Helping USF women grow WISE beyond their years – with helpful guidance from TECO

At the WISE Symposium, TECO Services President Sarah MacDonald, left, engages with the audience from a panel she shared with notable leaders like Dianne Jacob, at right, vice president of Client and Community Relations with PNC Bank.

At the WISE Symposium, TECO Services President Sarah MacDonald, left, engages with the audience from a panel she shared with notable leaders like Dianne Jacob, at right, vice president of Client and Community Relations with PNC Bank.

Sarah MacDonald may be relatively new to Florida, but considering how she went from president and CEO of Grand Bahama Power Company to the president of TECO Services in Tampa (both are part of the Emera family of companies), she’s no stranger to seeing the bright side of things – an idea that underpinned her remarks to young women at the recent Women Who Ignite Student Engagement (WISE) Symposium at the University of South Florida.

It was MacDonald’s first public speaking engagement as a member of TECO, your hometown electric and natural gas company that formally joined Emera in 2016. The WISE Symposium, held last month at the Marshall Center at USF and co-sponsored by TECO, was designed to bring together student women from all backgrounds and career paths as a way to develop tomorrow’s leaders. The organization behind the March 3 symposium was USF’s Women in Leadership & Philanthropy (WLP) program, which engages and educates its members in support of women and women’s initiatives throughout the USF System and in our communities – and which also counts TECO as a corporate partner.

MacDonald joined notable leaders at the symposium that included former USF President Betty Castor; former Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio; Suzanne McCormick, President & CEO, United Way Suncoast; Judge Barbara Twine-Thomas and many others – all with words of wisdom befitting the audience and the venue.

“I think the advice that resonated with attendees most was to stop expecting life to be perfectly balanced every day,” MacDonald said. “I strive for long-term balance. Sometimes your family takes precedence, sometimes your career does and sometimes you need to focus on yourself. But if we put a lot of pressure on ourselves to have a perfectly balanced day, every day, then it’s just one more stress in our lives.”

Representing TECO at the WISE Symposium are, from left to right in front: Nicole Blackwell, Teal Trombetta, Jeanie Chmelir and Fadwa Hilili; from left to right in back are Kim Estrada, Marlene King, Sarah McDonald and Kim Caruso.

Representing TECO at the WISE Symposium are, from left to right in front: Nicole Blackwell, Teal Trombetta, Jeanie Chmelir and Fadwa Hilili; from left to right in back are Kim Estrada, Marlene King, Sarah McDonald and Kim Caruso.

She added, “Accept that some days you don’t get a workout in, or you buy a takeout pizza on the way home, or you miss a meeting to see your kid play basketball – and that’s okay.”

MacDonald came to the speaking engagement through the work of TECO Financial Auditor Fadwa Hilili – certified public accountant and USF graduate whose leadership efforts at her company and alma mater, including as co-founder of the Forward Scholarship for Women of Excellence, continue to pave the way for other young women to follow in her footsteps.

“Both the students and WLP members present absolutely loved hearing Sarah’s thoughts.” Hilili said. “All the qualities that make her such a respected leader at TECO were on full display and the audience responded. It was wonderful to see her shine at USF, a place that means so much to me personally – and just as much to my company.”

Kim Estrada, Corporate Relations and TECO Foundation manager, agreed.

“Sarah was a hit – everyone loved her words of wisdom and sense of humor,” Estrada said. “It was another great opportunity for TECO to show the community and the next generation of leaders how much we value them.”

MacDonald, for her part, not only had a great time at the WISE Symposium; she gave hearty thanks to the many TECO team members who showed up to see her speak.

“It was a fabulous event and there was so much positive energy in the room; the questions were thoughtful and the insights of the various women on the panels was varied enough that it started some great discussions,” she said. “I was really proud that so many TECO women showed up and acted as my posse during the event. How can you not be impressed by our young women who are so involved in the community and their university?”

 

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