Tammy Cameron, currently the Chief Financial Officer and Senior Vice President of Finance and Human Resources at Intuity Medical, Inc., has been a leader in finance for the last 20 years. She’s also been a supporter of Women in Leadership as long as it’s been running — she served as mentor for Leadership Fellow Aubrey Martinez last year and this year will mentor Maria Gines.
“I just told Tammy that one day soon I hope she teaches a course for us,” said program director Asha Rao in her introduction. “Right now, we just like to have her here on Zoom to talk to us!”
Ms. Cameron stressed that she is first generation in the United States — and the first in her family to attend university. “My parents are wonderful people,” she said, “but they didn’t know anything about college. It was literally by luck that I ended up at Cal State East Bay.” It was an accounting professor, she explained, who happened to set her on the road to CSUEB. “Why does this matter?” She continued. “Why even share all this with you? [Because] I want you to know, I’m not any different than you. I didn’t grow up in an Ivy League family. I worked through college, and I was able to achieve a leadership role in an organization. This isn’t out of reach for any of you.”
With that, Ms. Cameron dove into her store of advice for up-and-coming business students. “What I felt like I maybe did right in my career.”
The first piece? “There has never been any job, any task, that has been beneath me.” Ms. Cameron explained that she’s always been willing to take on the menial, essential tasks that make the wheels turn. “What that gave me is that managers like to work with me, because I was easy to work with.” And that reputation would travel, and open doors for future opportunities.
Her next big tip was all about professional networking. “I’m one that will not just send an email,” she said. “I won’t even call. I’ll get out of my office. If I have a question for somebody, I’m going to walk over and talk to them, ask how their kids are doing; I’m going to create that relationship with the people that I work with. And it’s so hard right now with COVID,” she acknowledged. “I know we’re in this darn video, trapped in these boxes. Right now, I guess the key thing is turn on your video. It’s just a way to connect with people.”
Ms. Cameron delved into pitfalls the students should look out for. One especially salient piece of advice was aimed especially at the women in the audience, because, as she said, “Women think a lot alike.” So many women, she explained, stay quiet and put themselves down because they don’t feel they’re good enough. “I didn’t understand until recently,” she went on, “[Until] I found a women’s organization and I went to a couple of meetings and I realized, ‘Oh my gosh — I thought it was just me!’
“Too many women still hold back,” Ms. Cameron said. “Women feel confident only when they are perfect. So what you really want to watch out for are those negative voices in your head. You gotta stop those voices; you gotta turn it around.”
Ms. Cameron underscored the need for women to assert their worth rather than downplaying their own presence. Sharing her screen, she showed the group a Pantene commercial in which, as she described it, “The initial clip will be women apologizing for something that they shouldn’t be apologizing for. And then the clip will rerun and the same women in the same situation will use stronger words to interject in a conversation.”
“I’m so sorry,” she joked. “I’ve been talking so long!”
In Ms. Cameron’s view, the first step to building confidence is to figure out a personal routine. “If you feel like you have a lack of confidence, what can make you feel stronger?” she asked. “You’ve got to find what helps you.” She shared a positive mantra that always helps her build herself up:
“They’re going to be so lucky when I walk in there and talk, because they have been listening to men all day, and I’m different. How lucky they are that they get to finally hear me!”
For more information on the program, please visit Women in Leadership Program, CBE.