The University Record, February 1, 1999

'Know who you are, be unstoppable,' students told

By Janet Nellis Mendler
News and Information Services

Attend workshops and seminars, join professional organizations and volunteer in your communities, Shirley Stancato told students. Photo by Bill Wood, Photo Services

Formal education, determination, flexibility, familiarity with technology and a can-do attitude are attributes that will propel students into successful business careers and a full life, according to panelists at "Success Strategies for Minorities in the 21st Century Business World." The MLK Day symposium was sponsored by the National Association of Black Accountants and Minority Business Students at the University.

Opportunities that exist today will disappear tomorrow, according to Randy Lane, a partner in the Detroit office of Arthur Andersen LLP. Formal education is the underpinning, but flexibility enables employees to be prepared for the myriad changes that they'll encounter throughout their careers. Flexibility enables workers to take advantage of unexpected opportunities, the panelists agreed. They cautioned that in today's global business world, setting limits, like geography, in a job search closes options.

Shirley Stancato, senior vice president for public affairs for NBD Bank/Michigan in Detroit, noted that education isn't limited to the classroom. Developing strategic relationships is vital to success, and she urged students to attend workshops and seminars, join professional organizations and volunteer in their communities, all of which yield major returns in networking opportunities.

"With your math and financial background, you're going to be needed in the community," said Lane, who serves as treasurer and board member of Black Family Development.

Because Dawn Scott, president of Scott Management Group in Southfield, recognizes that she is part of a global as well as local network, she is studying Spanish and plans to spend three weeks in Costa Rica to immerse herself in the language. Young people "have to go out there" and familiarize themselves in other cultures which have different ways of conducting business and social relationships, she noted.

Scott also emphasized teamwork, which she characterized as an interface with people in your office, your neighborhood and around the world.

Success in the business world is defined individually, the panelists agreed, and not by title, position or place in the hierarchy.

Stancato takes a holistic view of success. "For me, personal relationships are very important, as is exercise. If any one area is off-balance, it throws everything off."

Success doesn't equal happiness, Scott said. Like Stancato, who chairs the board of directors of the Detroit Urban League and serves as chair emeritus of Alternatives for Girls, Scott says giving back to the community is vital to her well-being. "And when you give back, you're meeting new people, increasing your network."

Lynn P. Wooten, visiting professor of corporate strategy at the Business School, served as panel moderator. She asked the panelists to address the obstacles to workplace success and how they've worked to overcome them.

The obstacles are going to be there, Lane said, "and you're going to have to deal with them." Attitude plays a major role. "You are competent, prepared, and your work and your attitude must convey that. I've seen problems eat at individuals. It sours their attitude and eats at their performance."

"Know who you are," Lane said. "You must convey confidence or people won't believe in you."

Stancato urged her audience to be part of the workplace decision-making process. "As a participant, you'll be in a position to think of ways to help everyone. Let people know what you stand for, be straightforward."

"Be unstoppable," Scott said. "Everyone is not out to get you. Don't let the small stuff get in the way of your goals."