Taking a Seat at the Table

110914-SY-SYP-0148.jpgThis summer I am developing a business plan for an online learning community. Last week, the software company that is developing the architecture for the platform came to discuss V1 with the powers that be. I got to sit-in at the meetings, both the mostly closed-door meeting and the broad audience road-show. I understood that while my presence was requested, I was not the target audience – I was there to listen and absorb. I preformed my role admirably. I listened attentively and unobtrusively, introduced myself to those around me, and meticulously detailed out my questions and concerns the next day for my boss.

Today I met with a particular senior executive for the first time. When he learned I had been at the two software meetings, he mentioned that he hadn’t realized I was there. I smiled in spite of myself. I smiled because I had certainly noticed him – I was quite jealous of his proximity to the cheese plate and the several trips he made there during one two-hour meeting – and because I had just finished Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In, in which she spends the better part of a chapter imploring young women to take a seat at the table. I had sat in a chair against the side wall. So this afternoon when my department held its biweekly in-house training session, I – a lowly summer intern – took a seat at the table, relegating full-fledged staff members to the side chairs. Did it matter that I sat at the table during a fairly casual training for the department? Who knows. But I’ll bet you a batch of cookies my boss noticed I was there.

– Julie Whorton, MBA 2014


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