Irina Marutyan is one of three recipients who won the inaugural AIWA-SF scholarship to
attend the annual Watermark Conference for Women. The students participated in the Young Women’s Program designed especially for them. She is studying Business Administration and is working towards owning her own business in the future. Right now she is a gymnastics coach and legal assistant at a law office. She enjoys exploring, traveling, and dancing. Below she shares her conference experiences and reflections.
By: Irina Marutyan
I can’t remember a time I’ve been more stoked this year to attend an event than the Watermark’s Annual Conference for Women. Bright and early on April 21st, we headed towards San Jose ready to be inspired by successful women in various fields. The day started early and it began with us sitting front and center for the opening keynote. Laura Garcia- Cannon, morning anchor on Today in the Bay, was the first presenter and her charisma and excitement definitely set the energy for the day.
Pattie Sellers began the first interview with special guest speaker Leila Janah. As the founder and CEO of Sama and Laxmi, Leila had a lot to share about her success. Her inspiration had began when she was volunteering at a young age, and her career grew from there. She shared how her companies contribute to the social mission of ending global poverty. Both her companies created jobs for those communities and she was genuinely giving back. Her work was motivational as it will be a base for those communities for future growth. Being able to open doors to other communities, it was admirable how her impact reaches farther than just herself.
Life is Good CEO, John Jacobs, made us feel that, well, life is good! He shared his personal story and how it had positively affected others. He shared the importance of optimism and how we should value our opportunities. His strong message was not to think you “had to” do something, but “get to” do that activity. Such as I get to wake up early in the morning because I am lucky enough to be getting an education. Another is, I get to go to a work meeting, because I am employed. It reminds us that not everyone has the opportunities like we do and optimism is key to achieving anything in one’s life. He had the audience feel a range of emotions from laughter to tears. It inspired me to want to move out and drive off into the sunset with just my optimism with a handful of clothes to start my business, well or something like that. He shared the value of listening to consumers and the need to utilize feedback. He also focused on the support from his customers was valuable and the need to give back to the community.
Up next was Mindy Kaling, who was interviewed by Cindi Leive, and they had an informal discussion that made the audience feel included. She shared the obstacles that she faced as an SouthAsian American and how she had to work to reach the success she has now. She gave the importance of not doubting one’s self and to work toward your own needs. As a women, she gave a memorable quote of “I’d rather be rich than sweet.” She had to be confident and assertive to get what she was working towards from an industry like hers. She created her own role model and was a pioneer for other South Asians in the movie industry. She definitely sent a strong message to the young women in the audience and how we shouldn’t let obstacles slow us down.
Abby Wambach had given such a genuine talk that I doubt she had a scripted speech. She focused on the importance of accepting one’s own’s mistakes and working past them, and the need to stand up for others, especially when one is in a higher position. She had also shared her personal experiences, especially on the US Women’s National Soccer team, like having to work her way towards the top and how the confidence of the new members on the team was a sign of positive change. She emphasized on the importance of not shying away from what you deserve besides what society suggests, like equal pay.
It was refreshing to learn from the many successful women at the conference. Their personal experiences carry so much value as it lessens the gap between us young women from them, and allows us to apply their lessons to our own lives. As a young Armenian, all of the ideas of perseverance, standing up for one’s self, and giving back to the community definitely hit home, especially as this was only a few days before the Armenian Genocide Commemoration date, April 24th. It was motivational and encouraging to be able to attend such a conference and be able to represent the future of Armenia. It was wonderful to spend the day with AIWA-SF and other strong women as we were able to discuss our aspirations and share tips we had gathered along the pathway towards our careers. I would definitely recommend the Watermark conference and hope more girls can attend next year!