Fowler’s Women in Leadership Conference Features Three Trailblazing SDSU Alumnae 

They Share Their Journeys to Success & Lessons Learned at SDSU

The Fowler College of Business at San Diego State University is proud to host the 5th Annual Women in Leadership Conference, held Wednesday, March 10 – Thursday, March 11, 2021. 

The 2021 virtual conference will feature female trailblazers who have broken through the glass ceiling in the areas of digital technology, entrepreneurship, professional sports, media, and entertainment. The Women in Leadership guest speakers will share their stories while offering insights and feedback through keynote presentations, panel discussions, and interactive workshops designed to discuss how they navigated a path to success in their chosen fields. 

This year’s conference is free and open to all students, faculty, staff, and community members. Those interested in attending can register any time before March 10. 

SDSU management lecturer Steven Osinski established the Women in Leadership Conference in 2017 in response to the “rampant sexism in the marketing community” he observed shortly after founding his first company, the Atlanta-based SMART Group, in the mid-1980s. The Osinski family is the primary sponsor of the Women in Leadership Conference. Steven Osinski serves on the event’s planning committee alongside SDSU leaders, staff, and the student organization Women in Business

This year’s featured keynote speaker for March 10 will be Ally Love, who will be discussing the “Basics of Bossing Up” and offering tips and tools to elevate women in their personal and professional lives. Love is the CEO/Founder of Love Squad, the in-arena host of the Brooklyn Nets, Peloton instructor, adidas global ambassador, and model. 

On March 11, former offensive assistant coach for the San Francisco 49ers, Katie Sowers, will serve as the keynote speaker. Sowers was the first openly gay coach in the NFL, the second full-time female assistant coach in NFL history, and became the first woman to coach in the Super Bowl when the 49ers faced off against the Kansas City Chiefs in 2020.

In addition to the keynote events, there will be two-panel sessions featuring three SDSU alumnae, Amelia Lukiman (’06, Journalism Media Studies), Nicole (Gervais) Solorzano (’12, Hospitality & Tourism Management) and Jackie Jackie Truong (’11, Marketing) who have earned success as marketing professionals within large well-known organizations. 

In addition to the three SDSU graduates, representatives from Amazon, Apple T.V., FOX Sports, Netflix, Pura Vida Bracelets, Union Bank, and VSCO will address the audience about their successes, challenges, and advice for women seeking to build their network, find career opportunities, and grow their leadership skills in whatever industry their career paths take them.

Headshot of Amelia

Amelia Lukiman, Senior Manager of Communications at TikTok
’06, Journalism and Media Studies  

Amelia Lukiman currently leads the U.S. product and brand communications at the social media platform, TikTok. “I’m responsible for building awareness of the TikTok brand and product through consumer-facing initiatives and storytelling,” she said. “I work with cross-functional teams such as brand marketing, product development, community, and content partnerships to drive narratives about the impact TikTok has made on the lives of millions of people.” 

Lukiman is looking forward to inspiring “SDSU students who are still exploring their career goals” during this year’s Women in Leadership Conference. “I think it’s important for students to attend events like this because it can give them different perspectives on potential career paths.”

Q: Can you describe a little bit about yourself and how/when you decided to pursue JMS as an area of study?

I’m a one-and-a-half-generation American who immigrated to the U.S. at five and a half years old and learned English as a second language. I grew up in a single-parent household with a strong support system of extended family. I decided to pursue communications as an area of study when I learned about the different functions under the broader umbrella of marketing. Communications, Public Relations in particular, was interesting to me because I loved the idea of building and fostering relationships with stakeholders in order to influence and enhance public opinion. Good communication is a vital part of everyday life and even more so when one is trying to build positive awareness and consumer affinity for a brand or product. 

Q: Describe the position you are currently in.

I currently lead U.S. consumer product and brand communications at TikTok. I’m responsible for building awareness of the TikTok brand and product through consumer-facing initiatives and storytelling. I work with cross-functional teams such as brand marketing, product development, community, and content partnerships to drive narratives about the impact TikTok has made on the lives of hundreds of millions of people. 

