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10 Of Minnesota's Top Corporate Women

Twin Cities Business spoke with prominent women executives to learn about their leadership approaches and paths to success.

10 Of Minnesota's Top Corporate Women

This story appeared as part of a section on corporate women in the April issue of Twin Cities Business, which also included a story about "Why Workplace Culture Matters To Increase the Ranks of Women Executives."
 

It can be career ending to work for a company that is acquired by a larger entity, particularly in the banking industry. Jeanne Crain, however, saw it as an opportunity for advancement—five times.

Crain, the president and CEO of Bremer Bank in the Twin Cities, began her career as a commercial loan officer trainee in 1982 after graduating from the University of North Dakota, Grand Forks, with a degree in business administration. She later earned an MBA from Marquette University.

Crain says others helped her see leadership qualities in herself, which helped her build the necessary confidence to move forward. “Today I look at any role I approach as a challenge, an opportunity and something I will be successful at,” says Crain.

Doug Hile, president of Klein Bank, Chanhassen, was one of those people. He hired Crain as a private banking officer in 1988 at Bank One in Milwaukee. A few months after he took a position at Marquette Banks in 1990 he offered Crain a vice president position. Eight years later, Crain moved into her first role as CEO of Marquette Capital.

Jeanne Crain
President and CEO, Bremer Bank, Twin Cities

“Jeanne is open to dialogue about what’s important to others. She is smart, committed to staying current with the business and customer-focused,” says Hile. “The people she leads take on those qualities.”

Crain manages about 500 people within Bremer’s Twin Cities charter. The bank has $2.7 billion in assets and focuses on small and medium-sized businesses. Much of her day is spent in meetings, but she still works with clients.

“It’s important that I really understand the marketplace,” says Crain. “The best part about my job is being out and about meeting with clients.” Crain recently attended a 50th anniversary celebration at Bauer Welding and Metal Fabricators. The St. Paul-based employee-owned manufacturer was celebrating decades of banking with Bremer.

Helping others succeed “is what it is all about,” says Crain. “That is why I do what I do.”

—Fran Howard

Roberta “Bobbie” Antoine Dressen
Vice president, Medtronic

 

Roberta “Bobbie” Antoine Dressen is a builder. She builds hospitals, institutes of excellence, and departments of clinical surveillance. She also builds teams of physicians, research scientists and medical statisticians.

“My favorite thing to do is to start things from the ground up,” says Dressen, vice president of Medtronic’s PAN division.

A graduate of the health care administration program at Concordia College, Moorhead, Dressen was steered into hospital administration by a St. Louis Park High School career counselor after testing high in both business and medicine.

At the age of 25, Dressen stepped into the CEO position at Shriners Hospital for Children, Twin Cities. “I’ve been in the C-suite ever since,” she says. At Shriners she identified the need for a new facility and successfully led the $26 million replacement facility project.

From there, Dressen went on to lead a $41 million capital expansion within Abbott Northwestern’s $120 million heart hospital. The project included the 2005 opening of two floors within the hospital focused on neuroscience, orthopedics and spinal care.

“I like to make a difference,” Dressen says. “I like to leave each position knowing I left something better than how I found it for the benefit of the community.”

For the past four years, Dressen has been building a new division for Medtronic, called PAN, a 60-person business unit centered on post-market surveillance and studies worldwide. She has shaped PAN into one of the more visible areas of the company.

“Bobbie is a very effective leader because she allows the people who work for her to participate, contribute and grow. She provides guidance, then allows them room to grow and expand,” says Susan Alpert, former senior vice president at Medtronic for global regulatory affairs and a consultant working with Dressen’s group.

“She integrates what she learns in each position and then brings that depth and breadth of experience to all that she does, which is extremely effective,” Alpert adds.

—Fran Howard

Kweilin Ellingrud
Managing partner, McKinsey & Company, Minneapolis

 

Kweilin Ellingrud’s ability to connect with a business client, quickly learn about the company and devise innovative solutions comes from her knack for thriving in new surroundings.

