Women’s Leadership Network’s 1st Annual Event
News - Press Releases

SAMBAA (South Asian MBA Association) hosted the Women’s Leadership Network’s (WLN) 1st Annual Event at the India Community Center in Milpitas, California on August 27, 2009.  This event brought together many prominent women business leaders from the Valley and SAMBAA WLN members (SAMBAA members are MBA alumni, student and MBA aspirants).


South Asian MBA Association (SAMBAA) Women’s Leadership Network’s 1st Annual Event 

August 27, 2009

Press Summary

Milpitas, CA:  SAMBAA initiated their 1st Annual WLN Event following the observance of Women’s Equality Day.  Women’s Equality Day not only commemorates the passage of the 19th Amendment, but also calls attention to women’s continuing efforts toward full equality. This was a strong theme throughout the event where discussions were based around women’s unique achievements in the Silicon Valley and the challenges keeping a fine balance between career, family and cultural norms.

The venue provided attendees with a myriad of positive experiences from networking opportunities to discussing how they as women pool their knowledge and resources to not only build success for themselves but also help other women in the process.

The caliber of featured panel speakers ranged from a GM from Flickr (Yahoo!) Kakul Srivastava, to an entrepreneur who built a multi-million dollar corporation (Serus Corporation) Indu Navar, to a Vice President at Cadence Design Systems who rose through the ranks and now helps mentor other women at Cadence, Ellen Tam. 

The event began with a welcome address by the President & Founder of WLN, Sangeeta Chakraborty.  Sangeeta encouraged participants to utilize this venue to build relationships with existing and potential WLN members and to take advantage of the wealth of experience from the Featured Panel of Corporate Leaders. 

Raj Gill who is an aspiring MBA felt, “WLN offers me targeted networking and experience sharing which has been invaluable in developing new insights and opening up new doors - both personally and professionally!”

Merrin Donley, the Keynote Speaker & Panel Moderator was introduced by Sangeeta as the Executive Coach of Donley Associates.  Merrin’s keynote addressed the tools aspiring women leaders need in their toolkit to take their careers to the highest level.  Her Keynote was entitled “The Glass Ceiling:  Fact or Fiction?” 

Merrin has over 20 years of career management and executive coaching experience and has acted as a mentor to a national mentoring organization for women being positioned for executive positions.  Merrin was very motivational and talked about the gender differences in the corporate world and alleviating those differences.  Merrin used humor, common sense and her personal accounts to offer practical and useful career tools.

Merrin ended with another opportunity for the room full of women from diverse professional fields and backgrounds to network while snacking on delicious Asian fare.  The attendees were also asked to brainstorm career oriented questions that they always wondered about but hesitated to ask. 

The Panel of Corporate Leaders were introduced by Merrin who moderated the panel.  The objective of the panel was to offer us practical advice that we can immediately put into action!  The keynote panel consisted of:


  • Kakul Srivastava, GM Flickr (Yahoo!)
  • Indu Navar, CEO, Serus Corporation
  • Ellen Tam, VP, Cadence Design System


Merrin asked questions which were earlier brainstormed by the group.   The speakers each had profound responses while telling their individual experiences.

Priyanka Bhargava, Santa Clara University MBA student felt, “the speakers were very profound and resonated with me because they spoke of their struggles with their careers and family as well as many other issues I am currently grappling with.”

Attendees had many shared concerns where questions to the panel were based around developing self confidence, deflecting guilt, issues surrounding values, opportunities for growth, being mentored, social networking and more!

The Panel responded to each of these questions and provided strategies, such as Indu’s advice on outsourcing menial tasks at home which take up time she could be spending with her 7 year old son.  Kakul gave us some practical and innovative ways to schedule events that interfere with her family life.  Ellen shared her commitment to planning and how she raised her children to benefit from this skill.  All of the responses were weaved into stories that all women can relate to.  All of the speakers were able to gift us with their wisdom and to advance our goals of a future MBA or how to best cultivate our MBA Degree in developing our careers while nurturing ourselves and our family.

Mahima Mallikarjuna, a perspective MBA student thought, “The panel was insightful and inspired new confidence that the glass ceiling is fictional even in our current economy.”

WLN guests were graciously thanked by Ketan Shah, President of SAMBAA.  Ketan commended women for their unique ability to deftly manage their personal and professional lives.  He urged that these very skills can propel their careers in the corporate environment, too.  He cited that just a decade ago, South Asian countries had very successful women leaders who managed their countries for number of years.  He expressed confidence that the women in the room would be leaders like the panelists and hope many of them to be like Indra Nooyi in their own right.

The event ended on a high note, introducing the upcoming SAMBAA CleanTech seminar on Sep 26, being led by two WLN members who are the co-leaders of the SAMBAA CleanTech Track, Roli Saxena and Prerana Vaidya.

WLN offers power networking, community building, executive coaching, and life-long relationships tailored towards the unique needs and interests of women business leaders.




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