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Female UNC graduates talk finding success after pivoting in their careers at panel

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Screenshot from the Honors Carolina Women’s Leadership Forum hosted by the Honors Carolina Student Association on Friday, Feb. 26, 2021. 

Female UNC graduates from a variety of fields talked about pivoting in their careers and finding new paths at a Friday panel with the theme "The Power of Pivot.”

The Honors Carolina Student Association hosted the Honors Carolina Women’s Leadership Forum on Feb. 26. The forum, held annually since 2018, included four female panelists. The event was moderated by Gloria Thomas, director of the Carolina Women’s Center.

Panelists included:

  • Diana Dayal, a public health and medical school student serving as the lead medical fellow at SpaceEx
  • Tisha McCoy-Ntiamoah, owner of PrePOPsterous, a gourmet popcorn business
  • Shruti Shah, an entrepreneur and vice president of partner success at Hello Alice
  • Journalist Kate Sullivan, host and creator of the show "To Dine For"

Shandol Hoover, the staff adviser for the event, said she hoped the event would inspire and generate confidence for students and anyone else attending. 

“I think Carolina’s an amazing place and there’s so many people doing amazing work, and sometimes it can be tricky to feel like, ‘Well what do I bring?’” Hoover said. “After this event, I always leave feeling so excited and empowered.”

The panelists discussed a number of topics, such as turning points in their careers, their experiences coming from diverse backgrounds and the importance of listening to your own intuition. 

Many of the panelists highlighted similar experiences of trying to pursue passion projects — rather than settling for careers dictated by other people. 

McCoy-Ntiamoah said her experience as an orientation leader as an undergraduate helped give her a sense for the feelings that gave her joy and purpose. 

While working in sales for Hershey, she realized she wasn’t finding those same feelings, which inspired her to change careers and pursue creating her own company.

“As a first-generation student from a single-parent home, I had always been raised and grown with so much responsibility,” McCoy-Ntiamoah said. “At that point I was just like, ‘I just want to be happy. I’m tired of chasing what I should do or other people think I should do, and I want to pursue things that are just going to make me happy.’” 

Panelists also spoke about challenges and setbacks in their careers that led them to new paths that ultimately proved rewarding. 

Sullivan said that her experience of getting fired from a job motivated her to examine what she truly wanted out of her career. 

“I find that the moments that we’re most scared of happening to us actually could be the best launching point for the next path in our life,” Sullivan said. 

Jessica Reid, a junior environmental studies major, attended the event. She found the discussions to be inspiring and said they spoke to her own career goals. 

“Diana Dayal had mentioned the importance of prioritizing your values and your mission for life and not worrying so much about a title, or exactly how that career looks on paper,” Reid said. “That’s something that I want to continue to remember as I’m starting my career.” 

Thomas, who has moderated the leadership forum for the past three years, said she felt that the conversations initiated by the panelists were important for other women to hear — especially since women have often been pushed into low-paying, low-status careers.

Thomas said she appreciated the extent to which panelists interacted with each other throughout the forum, and said their stories of perseverance and courage were inspiring for people of any age to hear. 

“I just loved the spirit they have to pursue their passions, and at whatever cost, it’s not about money, it’s not about status, it’s about doing what they really want to do,” Thomas said. “Their stories, their courage, their tenacity, their perseverance. Here I am, about ready to look at retirement, but I was really inspired by them all.”

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