Ellingrud is the daughter of a physician father who was raised in tiny Ottertail, Minn., and a mother who grew up poor in Malaysia and built a career as a social worker and restaurant owner. When Ellingrud was 11, her father took her and her brother on a 15-month world tour. “We lived in Edinburgh for six months, we traveled all over Africa for four months, and the rest of the time was spent in Asia,” she recalls.

She returned to Seattle where she grew up for a year of school, but her parents decided the children would benefit from more international experiences. Ellingrud went to school in France for a year, followed by two and a half years in China, a year at a naval academy in Ecuador and a final year of high school at a girls high school in Japan. Then it was off to Harvard, where Ellingrud earned bachelor’s and MBA degrees.

Her parents’ desire to immerse her in new experiences and their vigor for life transformed Ellingrud. “I never doubted that I could do what I wanted if I really set my mind to it,” she says, and now she’s the first woman to lead McKinsey’s Minneapolis office.

She works with financial services clients, and in her managing partner role she is developing McKinsey’s consultants. She aims to preside over an open and collaborative workplace. “The culture is [that] the best ideas should float to the top, and we all have an obligation to share our perspective and an obligation to speak up if you disagree,” she says.

McKinsey director Tim Welsh helped recruit Ellingrud to the Minneapolis office and says that she has many followers. “She is, first, a genuinely caring person and she combines that with a razor-sharp intellect,” Welsh says.

“She has a point of view and she’s not afraid to tell anybody they are headed in the wrong direction,” Welsh says, adding that clients like that direct approach. “It’s that steel hand, but she has that wonderful velvet glove.”

—Liz Fedor

Beth Jackson
Market executive, U.S. Trust

 

Beth Jackson believes she was destined for finance from a young age. She and her father, a financial analyst, would often discuss business, and she’d accompany him to the office occasionally. She showed an early affinity for numbers, and one of her first jobs in high school was at a savings bank. “I just always liked the notion of organizing money and helping people to organize their money and take care of their money,” she says.

She’s now spent more than 30 years doing just that, working for some big names in big roles. She’s gained unique skills and leadership experience at each—from working with clients at Merrill Lynch to learning the trust business at First Bank System to business strategy at Norwest to heading up Anchor Bank’s investment and trust business. “I really believe that everything I’ve done in my career has prepared me and led me to where I am right now.”

Where she is right now is at the helm of the Minneapolis office of U.S. Trust, part of Bank of America, where she oversees a 25-person team offering investment management and wealth structuring to high net-worth individuals. Her responsibilities range from working directly with clients (which she still loves) to crafting strategy and making sure the business is running smoothly. Laura Savin, who worked under Jackson for six years at Norwest (later Wells Fargo), says Jackson is particularly adept at leading a team. “Beth was a really, really good manager,” Savin says. “She can see people’s potential and she’s really good at helping people achieve their potential.”

An eternal optimist, Jackson is also good at seeing possibilities. In fact, she was once accused of being a “possibilist.” It puzzled her at first, though she’s since embraced her understanding of it. “I see the value in that, that if you take a situation and see the possibilities and the opportunity, it really can be quite interesting,” she says. “When I look back at what I’ve done, what I’ve learned, and what I like to do, it always comes back to helping folks see the possibilities.”

—Anna Befort

Stacey Fowler Meittunen
Senior vice president of product innovation and new venture development, Schwan Food Co.

 

If you’ve ever enjoyed a Freschetta Brick Oven pizza, thank Stacey Fowler Meittunen. The executive for Schwan Food Co. has helped bring more than 500 products to market in her 23-year career. “I really enjoy working on something customers find remarkable,” says Meittunen.

While some people feel uncomfortable venturing into new territory, that’s where Fowler thrives. “I love to learn new things. I’m fascinated with technology in general and what’s going on in the world,” she says. That drive has served her well at Schwan, going all the way back to 1993, when, at age 23, she was tasked with leading R&D efforts for a startup within Schwan, creating management and R&D teams, and overseeing three manufacturing plants. “Every day was very challenging, and it made me a better professional,” she says.

