Category Archives: News & Views

EXPLORING WOMEN’S LEADERSHIP: AN INTERVIEW WITH STEFANY MENDEZ ’13 MBA ’16

By Victoria Palkon ’24

Stefany Mendez ’13 MBA ’16, trustee, is a procurement category manager at Harvard Pilgrim Health Care, where she supports the procurement process by onboarding new vendors, negotiating contracts and managing vendor relationships. She enjoys that, “for the most part, it’s never the same. I have never done the same contract again. Sometimes I’m helping HR with something, and or I’m helping marketing with a commercial or advertisements, sometimes with real estate when I’m talking to construction companies, and sometimes I’m talking to finance about outsourcing.”

Stefany Mendez

Stefany shared how she achieved her current position. “I was a temp but after 6 months, they hired me permanently and I was promoted twice to where I am now.” One reason she believes she’s been successful at Harvard Pilgrim is her involvement. “I started going to employee resource groups and supporting their missions, helping plan events, going to the events. I was smart, passionate and a resource to people,” she says. She suggests that female professionals who want to advance and grow should, “demonstrate their commitment, be yourself, diversify your time, and be open-minded. Be open to help and approachable, it goes a long way.”

When asked her how she chose her career path, she replies, “it chose me. Many of us have no idea what we want to do or good at. I was a first-generation college student, I applied on my own, I did my financial aid on my own, I didn’t have guidance from anyone in my family because no one has ever been through this process. I was very scared about making a mistake and choosing the wrong career, and major and so I went to Nichols because business is everywhere.” About her time at Nichols, Stefany said, “I double-majored in marketing and international business, I’m multilingual and have a creative side. During my time at Nichols, I worked in IT, I was president of my class all 4 years, a research assistant, an orientation leader, and a part of the Campus Activities Board. I was involved in anything you could possibly be involved in. I wanted to take advantage of any opportunity because any type of knowledge could have helped me open some door.”

Demonstrating the power of networking, Stefany explains how “through Nichols, I got connected to three alumni, one of them had an injection molding company in Worcester. After I met with him, I sent him a thank you letter, and then he told me if I needed a job after college to let him know. I reached out to him and received a job in the finance office there. I worked supporting payroll, accounts receivable and payable, logistics, and purchasing. I was the youngest person who worked there, and I learned a lot through it. After that, I landed this job at Harvard Pilgrim.”

For Stefany, confidence is key for female leaders. “There are always moments of doubt and when I ask myself if I’m good enough, that’s true in everyone but for some reason, women, we do that to ourselves. It’s transforming little by little; we are receiving more support and the glass ceiling is being opened. There are more women in leadership positions, women are having more flexibility. I would say myself that the most challenging aspect has been overcoming the fear of failure, but if you embrace the challenge and say, ‘If I was selected for a reason, people believe in me.’ You have to give yourself pep talks as a woman leader and not stay in a negative headspace.”

Stefany is passionate about diversity and inclusion, saying, “We have to give everyone an opportunity. Your sex, culture, nationality does not define how smart you are. There is value in being diversified because of different perspectives, the opportunity for others and it is a powerful tool for success for any organization.” To get more women into leadership positions, she believes, “Companies have to have goals and educate the decision-makers… First, state the commitment, make the goal and educate the people who can impact that goal so that they are aware that they are the ones that will either make the business succeed or fail. At my company, we are talking about doing blind hiring, so you look at resumes but without the person’s name. You are just looking at the qualifications, without being guided by stereotypes.”

Stefany shares this advice for students: “Be happy. Don’t do something that won’t make you happy. Realize if you are ever in a situation that challenges you, it makes you grow. Accomplishing things, growing — is the greatest gift you can give to yourself and other women.”

This interview is part of a series focused on women’s leadership, conducted by Research Associate Interns Victoria Palkon ’24 and Madison Perrotti ’23. As part of their Spring 2021 internship, the students assisted Prof. Jean Beaupre research and develop the 2021 Massachusetts Women’s Leadership Index.

Victoria is a rising sophomore concentrating in International Business with a minor in Management. In addition to being a panelist for the Institute for Women’s Leadership, she is a member of the Nichols varsity tennis team and is active in her community. She works part-time in a nursing home and in the Conant Library on campus. She is honored to be a research assistant on this project and is looking forward to continuing her education at Nichols College.

EXPLORING WOMEN’S LEADERSHIP: AN INTERVIEW WITH kAYLIN GONCALVES ’19

By Victoria Palkon ’24

Kaylin Goncalves

Kaylin Goncalves ’19 is currently the director of marketing for The Needle Group, a real estate company, where she reports directly to the (female) CEO. With her entrepreneurial background, Kaylin does all things marketing for The Needle Group: digital and traditional content, vendor relations, events and open houses, and more. She enjoys that every day is a little different, saying, “It really depends what gets thrown our way. It’s very variable depending on how many listings we have.” In her spare time, she is also part of a start-up called Hoamsy, an online platform that would match young professionals and students to apartments and roommates. She and the two other co-founders have raised $25,000 towards their goal of $50,000 in order to bring the business to fruition.

While at Nichols, Kaylin was a peer tutor in the Academic Resource Center, played on the soccer team, and was a part of Student Athlete Advisory Council, president of the International Business Club, and on Model UN. In addition, she was a Research Associate for Assistant Professor Karol Gil-Vasquez which she says was one of the biggest influences on her. “The internship was about African immigrants. We traveled to Morocco to present that paper together and I think that was definitely the most rewarding experience that I’ve been on,” she says. “I didn’t think that I would be that emotionally attached to people that I don’t know. We interviewed strangers. It almost feels like you can understand their pain based on the stories… It was something I found very interesting and very humbling.”

