Behind the Scenes at the WISE Symposium

Q & A with the Presenters 

This year at the WISE Women’s Business Center, attendees are encouraged to “play their bigger game,” as keynote speaker, Rick Tamlyn says. We talked with Rick and other Symposium presenters to bring you behind the scenes of this year’s Symposium.

Who: Rick Tamlyn, It’s All Made Up, Inc. founder
When: Opening Keynote: Play Your Bigger Game
Closing Keynote: 54321 Go!

SWM: What inspired you to create your company, It’s All Made Up, Inc.?
Rick: At an early age, I realized I was fascinated with the arts — primarily theatre, movies and music. These “creative souls” were taking what they heard, saw or experienced and turning it into something for folks to experience themselves. They were literally “making it up” along the way. So, now, I simply help folks “make up” their lives, both personally and professionally.

SWM: What’s the furthest you ventured out of our comfort zone? What did you learn about world and yourself?
Rick: I was asked to give my experiential talk to more than 600 IBMers about “playing their Bigger Game.” Backstage, I was freaking out, searching for courage, so I could make sure I looked good. Then, onstage, everything changed. I realized my job for that 90 minutes was to commit to their learning and activate their sense of what a Bigger Game is to them. I let go of finding courage and focused on being committed to them. The antidote to doubt is not finding more courage; it’s being committed to something grander than self.

SWM: How did you learn to play your Biggest Game?
Rick: The best answer to how is to answer why. How is overrated. Why, when and for whom are more activating than the classic how question. This year, I’m into the biggest Bigger Game with our business that we’ve ever played. “Gulp” is happening all the time, and the key competencies I’m learning this year are to recover and iterate — and the faster I do that, the better it goes.

SWM: What’s the No. 1 piece of advice you hope entrepreneurs will learn from your presentations?
Rick: Can I have three? 1) Once you understand the Bigger Game philosophy and model, you will never ever be stuck again. 2) Entrepreneurship is a lifestyle choice, not just a business choice. That means you are constantly evolving and growing forever — and who doesn’t want that? 3) Playing a Bigger Game will design who you want to become!

Who: Samantha Tassone, GrowthFuel president
Forbes Coaches Council member
When: Morning Breakout Session: EQ? Now it’s GQ (Gender Intelligence)
How and Why Women and Men Lead Differently

SWM: What inspired you to create GrowthFuel?
Samantha: I became frustrated with all the overloaded women-focused self-help media messaging. It always seems to be singularly focused on answering the question of why women aren’t climbing the corporate ladder and lack confidence. I’m tired of misleading women who are already high-performing, and not telling them the whole truth about how to step into their true potential and be their own best version. I live by the saying, “Turn around and pull the next women up.”

SWM: You strive to help female leaders overcome personal leadership blind spots. Talk about a time you overcame a leadership blind spot of your own.
Samantha: I’ve had several leadership blind spots in my career. Leadership is a journey. I live by my values and role model them. On occasion, when I’ve needed to speak publicly to a room full of male colleagues, I lost my voice or it was silenced. I didn’t show up the best version of myself. After self-reflecting each time, I could see each was because of missing pieces I could get front of the next time.

SWM: What’s your advice to female entrepreneurs encountering imposter syndrome?
Samantha: Imposter syndrome is all about the “head trash” or self-doubting internal messaging we have on autoplay. As we negatively self-message, we believe it. So, we behave it.
We also start to have visions, like movies playing in our minds. Our brain can’t tell the difference between the internal vision playing inside our mind and the external vision we see with our eyes. Both are real to us.
To overcome imposter syndrome, it’s best to work on redirecting the “head trash” through techniques to retrain your brain.

SWM: Why is it important to value differences between female and male leadership styles?
Samantha: We all have different leadership styles. This is why there are so many leadership books out there. But neuroscience tells us the male brain and female brain are “similar but different” in small but significant ways, which impact our leadership behavior. Understanding these differences is the key to effective communication, having our voice heard and valued, and relationship building. It helps us navigate around communication collisions and power positioning that happen so frequently in the conversational space.

Who: Jess Ekstrom, Headbands of Hope founder
When: Morning Breakout Session: Failure: The Mark of Leadership, Innovation and Risk-Taking

SWM: Talk about the importance of telling real stories of success.
Jess: We’re in a stage of humanity when we’re constantly shown “perfect” lives on social media. When you see everyone living a seemingly perfect life, it makes you question your own. It’s important to be real and transparent because meaningful lives are supposed to be messy!