That quest to learn and grow has motivated much of Meittunen’s work. It helped her push her professional limits to become the only R&D person in marketing for Schwan’s consumer brands division. It motivated her to earn her MBA mid-career. And it spurred her to uproot to the United Kingdom in 2005 to become vice president of innovation for Schwan’s Europe, managing R&D and quality assurance teams and plants in three countries.

These days, innovation is officially part of her title. As senior vice president of product innovation and new venture development, she helps launch new products and initiatives, find opportunities in the marketplace, create corporate innovation strategy, and lead a team of 125. “She’s helped develop a vision for what our new products should look like,” says Doug Olsem, president of Schwan’s global supply chain. “She really understands what the market’s looking for and things we can do and marrying those two.”

In addition to her 500-plus product launches, Meittunen helped create the Freschetta Culinary Council of advisory chefs, led Schwan’s initiative to remove trans fats in 2004 and helped bring nutrition-rich crusts to school-lunch pizzas. That ability to innovate at Schwan keeps her engaged. “I appreciate that entrepreneurial spirit in terms of not having such heavy guard rails on individuals and their ideas.”

—Anna Befort

Sarena Lin
Vice president, strategy and business development, Cargill

 

Sarena Lin viewed the world through a global lens before she stepped on the Harvard campus to earn a bachelor’s degree. As a young girl she lived in Taiwan. When she was 13, her mother and siblings moved to Hawaii so the children could get a well-rounded American education.

“When I moved to Hawaii, I didn’t speak a word of English,” Lin says, but she was an excellent student and went on to earn master’s degrees in international relations and business at Yale.

Her ability to incisively analyze business challenges and devise innovative solutions allowed Lin to rise to leadership roles during her 13-year career at McKinsey and Company.

Lin’s McKinsey work caught the attention of a headhunter for Cargill, where Lin landed in 2011. Her vice president’s role is an influential one for the nation’s largest privately held company, which had annual revenue of $137 billion in 2013.

“I help the company by devising the corporate strategies for our core business units and the corporate business level for the maximum profit,” Lin says. She’s also in charge of mergers and acquisitions for Cargill.

“This company absolutely values business ethics and integrity and its employees, yet stays humble and low-profile,” Lin says. She’s excited about the global stage she’s on at Cargill. She also serves on a number of boards in the Twin Cities and wants to expand her civic involvement.

“Sarena’s prior experience with McKinsey gave her a very strong background in strategic planning and thinking, something that was a great fit at Cargill,” says Cargill CEO David MacLennan.

He adds that her fluency in Mandarin has given her a unique perspective on China and other Asian countries, which are growth areas for Cargill.

“Sarena is a warm and engaging person,” MacLennan says. “She takes the time to get to know people and is a great listener, and you get the sense from knowing her that she cares about you and your success, as well as the success of your business.”

—Liz Fedor

Wendy Madsen
Regional director of management, Ryan Cos.

 

Wendy Madsen lives for a good challenge, whether that’s opening a new retail center or going to college at age 30 while juggling a full-time job and parenting two small kids. “That’s what I thrive on, the challenges. My self-satisfaction is to take a challenge and problem-solve it,” she says.

She’s had plenty of opportunity to problem-solve, starting with her receptionist days at Ryan Cos., where she was the seventh employee in 1976. “Because it was such a small company, we all just pitched in and did what we had to do. I did things I never thought I would be able to do. I did payroll. I worked with the developers,” she says. As the real-estate company grew, her career opportunities did, too.

She moved into property management, developing a niche in retail properties. Today, she oversees all of Ryan’s retail property portfolios in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Florida and New York—some 1.5 million square feet of space.

