved slightly from the previous years in that we really tried to make breakout discussions and keynote speeches applicable to all attendees, regardless of their future career goals or industry preference. This year we're pleased to say that we had over 100 student and over 50 sponsor attendees.
Q: Leadership: Tell us more about your overall experience as MBA club officers and leaders at Chicago Booth. What did you learn that will apply to your future career?
Nicole: Serving as a CWiB co-chair has been incredibly rewarding and it's been fun as we try to evolve what CWiB should be for the students of Booth. Sarah and I are both responsible for the "capstone" events, so we are heavily involved in large-scale planning and event organization, which will be very useful in my consulting career, as I plan smaller-scale conferences for some of my client engagements.
Sarah: I echo what Nicole said above, and would also add that, in general, the experience of working with 4 other highly motivated and capable CWiB co-chairs has been incredibly valuable - I think we've all had to learn the art of compromise, prioritization, and time management in order to work together effectively and efficiently.
Q: Marketing: How did you market your event? What worked best to reach your target audience?
Nicole: We marketed our event through email, on campus information sessions about CWiB, and a poster displayed on campus. I believe the combination of email and our in-person descriptions of the benefits of the conference helped convince many women to join our club and attend the event. I would recommend that combination for other organizers, so they can communicate the value proposition with enthusiasm, enthusiasm that is often not apparent in email communications.
Q: Teamwork: How did you organize the event as a team? What were some of the challenges and how did you overcome them? What have been the main factors that have led to your successes?
Nicole: Sarah and I split responsibilities such that she handled all tasks and issues related to sponsors and speakers and I did the same for students, with us combining on the up-front design of the theme and panel topics. Our student advisor also took on a lot of the work with printing, venue management, etc. We all had previous experience working as a team from the spring quarter Spring Dinner so we luckily had few challenges, other than Sarah and I both traveling during the start of 1Y orientation when many tasks needed to be completed. During that time we relied on one another to fill in and help with tasks. I think communication, checkpoints, and trust were the main factors to our success.
Q: Community: Can you talk a bit about building culture and community as an MBA leader and event organizer?
Nicole: Building a supportive community for female students has been one of CWiB's biggest priorities. We strive to foster that sense of community through events like the conference, which connects women and employers, but also with our multitudes of other events, whether they are professional development or social in nature.
Sarah: To build on what Nicole said, I think a key goal for all of the CWiB co-chairs is to make being a member of the club valuable for all female students, no matter what their career interests are. Previous co-chairs have received feedback that the club is too focused on banking and consulting, so we're working hard to make our events applicable to a broader audience. For example, one of our conference keynote speakers was Liz Tilatti, a Booth alum and founder of the startup ZipFit.
Q: Feedback: What advice would you offer to other student leaders and teams organizing big events?
1. Rely on those who came before you, if you can.
2. Make a checklist and use it.
3. Accept that last minute challenges will arise, realize that they can be dealt with.
4. Invest time in the things that matter, don't stress about the things that don't.
Thanks for sharing your insights, Nicole and Sarah!