A One Day Bootcamp

Last week I attended the one-day AmEx OPEN CEO Bootcamp, which was held in Los Angeles, and looks to be the second in a series of events they are doing to support women business leaders. There were several hundred people there, and the agenda fluctuated between large group sessions with speakers/panels and smaller break-out sessions. Of course a good part of the day was about the AmEx brand and products to support small/medium businesses, as well as promoting organizations affiliated with AmEx, but I think that’s the standard when it comes to these types of events.

It was good for me to take a day in the middle of the week to focus on both professional and personal growth, and almost a week later, I’m still thinking through next steps and actions to take as a result of the reflective time and individual conversations I had.

There were a few activities that I thought were very effective, and would recommend doing in similar events:

  • An early ice-breaker in the day was to get up and introduce yourself to someone you didn’t know, and trade business cards. The more effective part was challenging us to find a specific reason to follow-up with the person we just met. I found this caused the introductions to more quickly move to substance, and also set a tone for conversations later in the day. Everyone there was a business leader, and it was a good reminder to act like one.
  • There were 12 minute one-on-one sessions you could sign up for, with other executives and service professionals. I was given three sessions – one with a fellow CEO, one with a government contracting professional, and one with a branding expert. I found the discussion with the CEO to be very helpful – I came to her with a critical business decision, and after a few minutes back and forth, it was clear to me I needed to have a conversation with my business partner about some high level decisions. I took two hours the following day to write down three pages of issues/decision points, including – Given our expertise, what market can we credibly address? What projects/proposals do we bring a specific skill-set toward, and which ones should we go after? This has done a lot to frame our discussions over the past week, and I’m glad to.

    The full set of speaker and agenda for the day is here, but one speaker particularly stood out for me.

    Charlotte Beers, former Undersecretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs and former CEO of Ogilvy & Mather, was a fantastic and engaging speaker, and discussed how to become an authentic leader. We received a copy of her book “I’d Rather Be in Charge“, which I’m starting to read, but some of the lessons I already learned from her talk included: 

  • “Find a moment in life when you were pushed, and you were desperate – then your true self emerges, and that’s when the power emerges.” Figure out how to tap in to and use this powerful, true self.
  • “We all have a pocket of fear and a moment of fearlessness – whence does it come and what can we do about it?” Instead of letting fear hold us down, or take us over, figure out where it comes from, and how to use the times when we feel fearless to do what we know we can do.   
  • (and one that I really identified with) All things being equal, I’d rather be in charge. It doesn’t mean always being CEO, but it means being influential no matter where you are, what you are doing. YES! There is no shame in admitting to this, and being an influence! 
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About Tamra Johnson

I’m an entrepreneur and a recent MBA graduate from UCLA Anderson. I have 10 years of experience in IT Management and Systems Engineering. I love learning, helping others, exploring the world around me, running at the beach, going to concerts, and visiting family and friends. I grew up in Helotes, Texas, went to undergrad in Cambridge, MA, and now live in Venice, CA.
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