Amelia Graduation

Amelia with former SDSU School of Communication professor, Dr. Bey-Ling Sha.

Q: Are there specific skills you learned at SDSU, in class or otherwise, that helped you with the role’s qualifications? 

The School of Communication at SDSU taught me how effective communication could enhance relationships with stakeholders and audiences. Learning how communication has been conceptualized and implemented at different organizations, from observation and research to analysis and execution, helped me to understand the value and importance of the communications function within an organization. 

Q: What can organizations do to empower female leaders?

Organizations can start by looking internally and gaining a deep understanding of where there might be issues and then forming a response to address the specific use cases. Companies will have a hard time empowering their female workforce if their house isn’t in order. A couple of next step ideas could include helping to ensure that emerging female leaders receive the guidance and support they need to achieve their goals, from female-focused employee resource groups and professional networks to flexible schedules that allow women to balance work and home life. 

Q: How can women support other women in their organizations?

Women can support other women in their organizations by being sponsors and champions of women. Examples of what can be done in practice include elevating and amplifying fellow women in meetings, helping to build professional networks of women, providing opportunities to expand skills, or demonstrating leadership capabilities. 

Q: As a female leader, what has been the most significant barrier in your career, and what have you done to overcome that?

At one point in my career, I was focused on video game public relations and, during that time frame, institutional/industry mindsets were a barrier. The video game industry was largely dominated by men, and a woman in games was perceived to be incongruent with our gender. 

Image of Amelia News Article

PRSSA table from 2006 SDSU graduation booklet.

Q: What advice do you have for SDSU Students, regardless of their field, looking to jumpstart their career and land their first job post-graduation?

Spend time researching and identifying professionals in fields of interest and reach out and connect with them. Expanding your professional network before graduation is not only a great way to gain real-world, professional knowledge but is also a step towards getting your foot in the door.

Q: What experience at SDSU has changed your life the most?

Being on the board of the PRSSA chapter at SDSU really helped me hone in my interest in public relations It allowed me to meet and collaborate with P.R. students from other chapters/universities and young professionals. 

Q: What advice would you give yourself if you could go back to your freshman year?

I would tell myself to take the time to fully enjoy college and to actually explore all the dimensions of college life, such as studying abroad and doing more internships, because those years are so precious and limited. 

Q: How do you stay current and connected in your industry? OR What are some resources you use to help your career development?

I watch a ton of TikTok videos, keep up with news and headlines in a variety of traditional media outlets, and follow prominent business leaders I look up to on LinkedIn. 

Q: What are ways outside of the classroom that students can help launch their career paths?

I mentioned this earlier but reaching out and connecting with professionals in industries of interest. Oftentimes, people are interested and willing to help other people and an invite to a coffee chat could never hurt. 

 

Headshot of Nicole Gervais

Nicole (Gervais) Solorzano, Senior Manager, Global Franchise Development and Marketing at The Walt Disney Company
’12, Hospitality and Tourism Management


As a senior manager for the Disney Parks, Experiences and Products division of the company, Nicole Solorzano’s focus is on franchise management for Disney’s most popular characters, Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse. “I am tasked with building strategic brand marketing campaigns and launching product collaborations across a range of categories globally,” she said. “I’ve developed and launched breakthrough programs like Mickey’s 90th anniversary and have brought to market hundreds of product collaborations with brands like Coach, Levi’s, Vans, Beats by Dre, Sephora and more.” 

Solorzano is looking forward to hearing “from other women in their respective industries, and meeting students,” during this year’s Women in Leadership Conference. “This event is such a privilege to be a part of, and I’m hopeful that the students will leave feeling not only inspired, but empowered to pursue their dreams.”

Q: Can you describe a little bit about yourself and how/when you decided to pursue HTM as an area of study?