SWM: You encountered failure while creating your company, Headhands of Hope. What inspired you to keep at it?
Jess: If I didn’t care about the end result, failure would legitimize quitting. I believed so much in the problem Headbands of Hope was solving that quitting wasn’t an option. It had to get done.

SWM: In an article for Entrepreneur magazine, you write about anxiety that comes from comparing yourself with others. What’s your advice for moving past that feeling?
Jess: This is still something I struggle with, but I’m getting better! One discovery I made was finally realizing everyone has their own path. So, it’s impossible to compare, because that path looks different for everyone. Instead, I try to celebrate wins for others while also understanding that their success isn’t the absence of my own.

SWM: What’s your advice for people who don’t want to choose between “making a living and making a difference,” as you write on your website?
Jess: Find where your passions and talents can serve the world’s greatest needs. Business can be the fastest vehicle for change, so find what you’d like to change, and see how you can solve it through business.

Who: Sarah Chamberlain, President and CEO of Republican Main Street Partnerships
When: Afternoon Breakout Session moderator: Women2Women Conversations Tour: Leveling the Playing for Women Entrepreneurs

SWM: Talk about the experiences that led you to create Women2Women.
Sarah: I work with nearly 80 members of Congress, and the majority of them are men. As the only woman in the country who runs a Republican organization like Main Street, I decided more needed to be done to change the dialogue and involve more women in the political process. I began traveling and speaking with women nationwide. We cover a wide variety of issues on our tour stops, because every issue is a woman’s issue.

SWM: What do think women and/or men can do to level the field for women entrepreneurs?
Sarah: It’s critical that female entrepreneurs and small business owners have access to capital when starting their business. I have heard about this particular issue on nearly every tour stop. Women who have gone down this road and built their own business should share their best practices, financial wins and keys to success with new entrepreneurs. Our Women2Women tour stops are a perfect forum for these types of stories and shared experiences.

SWM: How can women get more involved in local government?
Sarah: Women make up more than 50 percent of the population, but we have to ensure our voices are heard at the ballot box. That means voting in primaries, general elections and local elections, and volunteering for causes and campaigns. If you want to spread awareness about an issue or problem, or want to know more about how federal policies are affecting your community, speak up. If you want to make a change, run for office! Every political campaign has to start somewhere; being passionate about your community and its residents is a great start.

SWM: What are you hoping is the impact of the Women2Women conversation?
Sarah: I’m committed to getting more women involved and engaged in the political process. We have to support and promote the next generation of female leaders!

2015 © Cat Laine.

Who: Carrie Majewski, Women in Leadership Nexus founder/CEO
When: Afternoon Breakout Session: Next Gen Leadership: It’s a Mindset

SWM: What led you to create the Women in Leadership Nexus?
Carrie: Every day, we come across extraordinary instances of X-factor leadership. We meet a CEO who is more motivated to build strong, unbreakable culture than to wield power; we watch a TED talk from a luminary calling for more authentic leadership; we read a best-selling business book about how to overcome self-imposed limitation to have greater impact. My belief is we don’t have to wait to meet, see or hear from these X-factor leaders. Rather, we can choose to be that leader today. I started the Women in Leadership Nexus to empower women to become this type of leader — the next-gen leader.

SWM: On the Women in Leadership Nexus website, it’s mentioned that leaders can “elect to not have title or hierarchy define them.” How can women achieve that goal?
Carrie: As women, we can view the title scrawled on a business card or where we sit in the corporate organizational chart as determinants of how we can show up personally and professionally. But none of that has any bearing on whether we can be an intentional, transformative leader. Conversely, our ability to lead is determined by our willingness to positively impact the lives of others, lead with greater purpose and listen to that voice urging us that there is a better way.

SWM: Talk about the meaning of “next-gen leadership.”
Carrie: A next-gen leader is someone who leads differently, is centered around a different set of ideals and is driven to forever impact the workplace of tomorrow. The next-gen leader isn’t afraid to set extraordinary vision, teeter on the edge of adventure and challenge existing corporate paradigms.

SWM: What’s the message you hope entrepreneurs will take from your presentation?
Carrie: I have had the incredible opportunity to work for some of the best companies out there — companies rooted in purposeful ideology and centered around forward-facing principles. I hope attendees leave inspired to craft the workplace of tomorrow, one centered around this different leadership paradigm. If I can ignite the fire in even a few women to create better companies that value co-creation, spirited dialogue, circular hierarchy and next-gen leadership, I will have done my job. SWM

Interviews have been edited for length and clarity. For more information, visit