Her rise through the ranks came with challenges, of course, including starting out in a very male-dominated field. “When I was promoted to property manager in ’87 and started going to some of the industry meetings, I was one of only a handful of women,” says Madsen. Rather than hanging back, she dove into industry involvement, including becoming president of the Institute of Real Estate Management’s Minnesota chapter. “I’ve found that’s been the satisfaction that has kept me going and hungry to learn more.”

As she’s advanced in her career, bringing along other women has been a priority. She’s mentored others within Ryan, served as a Girl Scout leader, counseled women on personal growth, and worked with women in prison. She’s the original recipient of the company’s James Henry Ryan Award, which honors dedicated employees who serve their community and industry. “She’s been effective at Ryan because of her authenticity and her sincerity. She really cares for her clients,” says Mike McElroy, executive vice president of investment and asset management at Ryan. “She embodies the spirit of the company and the culture of the company. That’s a big deal, because for us culture is everything.”

—Anna Befort

Jean Kane
CEO, Welsh and Colliers International, Minneapolis-St. Paul

 

Jean Kane’s elevator speech is direct and well-honed. “I’m a CEO, wife, mother and fitness fanatic,” says Kane. She’s also a people person who is as comfortable talking with construction workers as she is dealing with architects or listening to deal-making real estate brokers.

A 1983 graduate of Gustavus Adolphus’ business program, Kane started with Coldwell Banker as a property manager. In 1987 she took a property management position with Welsh Cos. Today Kane is CEO of Welsh and Colliers International, Minneapolis-St. Paul, one of the metro’s largest commercial real estate firms offering brokerage, property management, construction, capital, architecture and facility services.

Juggling a fast-paced career in commercial real estate wasn’t without challenges.

“When my twin daughters were born, we had three kids under the age of 3, and my husband, Tom, was traveling. I opted to go to four days a week, which did have the potential to stagnate me,” says Kane. “But I was able to show I could still stay involved, work hard and stay committed.”

She returned to a five-day workweek five years later, in 2001, when Dennis Doyle, co-founder of the firm, offered her the president and chief operating officer position.

Motivated by relationships, the high-energy Kane makes sure she has plenty of “me time.” She starts her day at 4:15 to get in a full workout—whether running, swimming, biking or weights—before arriving at the office. At the office, she’s a hands-on leader, actively overseeing the firm’s six diverse real estate divisions.

“Jean has an impressive leadership style that comes across as direct but very sincere. Her focus is constantly changing,” says Bill Wardwell, executive vice president of brokerage services for Welsh. He and Kane played key roles in the 2011 affiliation deal with Seattle-based Colliers International, bringing Welsh brokers and property managers under the Colliers banner.

“She juggles a lot of balls successfully and at the same time she’s taking the time to give back to the industry in her position as national chair of NAIOP,” says Wardwell. “It’s a huge time commitment.”

Last year, Kane became the majority shareholder of Welsh, a woman-controlled, woman-owned commercial real estate firm in Minnesota.

“It’s been a good run,” says Kane.

—Fran Howard

Kathy Orner
Chief information security officer, Carlson Wagonlit Travel

 

Information technology wasn’t sexy when Kathy Orner began her career in 1985, and there were no information security officers to protect companies from hackers living halfway around the world. There wasn’t even an Internet.

“Moving to IT was like moving to the dark side,” says Orner. Yet a fateful decision in 1990 led Orner to her current position at Carlson Wagonlit Travel, where she manages 39 people stationed in Minneapolis, Singapore, Paris, London, and São Paulo, all working to keep customer and company data safe.

Orner began her career as an auditor for Blue Cross Blue Shield working with Medicare accounts, which required extensive travel. As a single mom of two young children, Orner decided to take a less glamorous internal IT auditing position with Blue Cross Blue Shield that required less travel.

“I started a department, wrote the first policy for IT security and I was on an Internet implementation board,” she says. “At that time we weren’t even sure we wanted to go onto the Internet.”

