… to all of the fabulous speakers, attendees and sponsors who made the 2019 Women Retail Leadership Summit (WIRLS) a truly spectacular event! I don’t know about you, but we still can’t get over how energizing, inspirational and truly exceptional it was (if we must say so ourselves)!

We’ll be sharing with you content from the Summit over the next several weeks. This week I thought I’d discuss the opening presentation from Bess Healy, senior vice president of strategy and transformation at Synchrony, the diamond sponsor for the Summit.

During her motivational presentation, Healy discussed her personal career journey, including her time at the United States Military Academy at West Point, where she received her B.S. in Environmental Engineering, and her subsequent role in the United States Army where she served as Officer in the Adjutant General’s Corps in the U.S. and Germany for seven years. In this role, Healy was commended for superior personnel and administrative support for 11 deployments in six months, including Bosnia, Kosovo, and Hurricane Mitch Relief in Central America. She also spent time as a commander at Fort Bragg, the largest military installation in the world. Following her military career, Healy joined GE in 2001, and was tasked with improving global computing operations service delivery.

Throughout her presentation, Healy focused on the importance of relationship building and how creating and developing personal relationships in each phase of her career was key to her successes. For example, she explained how she met Carol Juel, executive vice president and chief information officer at Synchrony, who at the time was the CIO of retail finance, at a leadership program. “That connection, that relationship is why I’m where I’m at today,” said Healy. “She recognized me, she reached out and she lifted me up the way you have to lift others up every day.”

Speaking of lifting others up, Healy explained that Synchrony has a true focus on women in technology and STEM, and as such created an initiative with Girls Who Code, a nonprofit organization that aims to support and increase the number of women in computer science. Healy noted that Synchrony sponsors several immersion programs every summer with Girls Who Code. “We pour into them and we mentor them because we’re hoping they will thrive in a world of technology and will go on to fulfill a great need we have of women in STEM and technology,” Healy said.

Healy then encouraged the audience to think about those people in their lives who have helped them along the way in their careers, as well as the relationships they’ve established and the mentors they’ve had. “Take a second to think about whose life or whose career you can change,” instructed Healy. “You have the power to do that — to reach out and lift up.”

Healy also pointed out the interactive wall Synchrony set up at the Summit that enabled attendees to write notes to their mentors, thanking them for their help in growing them as leaders. “Think about the best advice you’ve ever received from one of your mentors and write it down on the wall, or send them a snail mail letter,” Healy said. “Nurture those relationships. Acknowledge those people who have helped to coach you.”

To close her presentation, Healy shared a quote from author Michelle Moschetti: “Be strong when you are weak. Be brave when you are scared. Be humble when you are victorious.”

Melissa Campanelli
Women in Retail Leadership Circle