After graduating from Nichols with her BSBA in international business, Kaylin went right into graduate school, focusing on management and entrepreneurship. She received her master’s degree from Babson College last year, which means she was job hunting amid the pandemic. Although it was a challenging time, Kaylin tried to find the right fit. “I turned down a job because when I walked into the office, the only other female there was the secretary. When you don’t see yourself represented in an office it is unsettling,” she says. After completing a marketing internship, she realized she truly enjoyed doing marketing, finding a fit both for her interests and as a woman at The Needle Group.

Turning to the organizational workplace, Kaylin asserts that, “the best teams are diverse teams. The more different minds you have working together, thinking about an idea or project, the more ideas and visions you have to work from and learn from.” She believes that “organizations need to make a connection with their community. Sometimes companies don’t know their demographic enough to understand who they’re serving with either their products or their services, and that is because they don’t have the people they are selling to represented at their company.”

When asked to provide advice to Nichols students, Kaylin suggests, “Reflect on yourself, know what you want, and don’t let everybody else around you cloud your judgment. Most of the time, I think your instinct usually is right and if it’s not, you learn from it, and I think that’s sort of part of the process. Being able to make your own decisions is huge for anybody, you need to take chances, you need to make those decisions and sometimes you need to fail or mess up because that’s where you learn the most.”

This interview is part of a series focused on women’s leadership, conducted by Research Associate Interns Victoria Palkon ’24 and Madison Perrotti ’23. As part of their Spring 2021 internship, the students assisted Prof. Jean Beaupre research and develop the 2021 Massachusetts Women’s Leadership Index.

Victoria is a rising sophomore concentrating in International Business with a minor in Management. In addition to being a panelist for the Institute for Women’s Leadership, she is a member of the Nichols varsity tennis team and is active in her community. She works part-time in a nursing home and in the Conant Library on campus. She is honored to be a research assistant on this project and is looking forward to continuing her education at Nichols College.

EXPLORING WOMEN’S LEADERSHIP: AN INTERVIEW WITH CYNTHIA BEGIN ’87

By Victoria Palkon ’24

Cynthia Begin

Cynthia Begin ‘87 is an attorney and currently the first deputy commissioner at the Massachusetts Division of Banks. About her position, Cynthia says, “We are the Commonwealth’s top financial regulators, so we regulate state-chartered banks, state-chartered credit unions, and we also license and regulate a whole host of other financial service providers. I work closely with large policy issues with the commissioner who’s appointed by the governor.” Having been with the division for almost 26 years, she believes, “I have had terrific opportunities and work with some fantastic leaders. The agency has provided me with opportunities for advancement.”

Cynthia shares how her career goals have changed along the way, and her path to becoming a lawyer, “You want to have a realistic goal… but something that’s going to be challenging for you. I really didn’t think about becoming a lawyer but then I was working at a bank for a lawyer and became a paralegal. So, I moved to Boston when I was 25. I didn’t know anybody. I went to law school at nighttime and worked full time. I couldn’t afford to go to law school full time because I needed to work. Fortunately, Boston has two great law schools that had part-time evening programs, so I was able to get in and achieve that goal. Goals can change — don’t give up on them, just continue plugging forward. It was a great experience and a real accomplishment. Now when I hire lawyers and I see that people went to school at night, I know you’re a hard worker. I have a lot of respect because I know exactly what’s involved.”

Cynthia advises that upcoming female leaders, especially those in a traditionally male-dominated career, need to differentiate themselves. Coming up in her own career, she felt it “was really important trying to figure out a way to distinguish myself. I needed to demonstrate to my superiors and the leadership of the agency how I’m different than others. If you want to move ahead in an organization, you have to figure out how you can distinguish yourself, you have to show that you want to develop and move forward.”

Cynthia also shares the advice she gives her own 25-year-old daughter, who’s starting her career, “I tell her to pick out opportunities to get involved in things… volunteer to lead a project, do some research, raise your hand. No matter how small these things are, they are opportunities where you are putting yourself out there. Doing something and going above and beyond your normal job responsibilities. People will recognize that… and you’ll receive great experience.”

Cynthia has been a very connected alumna at Nichols, recently offering insights during a Money and Banking class. She appreciates the opportunity to give back as well as meet student-leaders. “I do some recruiting there as well, we’re always looking for candidates for bank examiner jobs, so students in finance, accounting, and economics.” In fact, two women on her staff are Nichols graduates. To students, Cynthia suggests, “If you want opportunities for advancement, then promote your own leadership ability and get experience as a leader.”

This interview is part of a series focused on women’s leadership, conducted by Research Associate Interns Victoria Palkon ’24 and Madison Perrotti ’23. As part of their Spring 2021 internship, the students assisted Prof. Jean Beaupre research and develop the 2021 Massachusetts Women’s Leadership Index.

Victoria is a rising sophomore concentrating in International Business with a minor in Management. In addition to being a panelist for the Institute for Women’s Leadership, she is a member of the Nichols varsity tennis team and is active in her community. She works part-time in a nursing home and in the Conant Library on campus. She is honored to be a research assistant on this project and is looking forward to continuing her education at Nichols College.