That ground-up experience led her into high-profile IT security positions with Deluxe, UnitedHealth Group and Carlson. At Carlson, Orner was responsible for information security strategies and programs relating to the firm’s business lines, as well as creating and maintaining policies to safeguard the assets, confidential information and intellectual property of Carlson.

In 2013, when the IT security position opened up at Carlson Wagonlit Travel, Orner saw it as an opportunity to expand her global reach.

“Kathy is an expert in her field. She is regarded as a leader in a much broader community. She is looked to as a leading source and has access to people in similar positions in other companies,” says Trudy Rautio, president and CEO of Carlson. “She is very smart, and she has the gift to communicate very effectively in a complex language.”

As a member of the prestigious international PCI Security Standards Council Board of Advisors, Orner helps develop, manage and educate the global business community about PCI security standards.

“Knowing that I make a difference to the company and its bottom line is what truly motivates me,” says Orner. “I want to know I’m a contributor.”

—Fran Howard

Brenda Vale
Executive vice president, chief administrative officer and secretary, Merrill Corp.

 

People call Brenda Vale the Energizer Bunny. She calls herself a grinder. “I’m tenacious, I don’t give up,” she says. “People have described it as grit. It’s not glamorous, it’s ‘Do what it takes to get it done.’ ”

It’s an ethos she learned from her parents, who both worked outside their North Minneapolis home—her mother at Mayo Clinic (where she hid her pregnancy so she could keep working) and her father at the University of Minnesota. Vale applied their example early on, starting full-time work for credit in high school.

While her peers started college, she worked in HR doing benefits administration. She kept working full-time as she pursued business degrees from the University of St. Thomas. “It took me a little longer, but I paid for school myself and came out with no debt.”

At Merrill Corp. since 1998, she’s coupled that grit with a positive outlook and willingness to take chances as they arise. Case in point: She’d been working in benefits, compensation and payroll when a mentor saw her strong negotiating, team-building and problem-solving skills and asked if she’d try something new, as vice president of strategic sourcing. Vale said yes. “That is one of my strong personal beliefs. I say yes and have a tremendous capacity and figure out how to work my way through it as we go.”

Her trajectory reached a zenith in 2008, when she became chief administrative officer. She’s now responsible for all of human resources at the 5,260-employee company, along with strategic sourcing and organization security and compliance—particularly important for Merrill’s work with client data that’s confidential and/or regulated. “She’s this unique individual who continues to evolve and learn, and at the same time has a tremendous amount of empathy for people and yet is very street-smart,” says Merrill CEO John Castro. “She is in a lot of areas a go-to person for me because she knows Merrill so well.”

For now, Vale continues taking life at her favorite pace: full speed ahead, whether that’s putting out fires at work or learning to ride a motorcycle. “My motivation has been live life to the fullest, and with that you take risks, enjoy your opportunities, and be grateful for what you’ve got.”

—Anna Befort
 


Across Minnesota’s economy, women are rising to key leadership positions. To gain a better understanding of how they succeeded, TCB posed the key questions to the 10 Top Corporate Women profiled in this section. Here are their names and positions, as a reminder of who's responding:

 

Jeanne Crain,
president and CEO, Bremer Bank, Twin Cities

Roberta “Bobbie” Antoine Dressen,
vice president, Medtronic

Kweilin Ellingrud,
managing partner, McKinsey & Company, Minneapolis

Stacey Fowler Meittunen,
senior vice president, Schwan Food Co.

Beth Jackson,
market executive, U.S. Trust

Jean Kane,
CEO Welsh and Colliers International, Minneapolis-St. Paul

Sarena Lin,
vice president, strategy and business development, Cargill

Wendy Madsen,
regional director of management, Ryan Cos.

Kathy Orner,
chief information security officer, Carlson Wagonlit Travel

Brenda Vale,
executive vice president, chief administrative officer and secretary, Merrill Corp.


What is the greatest barrier you overcame to become a corporate leader?

J.C.:Having the simple confidence that I could be effective in a senior leadership position. My confidence grew as I paid attention to the people I was responsible for and saw that my impact was real.