Growing up in the 100+ degree heat of Phoenix, Arizona, naturally, we escaped to San Diego’s beaches every year for spring breaks and summer vacations. San Diego was paradise to me, and the home of so many of my fondest memories. When it came time to apply to a university, there was no question in my mind, I had my heart set on SDSU. I’d been very involved with Student Government in high school, and planning events like Prom and Homecoming brought me a lot of joy. I decided to give Meetings & Events a shot as my major, under the Hospitality & Tourism Management program. Little did I know, the major would open up my eyes to a whole new world of opportunity. I ended up working at the Hard Rock Hotel in San Diego while in school and then worked in Special Event & Wedding planning with one of my Professor mentors from the HTM program. I continued working in Events immediately out of college, which guided my move to Los Angeles, where I live now. Though I no longer work in a dedicated event planning capacity, events and experiential marketing play a big role in my marketing career, and I’ve parlayed many of the skills from HTM/Special Events into my career path as a brand marketer. 

Q: Describe the position you are currently in.

I’ve been working at The Walt Disney Company within Disney Consumer Products for five years. My role, in particular, focuses on franchise management for Disney’s #1 characters – Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse. I am tasked with building strategic brand marketing campaigns and launching product collaborations across a range of categories globally. I’ve developed and launched breakthrough programs like Mickey’s 90th Anniversary, and have brought to market hundreds of product collaborations with brands like Coach, Levi’s, Vans, Beats by Dre, Sephora and more.

image of nicole at SDSU

Nicole (center) as SDSU Ambassador working at SDSU New Student Orientation.

Q: Are there specific skills you learned at SDSU, in class or otherwise, that helped you with the role’s qualifications? 

SDSU taught me how to prioritize (between juggling schoolwork, social life, and all of the in-between!), and the power of building strong relationships, amongst many other skills. But those two, in particular, I’ve found to be game-changers in navigating career life. 

Q: What can organizations do to empower female leaders?

Provide a platform for growth and mentorship. Females are the future, and I believe strongly in the power of growing future female leaders from within and providing them with the tools they need to succeed, such as mentorship. 

Q: How can women support other women in their organizations?

By raising each other up. The workforce and especially corporate cultures can be competitive in nature. As women, it’s so important for us to champion one another, support each other and above all, lift each other up. 

Q: As a female leader, what has been the most significant barrier in your career, and what have you done to overcome that?

Learning to find my voice. It can be intimidating to speak up at times, especially within large corporate organizations, but I’ve grown to really own my individuality and my point of view as my edge. I’ve aligned myself with other female leaders who I’m encouraged by and who serve as great mentors and role models, which has been a game-changer in both my personal and professional growth.

Nicole at football game

Nicole's first SDSU football game with her family who was in town helping her move into the dorms.

Q: What advice do you have for SDSU Students, regardless of their field, looking to jumpstart their career and land their first job post-graduation?

Start trying things! Your first job, or your first internship, will certainly not be your last one. So, my biggest tip is to start jumping in, gaining experience, and trying things to get a more direct sense of where your passions lie. 

Q: What experience at SDSU has changed your life the most?

If I had to pick one experience, I’d say living in the dorms. I met my husband on move-in day; we were on the same floor in Cuicacalli! 

Q: What advice would you give yourself if you could go back to your freshman year?

I’d remind myself to soak up every moment of college life. It goes by in a flash, and it’s truly some of the most shaping years, fraught with so much growth and FUN! 

Q: How do you stay current and connected in your industry? OR What are some resources you use to help your career development?

I stay connected through meaningful, regular dialogue with my network. I love a good cup of coffee, and catching up with someone over coffee or lunch has always been something that I value. Now, with our world state, I’ve continued to find time for these connections…virtually.

Some resources I’d recommend for career development are 1) LinkedIn, 2) Podcasts, and 3) Open yourself up to ask people to catch up over coffee or lunch and see what happens!

Q: What are ways outside of the classroom that students can help launch their career paths?

