Yesterday, March 29, students gathered in Science Hall to listen to successful SUNY New Paltz alumni discuss their careers and experiences at SUNY New Paltz.
The ninth Women’s Leadership Summit was sponsored by the New Paltz Office of Development & Alumni Relations. Speakers came from all over the country to help network and answer questions during breakout sessions, matching students to alumni with the same degrees.
The keynote speaker, Lynne Oldham, who graduated from New Paltz in 1986 with a degree in business administration and finance, started off the event with her talk about her career. As the Chief People Officer of Zoom during the start of COVID-19, Oldham had a huge impact on the company. She increased the number of employees while making the Zoom’s transition from in person to remote work. Due to the high demand and increased workload, she added mental health and wellness benefits for employees.
After the death of George Floyd, Oldham facilitated a meeting to check in with how employees were feeling and held additional sessions with black employees to continue listening and learning. She is currently working as the Chief of People at a financial technology company called Stash and in 2021, she was added to Insider’s Human Resources (HR) innovators.
President Darrell P. Wheeler gave Oldham a warm welcome in Science Hall and she began speaking about her experience in school. She was the first in her family to attend college and transferred from nursing school to New Paltz after remembering how much she enjoyed her seventh grade business class. Since graduating, she has worked in publishing, consumer products and tech, just to name a few. Adapting to the different cultures in these fields has been a necessary challenge for her. “The HR space is such a taxing space these days. There’s a lot of folks that I know who have ‘hung up their shingle’ because it’s been a lot,” she said. According to Oldham, HR professionals cannot be resistant to change.
Oldham has a “growth mindset;” in other words, she’s always looking for opportunities and how to improve herself and her work. She has six things that help grow her career, “First, embrace lifelong learning, the second is to seek out challenges,” she said. “The third, go beyond your limits, the fourth learn from our failure, the fifth, ask for feedback, the sixth one is cultivate a sense of purpose.”
Another speaker, Casey Silvestri, graduated in 2017 with a degree in journalism and is currently working for the Associated Press as the first news editor for social video. She had something similar to say about adaptability in her field regarding changes in COVID-19. “I think that networking is really huge,” she said. “In the age of Covid and post Covid, where there’s not necessarily as many in-person networking events, it’s all the more important to have an active LinkedIn and Twitter presence.”
“I don’t think that we’re in a world anymore where, if you don’t go to a big name school that eliminates your chances of success,” Silvestri told The Oracle. “There’s a lot more conversations about being more inclusive to people from different backgrounds, places are more willing to seek out people that might have a different perspective on things.”
Oldham ended with a quote from Carol Dweck, “Love challenges, be intrigued by mistakes, enjoy effort and keep on learning.”