R.D.: People’s perception of what a woman in a CEO position is or is not capable of while she is also a mother. When I proved I could produce and execute, it didn’t matter that I was a mother of four sons.

K.E.:The greatest barriers are actually the personal tradeoffs and the tugs in different directions that you feel, both for personal balance with your family and ultimately with kids, when you have them. [Ellingrud has one child.] I overcame those barriers by having an incredibly understanding and supportive spouse.

S.M.: I’m not an extrovert, I’m an introvert. I really had to work at it every day to make sure I was getting outside of my own box and meeting people and developing relationships.

B.J.: I think it’s been myself. Because sometimes, when things don’t go as you planned or hoped, there’s that temptation to give up or doubt yourself. But over the years I’ve learned that things happen for a reason, and it’s about following your heart and knowing who you are and what your strengths are.

J.K.: My own confidence level. When I first got into this industry, it was very much male-dominated. It was intimidating to walk into a NAIOP [commercial real estate development association] meeting filled with men in blue suits who all seemed to know each other. I joined the membership committee and then I got to know all of the new members coming in.

S.L.: It is a constant tradeoff in terms of “How do I prioritize my life?” People talk about work-life balance. I don’t necessarily put them in two different buckets. We got married when I was an associate at McKinsey. We delayed having a child until I made partner.

W.M.: The barrier was being a woman in this industry. Now it’s certainly a much, much higher percentage of women, but back then it was not.

K.O.: Giving up some of the details. I still like the details, but I could no longer always have my fingers on every report. If I had held onto the details, I would not have been able to move into a leadership position.

B.V.: Early on in my career it was still very much of a man’s world, so to speak—but I chose not to see it that way. I have really focused on what I could do.


What do you consider your most significant business accomplishment?

J.C.: In my 32-year career, I have been through five acquisitions. I stayed focused and engaged, challenged and on the mark in terms of both being true to myself and where I wanted to go. Others around me were not always able to do the same. I moved through the transitions in a way that led me to a greater role and greater challenges.

R.D.: At Abbott Northwestern Hospital I transitioned the Neuroscience, Orthopedics and Spine Centers of Excellence to institutes, which entailed a $41 million capital expansion that will serve the community for a long time to come.

K.E.: Internally, the thing I am most proud of is having mentored a number of people at McKinsey and helped them be better leaders. In terms of outside McKinsey and in our client work, I’m most proud of the transformations that we’ve done to have tangible impact that changes people’s lives on a day-to-day basis.

S.M.: Building incremental value through a new brand, new products, new infrastructure within an organization. The process of value creation is something I’ve tried to do over and over again.

B.J.: My single greatest accomplishment has been the number of times I’ve been involved in working with people or teams where we were able to accomplish more than we ever dreamed that we could.

J.K.: Leading and working with a group of really strong executives, brokers and employees. That’s no small feat. Keeping great people is not easy. You have to work at being an employer of choice—and it’s not all about me.

S.L.: I have been able to come into Cargill and bring my background and expertise and be able to be part of the team. I chart the course for Cargill going forward, given the size and breadth of Cargill. I have been accepted and respected by the organization, and I know my voice counts.

W.M.: Developing our corporate university here. At that time we probably were at 250 to 300 employees. It was a great challenge, going out and researching it and then developing it, putting together a steering committee.

K.O.: There are two. In 2004, I was United Healthcare’s first information security officer and I led the IT portion of our compliance and audit activities under Sarbanes-Oxley on behalf of the entire company. In 2010 I was able to take Carlson’s hotel companies to become the first hotel company to achieve PCI [payment card industry] compliance.

B.V.: It’s seeing individuals who have worked with me over the years, seeing what they’ve moved on to do and knowing they’ve come back to me on occasion to say it was feedback from me or my influence that helped them leverage where they were going in their career.


What mentor(s) helped you rise to a key leadership role?