Start working! It can be part-time, or internship-based but getting hands-on experience within industries that you are interested in while in school ultimately gives you a competitive edge upon graduation and a chance to start really understanding where your passions lie first hand.

 

Headshot of Jackie Truong

Jackie Truong, Partnerships Lead, Brand Marketing at Google
’11, Marketing


Jackie Truong currently leads Google’s brand marketing strategy for partnerships across popular platforms such as Google Search, Maps, Photos, Shopping, and other consumer applications. “I work with our strategic brand, entertainment, and sports partners to create and tell stories of how Google products help people around the world,” she said. 

Truong is most looking forward to “give back and engage with students” at this year’s Women in Leadership Conference. “I remember hearing from alumni who had found their way to a job or career that they really enjoyed, particularly a young Asian woman who came to one of my classes, and it just gave me such hope that I could be there one day too.

Q: Can you describe a little bit about yourself and how/when you decided to pursue Marketing as an area of study?

I come from a family full of entrepreneurs and creative folks. When many of my relatives came to America during the Vietnam War, it was one of the only ways for them to start a life. Very few of them were able to attend college full-time and struggled with employers that required more advanced English fluency.

Business felt natural to me. I had always been trying to find things to invent or make and sell as a kid. If I wanted to buy anything beyond my allowance, I had to use my own money, so I was the queen of car washes, garage sales, and selling trading cards. So, I started my marketing at a young age. But as a high school student choosing a major, I wanted to focus on an area that helped me understand people more since I loved my psychology class in high school, and I also wanted to have creativity as part of my job; I dreamt of being at a creative agency.

Q: Describe the position you are currently in.

I lead the Brand Marketing strategy for partnerships across Google Search, Maps, Photos, Shopping, and other consumer apps. I work with our strategic brand, entertainment, and sports partners to create and tell stories of how Google products help people around the world.

Q: Are there specific skills you learned at SDSU, in class or otherwise, that helped you with the role’s qualifications? 

I learned to work harder in classrooms that were large and find a place for myself to learn and connect with classmates and my professors when it was possible. Having to pursue learning when it wasn’t tailored in small groups was a critical way to learn how I could personally operate at a company when you’re thrown into teams and organizations that can be big and complex—having to find your own voice, how to be assertive and build relationships.

Having the opportunity to have experienced business courses at SDSU taught by professors who worked in those industries was extremely valuable and rare. Many other universities have programs that aren’t as applied and specific that push students into the business world with little to no real-life business experience sometimes, and it shows in their ability to hit the ground running. I’ve hired many different folks and have seen the difference. So, I’m grateful for the lessons and time spent in applied marketing courses such as consumer behavior research with Dr. Peter and relationship sales with Professor Osinski. Those prepared me well for my career in business and marketing.

Q: What can organizations do to empower female leaders?

Make sure women are included in impactful decision-making, genuinely ask for their feedback, and listen. 
Make and provide spaces/discussions that are open for women specifically, organized, and led by women.
If there isn’t a woman in the room or meeting in the biggest company moments, question why? And genuinely find opportunities for women to have input.
Provide unconscious bias training and resources.

Q: How can women support other women in their organizations?

Create employee resource groups and forums that allow women to connect about personal and professional topics. It’s amazing to be able to talk openly about things that are uniquely gendered - pregnancy, maternity leave, infertility, financial planning as a woman, etc.
Mentorship is often talked about, but it’s often hard to define for everyone - find a way to amplify a peer2peer and mentorship programs, it’s better to start imperfectly than to do nothing at all. 
Empower and uplift younger and junior women to have more visibility and more responsibility; don’t compete with other women because they intimidate or threaten you. I repeat - do not compete with women; if they excel at what they do, it helps all women. 
Michelle Obama shared this in a session at Google - “Take the pledge, do not play out our insecurities on one another.”

Q: As a female leader, what has been the most significant barrier in your career, and what have you done to overcome that?

