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Herkimer BOCES Women’s Career Experience
aims to inspire local female students

June 10, 2016



Jennifer Keida at Women's Career Experience talks to students
Standard Insulating Co. Chief Operating Officer Jennifer Keida speaks to local female students in grades 10-12 during a breakout session on Thursday, June 2, at the third annual Women’s Career Experience at Herkimer-Fulton-Hamilton-Otsego BOCES organized by the School To Careers program.



HERKIMER – Standard Insulating Co. Chief Operating Officer Jennifer Keida told local female students during the recent Women’s Career Experience at Herkimer-Fulton-Hamilton-Otsego BOCES that one way to pursue a career is to find someone willing to help guide you.

Keida gave examples of people she knows who have worked their way to jobs after calling up potential mentors out of the blue and asking for advice or to sit down to lunch.

“Find someone that you look up to and reach out to them,” Keida said. “Ask them for help.”

The third annual Women’s Career Experience took place on Thursday, June 2, at Herkimer BOCES, and was organized by the Herkimer BOCES School To Careers program. The event is for female students in grades 10-12 in the Herkimer BOCES component school districts and introduces the students to local women who are leaders in their fields. The first Men’s Career Experience took place in fall 2015.

Keida served as the keynote speaker for this year’s Women’s Career Experience. Students also were split into four groups for breakout sessions with Keida and three other guests:
  • Rachael Witter, chief meteorologist at WUTR.
     
  • Linda Belden, director of education and training at Little Falls Hospital.
     
  • Francesca Magro, general manager of Francesca’s Banquets and Catering in Ilion and Stefano’s Italian Grille in Little Falls.
At the end of the event, everyone came back together in the Herkimer BOCES lobby for a panel discussion led by STC liaison MaryBeth Napolitano, who highlighted the themes talked about by the guest speakers and told the students they were introduced to a large variety of career clusters during the event.

“I truly believe that today should be about inspiring you and starting to make those connections for you,” Napolitano said.

STC Director Chris Groves said he noticed a common theme mentioned by the speakers despite their varying backgrounds was the importance of gaining financial independence.

“I think it was great for students to see a range of different experiences, different career choices and life choices made by these female leaders in our own area,” Groves said. “If they take away some level of inspiration for a career and find some direction or some meaning, then it has been successful.”

Jennifer Keida

One of Keida’s main points in her keynote speech and breakout sessions was a change from the idea of doing something you love for work.

Keida said she followed her passion and went to college for a four-year fine arts degree in painting, and after graduating, she couldn’t do anything with it. She instead followed her husband to Tennessee and did waitressing and daycare work, she said.

Many people say to do something you’re passionate about for your career, but although both following your passions and pursuing a career are important, they can be separate when that makes more sense for you, Keida said.

“They very well might not be the same thing,” she said.

Sometimes, you need financial independence in order to be able to also pursue your passions, Keida said.

Knowing she wanted more of a career, Keida got into her family business, the Standard Insulating Co. She started in sales with the Connecticut branch and worked her way to general manager there. She then moved to the Mohawk Valley to raise her family, and worked her way up the Standard Insulating Co. ladder from sales manager to executive vice president to her current position as chief operating officer.

Keida also offered the students advice for dealing with peer pressure, dressing appropriately, eating healthy and traveling – such as taking daytrips to New York City or Buffalo.

“Experience some things,” she said.

Rachael Witter

Witter, who grew up south of Rochester, talked during her breakout session about earning a bachelor’s degree in meteorology from Iowa State. She said her college work was mostly mathematics, physics and eventually meteorology, and her only television experience during college was through internships and a college show.

Witter applied for more than 80 jobs, received five calls back, was granted two interviews and got just one job offer – to be a weekend meteorologist and weekday reporter in Lincoln, Neb.

She had been living with her parents for four months and had an open mind about where to live in order to pursue her career, so she accepted the job.

“Whoever wanted to give me a job, I was going to go there,” she said.