J.C.: My parents were wonderful role models. My father, a watchmaker, was a self-employed business leader who took on a great amount of risk, particularly with eight children. And my mother was very much involved in that success.

R.D.: Patricia Klauck, past president of what is now Minneapolis Children’s Hospital and Clinic, was my preceptor for my residency there. Pat recommended me to Shriners as a candidate for the CEO position. Gordon Sprenger, former president of Abbott Northwestern, has been a great resource in terms of listening to me and providing advice.

K.E.: [McKinsey director] Tim Welsh is certainly a big mentor of mine. There are also a number of other mentors within McKinsey. I would call them sponsors because beyond being a mentor, they have actually created opportunities for me and been there for a long period of time. They’ve been honest about how I need to grow. They are willing to give you both the loving feedback and the tough feedback.

S.M.: Tom Jacobson. He was VP of marketing for Schwan’s consumer brands. He was a salt-of-the-earth-type person, and he had a way of relating to people that could motivate teams to action. He was extremely diplomatic and had great respect for food.

B.J.: It started with my father, who always believed I could do whatever I chose and introduced me to the business world very early. And my mother, who showed me that a woman can be a good mother and work outside the home.

J.K.: [Co-founder] Dennis Doyle has been a significant role model. I have been working at Welsh for 26 years; most of it I spent working on the portfolio he owned with George Welsh. My brother, Mark Wilson, who is 12 years my senior, was always telling me—even when I was a 12-year-old—to dream big and execute.

S.L.: I have had many mentors, especially during my McKinsey career. By the way, they were all male. The role uniformly they all played is holding up the mirror in front of me and being able to tell me how I come across and give me direct feedback. I am lucky enough at Cargill to also have mentors throughout the organization.

W.M.: My greatest mentor would be Jim Ryan. When I started at Ryan, Jim was project manager. He had such a great way with people, and he always did the right thing. That was Jim’s motto, and that was part of his value: Always do the right thing.

K.O.: When I was at Blue Cross Blue Shield, Carol Kraft, vice president of IT operations, took me out of my comfort level intellectually but also impressed upon me how important it is to have fun. Dee Thibodeau, co-CEO of Charter Solutions, has made a tremendous impact on my professional career. She has been an inspiration and has truly mentored me by teaching me the importance of networking. She encouraged me to become active on boards and was instrumental in introducing me to several key people.

B.V.: I had an immediate manager [at Supervalu] who was British, and she had that British stoicism. She was plucky in a way where you just soldier on and carry on and pull up your bootstraps and keep going. She had lived through the war and she had a phenomenal approach to how she viewed things.


What advice do you have for young women who’d like to be leaders at for-profit companies?

J.C.: It is so important for women to look at themselves authentically and to recognize their passion. You may not be the strongest, best or brightest in the room, but you can be a competitor and an effective leader.

R.D.: Stay true to yourself. When you are in a leadership position it is easy to be influenced by corporate politics. When you follow your heart in terms of what your inner compass or intuition tells you, and couple that with the facts, you will usually see success and rarely will you lose focus.

K.E.: Create your own leadership mosaic. What I mean by that is try to pull from different people what you admire in bits and pieces. If you admire how somebody balances their personal and work life, pull from that. If you admire how somebody else can address a big crowd, pull from that. Bring all of that into what you want to be as a leader.

S.M.: Do your homework. Make sure the company’s values and goals are in alignment with your own. That’s key to your own personal happiness. Also, the visioning process: How do you see yourself making a difference in the company?

B.J.: You have to be willing to work hard. And you have to be willing to listen and observe and be open to possibility. And then at the end of the day you need to deliver and you need to do what you say you’re going to do..

J.K.: Understand the importance of relationships. Be honest, ethical, hardworking, collaborative and true to who you are. Get involved in company initiatives, trade associations and the community. Don’t just look out for yourself. If you look out for others on the way, good things will happen.