In my experience, a lot of what I’ve worked on hasn’t been done before or is a very new endeavor, so many of the products and services I built partnerships for didn’t have existing examples to build off of. The main barrier for me is having to take risks and getting the support to do that. While I don’t feel like it is ever intended to be a barrier, I do think my age, gender, and ethnicity play into the confidence I’m given or how many opportunities come to as the subject matter expert. I feel that I have to be more assertive and direct about my input and be mindful in how it’s delivered because I want my ideas to speak louder than how someone perceives my physical attributes.

Jackie Truong Grad

Jackie (center) with her family at SDSU graduation.

Q: What advice do you have for SDSU Students, regardless of their field, looking to jumpstart their career and land their first job post-graduation?

A few things that became clear to me after graduation and ten years into my career:

Landing your “perfect job” out of school isn’t going to happen if you’ve never known what it’s actually like to work at different companies and with different managers. But you might find the “right job” for you at the time in your life - and that could mean many things like having a place where you can learn from someone you look up to or that pays well enough for you to pay student loans back - whatever your priorities and values are, try to define those to help guide your job search. Remember, not every job needs to be your forever job. You have the freedom to grow and change your mind. It’s important to re-evaluate your personal values and passions throughout your career to decide which direction and jobs to pursue. Success is no longer only about vertical growth; it’s about personal growth.

It’s 100% possible, and I’m living proof, that you are just as smart, capable, and valuable as students who graduate from bigger, more well-known schools or Ivy Leagues. I personally wasn’t sure how I’d compete with so many other graduates coming out of schools at the same time with similar degrees. But it’s possible, and if you get to know your strengths, foster authentic professional relationships, and keep an open mind - you will have the chance to pursue opportunities that take you to places you could not have imagined. 

Don’t be afraid to be yourself. You will be tempted to try to be who you think companies or managers want, but there are incredible companies looking for unique, diverse perspectives, and you will want to end up at a place that accepts you for you. 

Figure out what you care about, follow brands and people that you admire, and make a goal to pursue. Don’t be afraid of change and adapt when you feel something in your gut.

Jackie Truong Joshua Tree

Jackie on an Aztec Adventures Rock Climbing trip as a Group Lead to Joshua Tree.

Q: What experience at SDSU has changed your life the most?

Finding friendships with people who accepted me was huge. I came out during my freshman year, and my roommates were an incredible support system. We’re still close friends to this day. Also, joining Aztec Adventures and leading groups on outdoor outings for rock climbing and camping helped me find a new love for nature and has been one of my passions ever since.

Q: What advice would you give yourself if you could go back to your freshman year?

Don’t worry so much. You can’t and won’t figure out your whole life during your college years. Get to know what you care about, where your mind takes you, and see what doors open from letting yourself be more vulnerable.

Start caring about yourself before you can care for others and learn your personal boundaries in school, work and life. I used to pour way more energy into making other people happy or keeping up with expectations at the expense of caring for myself.

Q: How do you stay current and connected in your industry? OR What are some resources you use to help your career development?

My career follows a bit of what I’m passionate about: arts and culture - theater, talent, film, and also LGBT news and advocacy, so I follow outlets that publish news and events for these topics, such as NPR and N.Y. Times, with a handful of influential folks who are progressing in the industry. It’s important to fill your feed with educational things, and I try to purge less productive social media profiles that no longer serve me and find new voices that provide learning and belonging.

For tech, I’m always tapped into financial and tech outlets like Wired and Fast Company.

Q: What are ways outside of the classroom that students can help launch their career paths?

Connect with people who are pursuing similar career paths or interests. It's always great to have peers you can talk and brainstorm with. Don’t be shy. Everyone needs an icebreaker, but it’s worth reaching out.
Don’t be afraid to reach out to people you admire, companies doing things you’re interested in. 
Celebrate and be open about what you’re interested in because I have had so many people reach out to me because they know what I like and care about, so they think about me when relevant opportunities come up. Both Netflix and Google roles happened because my close colleagues and friends thought of me as someone who would like the job and be good at it.

 

Register to attend this year's event.