Ladies Who Lead - The top 3 things we learned from Spinsters Professional Development



One of my favorite parts of Spinsters is the opportunity to network with accomplished women across every industry at all different points in their careers. When I first joined the organization, I served on our professional development committee to help plan events for our members to connect with one another and grow in their careers. Participating in the Committee made me fall in love with Spinsters even more than I already had. I’ve always been passionate about professional development (so much so I even work at LinkedIn!), so I jumped at the chance to integrate it into the Spinsters community.

We wanted to continue to grow the supportive community within Spinsters where women can learn, share, and embolden each other professionally.
— Ellyn Gray and Linda Loi, Professional Development Co-Chairs

Now in its third year, the professional development committee continues to grow and put on more skill-building events for our members and the Bay Area community to enjoy. This year’s co-chairs, Ellyn and Linda, had a vision going into each professional development event this year; “We wanted to continue to grow the supportive community within Spinsters where women can learn, share, and embolden each other professionally. We decided to host a range of different kinds of events, from intimate book clubs and Q&As to larger, impactful panels and workshops.”

This year, professional development took on a whole new challenge - a large format panel open to the public to hear from a group of accomplished ladies who lead. Four inspiring women reaching impressive heights in their careers participated in the panel: Samantha Von Hoene, Chief Legal Officer at; Nafy Flatley, Founder of TERANGA; Karen Walker, former Chief Accounting Officer at Pandora; and Heather Burns, Strategy Director at Walmart. They came together to discuss what they learned throughout their professional journeys so far and offer advice to our members. One piece of advice that really resonated with the attendees came from Karen Walker. It’s our first take away from professional development this year:

  1. Don’t overly prescript your path - be open to unforeseen opportunities that cross your path, and keep in touch with people from different phases of your career to maintain your network.

Hearing this from Karen, someone who achieved real professional success by following this advice herself, was liberating. Too often in pursuit of success, we compare ourselves to others or think we need to be somewhere by now that we are not. It’s inspiring to know that by staying open and being intentional about maintaining your network, that you can succeed in ways you never thought possible.

For any aspiring entrepreneurs out there, you’ll want to know more about the the Inspiring Side Hustles event the Committee hosted for Spinsters members only. The small group workshop featured two Spinsters alumnae, Rachel Connors and Madeline Maguire, who turned their passion projects into full-fledged careers. Rachel is the founder of Yellow Leaf Hammocks which sells hand woven hammocks with a positive social impact. (Psst, their hammocks are on Oprah’s favorite things!) Madeline is the founder of Baby Savvy Co., a private postpartum doula practice empowering new parents.

Spinsters alumnae, Rachel Connors (left) and Madeline Maguire (right)

Spinsters alumnae, Rachel Connors (left) and Madeline Maguire (right)

Each Spinnie entrepreneur shared their story, how they took calculated risks, what struggles they encountered (and continue to surmount in their businesses) and identified the most valuable lessons they’ve learned both personally and professionally as a result of striking out on their own ventures. As a group, we then discussed a design thinking strategy championed by Tom Chi’s design thinking strategy called rapid prototyping. What Maddie and Rachel shared tied in perfectly with what we learned about rapid prototyping, which is a technique of rapidly developing and testing new ideas to maximize the rate of learning and grow quickly. It was inspiring to consider how we could apply this in many aspects of our lives and see how these entrepreneurs employed it to achieve hard-earned success in their new businesses. This realization leads to our second key takeaway of the year:

2. Allow yourself to fail fast and fail forward. Learn faster to quickly reach your success.

Spinsters at our Inspiring Side Hustles workshop

Spinsters at our Inspiring Side Hustles workshop

Spinsters at our Professional Development bookclub potluck

Spinsters at our Professional Development bookclub potluck

In addition to events where we have the chance to engage with badass female professionals outside of our active Spinsters membership, the Committee also puts on quarterly events where our members can come together and connect. One of the most popular gatherings is our quarterly book club, where Spinnies connect over a bottle of wine and discuss their thoughts on the latest book club pick. Most recently we read, Designing Your Life: How to Build a Well-lived, Joyful Life, by Bill Burnett and Dave Evans.The group reflected on design thinking strategies and grappled with how we go about exploring our interests without feeling pigeoned-holed into defining an exact passion. From that we discovered our third take away from the year:

3. Implement design thinking strategies and look at situations from a new point of view to help you design a life that makes you your happiest self.

Navigating your career can be stressful and confusing to say the least! On the days where I’m on the border of having a breakdown and questioning my career goals, I am so thankful I have the women in this organization to lean on. They have been there countless times to offer advice on a problem I’m dealing with at the office, to make an introduction, or to lend a listening ear when I just need to vent. That camaraderie of female professionals empowering one another is something I feel lucky to have experienced because of the Spinsters of San Francisco and I hope that you have an opportunity to experience yourself as well.

Interested in learning about joining Spinsters and more of our professional development events? Join us at our prospective new member happy hour at Off the Grid at Fort Mason this Friday, June 14th! There, you can ask questions and learn more about our membership process.