After time working in Nebraska, South Carolina and California, Witter worked her way to a job offer to become chief meteorologist at WUTR in Utica, where she also gets to do segments about two of her passions: snowmobiling and golf, she said.

Witter advised the students to learn more about dealing with finances such as paying off student loans and learning how credit cards work. She also offered advice that family comes first, you might make some of your best friends in college, you should eat healthy and exercise and don’t change yourself for anyone.

Linda Belden

Belden told students about her background of eight years in finance and 22 years in nursing. She has Bachelor of Science in Nursing and Master of Science in Nursing degrees and is a registered nurse. Her Master of Science in Nursing degree has a specialty in education, allowing her the opportunity to not only coordinate all of the education for the staff at Little Falls Hospital but also to teach at the collegiate level. 
She also is currently enrolled in the family nurse practitioner program at Upstate Medical University and will graduate in May 2017.

Belden said she does nursing for her career because she loves to help people, learns something new every day, is able to teach people, makes a difference in the lives of others, the variety of the job, has job security and has financial independence.

“I have fun when I go to work,” she said. “I enjoy my career.”

Belden also gave the students advice that integrity is important.

“Be honest with yourself,” she said. “Be honest with others. You will win every time.”

Francesca Magro

Magro said she was 12 years old when she first started helping out with her family business, but for a long time, she didn’t know if she would work at her family’s restaurants or do something else.

She went to the high school nursing program at Herkimer BOCES as a junior, but she stayed at her high school for her senior year. She then went to Herkimer College for business administration and accounting.

After that, she was considering going into a nursing program or working in the family business.

“One of the scariest things is making those choices,” she said. “You don’t want to make the wrong one, but is there a wrong one?”

Magro decided to go into the family business. She now is the general manager of Francesca’s Banquets and Catering in Ilion and Stefano’s Italian Grille in Little Falls and assists in managing Sorrento Pizzeria & Restaurant in Ilion and Salvatore's Pizzeria & Restaurant in Herkimer. There are about 100 people employed across the four restaurants, she said.

She also gave advice to the students about not getting discouraged when there are times that you get knocked down or knocked off your path.

“You keep going,” she said. “You keep driving.”



Rachael Witter at Women's Career Experience
WUTR chief meteorologist Rachael Witter speaks to local female students in grades 10-12 during a breakout session on Thursday, June 2, at the third annual Women’s Career Experience at Herkimer-Fulton-Hamilton-Otsego BOCES organized by the School To Careers program.
Rachael Witter at Women's Career Experience




Francesca Magro at Women's Career Experience
Francesca Magro, general manager of Francesca’s Banquets and Catering in Ilion and Stefano’s Italian Grille in Little Falls, speaks to local female students in grades 10-12 during a breakout session on Thursday, June 2, at the third annual Women’s Career Experience at Herkimer-Fulton-Hamilton-Otsego BOCES organized by the School To Careers program.
Francesca Magro at Women's Career Experience




Linda Belden at Women's Career Experience
Linda Belden, director of education and training at Little Falls Hospital, speaks to local female students in grades 10-12 during a breakout session on Thursday, June 2, at the third annual Women’s Career Experience at Herkimer-Fulton-Hamilton-Otsego BOCES organized by the School To Careers program.

Linda Belden at Women's Career Experience




MaryBeth Napolitano at Women's Career Experience
Herkimer-Fulton-Hamilton-Otsego BOCES School To Careers liaison MaryBeth Napolitano speaks to a crowd of local female students in grades 10-12 as STC Director Chris Groves and guest speakers look on during the third annual Women’s Career Experience on Thursday, June 2, at Herkimer BOCES.

MaryBeth Napolitano at Women's Career Experience




Jennifer Keida speaks at Women's Career Experience
Standard Insulating Co. Chief Operating Officer Jennifer Keida delivers the keynote speech to local female students in grades 10-12 on Thursday, June 2, at the third annual Women’s Career Experience at Herkimer-Fulton-Hamilton-Otsego BOCES organized by the School To Careers program.
Jennifer Keida speaks at Women's Career Experience
Jennifer Keida speaks at Women's Career Experience




 
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