S.L.: Be very good at what you do, whatever you are doing now. That will earn you the right to grow and develop and move forward. Some millennials lose sight of that. Some look at instant return, rather than [asking themselves] what is it that I need to do?

W.M.: I’d say this: Patience. Perseverance. Don’t hold back. And set reasonable expectations for yourself.

K.O.: Don’t hesitate to take a risk, even if it means leaving a staff of 150 people to lead a staff of five if it presents a challenge and has the potential to further your career. But be prepared for culture shock. Change will be required. Just don’t lose sight of the big picture.

B.V.: The world owes you nothing. You have to be courageous, you can’t shy away from hard work, you’ve got to put your time in. Be positive, accept challenges and after all of that, don’t hesitate to find your voice.


Favorite movie?

J.C.: The Intouchables. Based on a true story about a quadriplegic millionaire and his down-and-out caretaker, the film is heartwarming, inspiring and a story of extreme perseverance.

R.D.: Top Gun. It has a great soundtrack, lots of energy and some romance. It depicts loyalty, struggle, and working through life’s ups and downs..

K.E.: Rain Man. I saw it when I was quite young. It had great acting and a wonderful, heartwarming story.

S.M.: Good Will Hunting is my favorite, as the theme is overcoming adversity in combination with the power of self-reflection, mentorship and friendship.

B.J.: My all-time favorite movie is Out of Africa. I love the cinematography, I love the music and I love the character development.

J.K.: Les Misérables. It’s one of those movies that pulls at different emotions and takes you away from it all.

S.L.: Inception. I loved the mind-bending story and the cinematography.

W.M.: I still love The Sound of Music and Mary Poppins. And the reason I love them is because my grandkids love them, especially Mary Poppins.

K.O.: The Sound of Music. I love it for the music and the story. I like the messages of hope and happiness at the end.

B.V.: Crash. As humans, we are so intricately entwined, and that movie shows me no one is purely good or purely evil. Our actions matter, so choose the good ones.


What’s next in your life?

J.C.: I’m only one and a half years into Bremer, and I am enjoying every part of this organization. We are a dynamic and growing organization, and we will continue to expand in Minnesota, Wisconsin and North Dakota.

R.D.: I’m focused on what I’m building at Medtronic. I started this program from scratch, and I’m entering the fourth year. I will now be focused on meeting the deliverables, and measuring the program’s success and growth.

K.E.: Professionally, it is to continue to grow this office and make sure that we are as healthy and effective as we can be. Beyond this office, it is to continue to do great client work with the clients that I serve. Personally, I want to have another child and continue to grow the family.

S.M.: I really enjoy what I’m doing. If I were to journey into my next realm, I’d probably do a start-up business. I have some ideas. I’m fascinated with education and being able to contribute back in the classroom.

B.J.: I’m really excited about the opportunity to bring the full capabilities and resources of Bank of America and U.S. Trust to the market. I am very enthusiastic about the discipline and process we’re introducing to our clients and the feedback we’ve received from them.

J.K.: I’m the new chair of NAIOP, so I’ll be traveling the country. And I’m going to spend more time with the people I love.

S.L.: I love the company, so I will continue to identify ways to broaden my contribution to Cargill. Personally, it is deepening my network in the Twin Cities and contributing to the community.

W.M.: I will always continue to look for and tackle challenges, because that is what brings me self-satisfaction and motivation. I want to just enjoy life a little more, and that means taking my advice and not setting unreasonable expectations. And one day I’m going to follow my dream and go into the Peace Corps.

K.O.: My husband and I will be empty-nesters soon. My youngest is graduating from high school. I’ll be traveling more for work. I am heading to Africa for the first time, and I’ll be going to Istanbul as a member of the PCI Security Standards Council Board of Advisors.

B.V.: I’m not a very big person, but I decided to learn how to ride a motorcycle. That was a perfect example of everyone around me saying, “Are you crazy? You can’t do that. You’re going to kill yourself.” Well, maybe, but if I’m going out, I’m going out in a blaze of glory.

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