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Bold Leadership: Highlights from our 2nd Annual International Women’s Day Panel

Women’s History Month is a celebration of women’s contributions to history, culture and society and has been observed in March in the United States since 1987. International Women’s Day, a global celebration of the economic, political, and social achievements of women, first took place on March 8, 1911.  To commemorate these celebrations, we hosted our 2nd annual Women’s Leadership panel on March 8, 2024.

Since I started my career at Ware Malcomb over 25 years ago, the firm has experienced significant growth. This would not have been possible without the incredible team members and great leaders at Ware Malcomb. I had the privilege to moderate the dynamic Women’s Leadership panel featuring inspiring women leaders from across WM.

The panel began with Anita Gross, Associate Principal, Corporate Accounts highlighting her 19-year journey with Ware Malcomb.

Reflecting on Anita’s trajectory with Ware Malcomb, she focused on the experience she gained by “stretching her legs”. It is the capability to embrace risks and, as she mentioned, “push herself.” Anita also reflected upon the great mentorship and guidance she has received at Ware Malcomb.  This in turn helped her understand that managing projects was not the same as managing people.  With Anita’s willingness to take chances, she was presented with opportunity to lead the Corporate Accounts program, which was a brand new role and allowed Anita to make it her own with the freedom to grow and evolve. Her leadership is a direct reflection of our One Team philosophy.

Alicia Zaro described her experience prior to Ware Malcomb as a little bit of a pinball, going from side to side, up down and a little all over the place challenged by the 2008 recession. Although her initial path varied, Alicia later realized that she built a great foundation for herself once she found her way back to design. Alicia embodies the attitude of a lifelong learner by seeing her prior experiences as teaching opportunities. She also credits her growth as a leader to a mentor from her past who was a strong female leader; this showed Alicia that it was ok to be the only female in the room (a majority of the time) and to have a strong presence. Tapping into this skill allowed her to grow into the leader she is today.

Earlier in her leadership journey, Stephanie Ridener’s experience with the WM Emerging Leaders program helped influenced her leadership style. This includes incorporating multiple leadership techniques recognizing what works best for the team, and as individuals. Stephanie realized that it is ok to try different things as you ease your way into defining your own leadership style since it’s not one size fits all. This realization is applicable to everyone’s professional journey. When something doesn’t seem to work, recognize it, and change direction. This is the type of leadership we see throughout Ware Malcomb and Stephanie is a great example of it.

Lilia Ortiz’s journey to finding her leadership style meant having to break tradition.  Leadership to her means looking for opportunities to make a change.  Instead of following the status quo, she respectfully acknowledged the tradition, and found that being more involved with the team, and leading with empathy encouraged her team to achieve their goals. Lilia finds it important to look at the individual strengths within her team to create a cohesive, effective team. She is another excellent example of the type of leadership and teamwork we value at Ware Malcomb.

Lori Ambrusch attributes her leadership path to being authentic, doing her best work, and always being open to new opportunities. Early on in her professional career her boss noticed how highly organized she was. At that time, she wasn’t aware that one of her Clifton strengths is input, which Lori described as “aggressively organizing things.” Her boss took notice of her impeccable organization, gave her the task to organize the materials library (which she excelled at) and that opened the door to more opportunities. Showcasing her professional talents opened doors for her.  Along with these new opportunities, Lori’s leadership journey took her to different parts of the country, moving states twice for new positions. Lori encourages and reminds everyone, no matter where you are on your career path, to be engaged, and ask as many questions as possible for your benefit and everyone around you.

There were so many inspiring lessons on leadership and professionalism to help us grow as one team. Thank you to our panelists who shared their wealth of experiences, insight, and expertise. We are incredibly fortunate to work alongside such esteemed women leaders.

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Maureen Bissonnette

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