Executive Insight: Wisdom, Networking, Inspiration

Sacramento Metro EDGE event offers face time with area leaders

If you have ever wondered what it takes to be a CEO, this event is made for you.

I had the honor of attending Executive Insight, a signature networking event hosted by Sacramento Metro EDGE and sponsored by the UC Davis Graduate School of Management. The dynamic round table format features Sacramento industry leaders who share their insights and advice with the region’s young professionals.

The evening opened with a member social hour at Mulvaney’s B&L in the heart of Downtown Sacramento.

View video: Senior Assistant Dean for Student Affairs Amy Russell offers career advice to young professionals at the Metro EDGE Executive Insight.

The event kicked off with each of the nine speakers introducing themselves and sharing the most valuable piece of advice they have ever been given.

Networking events like Executive Insight leave me with the inspiration and reminder of why I am on the career path of business management as a Sacramento Part-Time MBA student.

"Being nice is the right thing to do; it feels good inside to help others, but it also gets you ahead.”
– Amy Russell, Associate Senior Dean of Student Affairs, UC Davis Graduate School of Management

Afterwards, each of the speakers broke out into the seated crowd, and hosted roundtable discussions with attendees who were encouraged to ask questions. Topics included leadership style, relationship-building, business strategies and the benefits of taking on challenges. Every 10 minutes, participants would switch tables, giving us the opportunity to meet with every speaker.

I had the pleasure of meeting Ryan Harden and Rob Watson, co-owners and founders of Camellia Coffee Roasters. Speaking to successful business owners and executives may sound intimidating, but meeting Ryan and Rob, who had over 20 years of award-winning work experience, was surprisingly no different than chatting with a couple of friends over a drink.

Working in healthcare management, my career industry is particularly different from Ryan and Rob’s, but even then, we connected over commonalities like working in the customer service sector and how crucial customer service skills were for growth in our respective careers.

A group of speakers for the Metro EDGE: Executive Insight 2023 event
Industry leaders led multiple round-table discussions and offered firsthand knowledge at Metro EDGE’s Executive Insight event, sponsored by the Graduate School of Management. Speakers included Senior Assistant Dean for Student Affairs Amy Russell (front row, second from right) who shared her journey and advice.

UC Davis Health Exec Offers Leadership Advice

One of the most powerful pieces of advice was from Jita Buño, associate chief operating officer at UC Davis Health—which is where I work. Her advice reminded me of the quote, “if your dreams don’t scare you, they aren’t big enough.”

I joined Jita’s table when the program transitioned to group breakout sessions. Jita is an incredibly genuine, young professional with an affable demeanor and humble attitude. Fellow attendees asked Jita if she ever had imposter syndrome working in executive positions and what (un)comfortability meant to her.

Jita described the qualities that make an effective leader and how leadership is a combination of competency, kindness, approachability and accountability.

She also offered insight on strengths in leadership and recommended reading “The Hidden Brain” by Shankar Vedantan, which delves into who we are as people and how the way we think governs the decisions we make as leaders. By the end of our conversation, I still had two more speakers to meet, and I knew it was going to be hard to top Jita’s discussion.

UC Davis, my undergraduate alma mater and where I am now pursuing an MBA, is a world-renowned institution in the fields of viticulture and enology. I’m an oenophile, or a connoisseur of wines, so I naturally gravitated next to the table of Jill Osur, CEO and founder of Teneral Cellars.

Marissa Hernandez and Jill Osur holding up a bottle of wine at the Executive Insight 2023 event
CEO and Founder of Teneral Cellars Jill Osur (left) and Marissa Hernandez (right) pose with a raffle prize, a bottle of 2019 Barbera donated by Teneral Cellars.

Woman-Owned Winery Connects to People and Politics

Teneral Cellars is a women-owned and operated producer of sustainable wines in Northern California. Jill is known as a “connector and disruptor” in the field and she spoke about her involvement as an activist for gender, racial, and social justice.

She talked about her early career in politics and the pivot she made into the wine industry. Speaking with Jill was an enlightening experience that really highlighted one message—executives, CEOs, and industry leaders are people first.

Jill has the distinguished honor of being San Jose’s Business Journal’s “Top Women in Business” and even East Bay Business Time’s “40 Under 40” but at her core, Jill is a human being who enjoys playing softball and yoga. Remembering that people in high places are people just like us, is grounding. My business card was picked as a raffle winner of Teneral Cellar’s 2019 Barbera, an excellent red wine blend that I highly recommend.

Career Wisdom from Amy Russell: Earn Before Asking

After that fruitful discussion, I ended the evening by heading home, so to speak, joining the table with Amy Russell, senior assistant dean for student affairs at the Graduate School of Management (GSM).

I had met Amy during business school events but never had the opportunity to sit and talk about her professional life or career trajectory. She is a double Aggie alumna herself having received earned an undergrad degree and her UC Davis MBA. She began by recounting her impressive work history.

The most insightful part of our discussion was the advice that she had to offer from her own life experiences. Another young professional, who was next in line for a promotion at her job, asked how she should approach her manager with the topic of promoting. Amy responded, “before you ask for it, earn it.”

Sacramento MBA students and staff at the Executive Insight 2023 event
Students and staff from the UC Davis Graduate School of Management attended the event. The MBA students had the opportunity to network and gain insight from local entrepreneurs and industry leaders.

Amy elaborated on a pragmatic approach to climbing the career ladder and reminded everyone at the table that “the reward for good work is more work.” At the end of our conversation, she left me with a particularly useful piece of advice that I took to work with me the next morning. Amy suggested that I ask my direct reports how they prefer to receive feedback and using this technique has helped me reassess and refine the interactions I have with my colleagues and employees.

The journey to career success looks different for everyone and some of us take a non-traditional route. For all the executives, their journey was facilitated by surrounding themselves with like-minded individuals who inspire them along the way.

The C-Suite and board of directors can be an intimidating place to imagine yourself working in. However, if you expose yourself to meeting the people behind the titles and get to know who they are and why they do their job as opposed to just what they do, you will find yourself connecting with executives in more personal aspects than you ever imagined.