The Power Within
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 0:05
Welcome to "Your Authentic Path to Powerful Leadership" with Marsha Clark where we know there's a better way to be a woman today. With research, tools, and our own personal experiences, join us on this journey to be a powerful leader for our organizations, our communities, and our lives.
But today, I know that this guest is super special to Marsha, so I'm going to let her introduce her!
Marsha Clark 0:36
Well, thank you very much. And let me welcome our listeners and our viewers to our podcast today. We're glad you're with us. And I really am excited because when we first started talking about doing a podcast, my view of that was that I was going to interview, invite and interview, lots of guests from all the women that I've worked with over the years. And the very first name and face that popped into my head is my dear, my longtime and my treasured friend, Thear Suzuki. And we've known each other now a very long time and come through a lot of things, the ups, the downs, the ins, the outs, the joys, the, the sorrows, and all that comes in between. So I was so glad that you're here with us today! Yes,
Thear Suzuki 1:14
Yes. Thank you, Marsha. And thank you, Wendi. It's such a pleasure for me to be here and be part of this, I think, very important, and real conversation that I hope that our listeners will take some things away from it. And it's hard to believe that it's been... what 20 years? Yeah, 20 plus! And I think we've come a long way, and it's been so incredible for me to have you be on my journey as well. And I would describe it it as a journey of so much joy and journey of love and power. Which I know we'll talk about some today. Yeah, so it's humbling for me and such an honor for me to be here with you. Thank you, Wendi.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 2:00
Wonderful. Absolutely. So Thear, let's keep going with that. What is your background? And how did you get connected to Marsha?
Thear Suzuki 2:07
So I first learned about Marsha when I was five years into my career. I was with Accenture at the time. I was a manager and I was staffed at the Department of Education in Washington D.C. One day I received an email from an eccentric colleague, her name is Tanya Allen, she's a dear friend of ours. She sent an email to some women in the Dallas office about this program that this woman Marsha Clark is starting out and would like to pilot the first class. And she asked if anyone would be interested. And of course, I jumped at it right away. Didn't even think twice about it, and I responded to her email right away. And I said, "Yes, I'm interested." And so at that point, I was introduced to Marsha.
Marsha Clark 2:56
Yeah, and I have to tell you how even Tanya and I met her was, you know, this is the connecting relationship connecting relationships. I was attending my first women's conference, and it was a video conference. And I was sitting in an auditorium at SMU, your alma mater and I just happened to sit next to Tanya. Didn't know her. She didn't know me. And she was talking about looking for a mentor. She asked me if I would be her mentor. I then told her about the program. And then we were, you know, going through that we were trying to get registrants into our very first "Power Of Self" program. And, you know, Tonya introduced us and here we are now 22 years later... that, who knew?
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 3:37
Right? So there must have been some kind of phone call. I'm seeing here in my notes, there was a phone call and that you were pregnant at the time.
Thear Suzuki 3:44
Yes. So after I had said, "Yes, I want to be a part of this program." My husband Eric and I, and we had just had gotten married, I don't know, for six months at that point. And we learned that we were expecting our first child. We didn't know if it was a boy or girl but we were expecting our first child. And immediately I thought short term disability. You know, there's a lot of things that I can't do now because I'm now disabled. Eric and I talked about it and we, in our infinite wisdom decided there's no way I could do this program anymore. Because you know, someone else could take, you know, could have the benefit of it better than I because I'm now disabled. So we decided that I would call Marsha and let her know what has just happened and that wouldn't be able to participate. And what did you say Marsha?
Well, I remember this call like it was yesterday. First of all, she called me Mrs. Clark. My mother-in-law is not in the room. Ha Ha Ha!
Marsha Clark 4:50
So you know this idea of what better place for a woman to be who is pregnant... the beautiful part of being a woman. And and why not? And so, you know, we invited Thear in with her "affliction and disability." And that really was our first conversation. We tell this story every time we introduce each other because it's such a memorable moment. And this was so many years ago. And I know you kind of hid your pregnancy and I have women in programs today who don't know how their employers are going to respond to being pregnant because of this idea of now you're... You can't travel, so I can't put you on important, you know, client accounts for that kind of work. So it was very real.
Thear Suzuki 5:35
That's right. That's right. And I have to tell you, Marsha, how it made me feel. And I don't know that I've ever shared this with you, but it was the first time where I felt like, "Oh, it's possible." And it also made me feel like I was wanted. And you know, my background very well and being wanted was so important to me. And you know, that saying "People won't remember what you did or what you said. They'll always remember how they make you feel." And you made me feel wanted at that on that phone call.
Marsha Clark 6:12
I'm so glad, and I want her to be my friend forever. We are going to be friends forever. Thank you for that. Just so our listeners know... we've already talked about we're probably going to cry. So and that's what we as women do as well.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 6:29
There's tissues. They're hidden. Well Thear, you really were, I don't know if you know this as well, but I went through the program 18 years after you and you were a legend and a part of the program. Even when I went through and we heard all about your pregnancy, and you going through the program at the same time. So, but my understanding is that you were five years into your career when you went through the "Power Of Self" program, so tell me about where your mindset was and what sort of leadership trainings you were looking to get out of out of being with Marsha.
Thear Suzuki 7:04
Yeah, so growing up in my childhood, as well as I was going through school in high school and in college, I was actually quite an active student. I was very involved with leadership activities, and organizing programs and meetings and getting other people to come join me. And so I was quite active. So when I started work, I started my career in technology consulting. And, you know, in technology consulting, at the time, and still, you know, now, there were not many women in the field. It was predominantly male, and so I felt out of place there as well. And so even though I had a lot of experience in terms of being a leader in school, when I got into the workplace, it was a whole different ballgame. And so as I mentioned, I was five years into my career. I was a manager, and at that point, I had been leading teams. But personally, I still had, you know, challenges that I had to overcome myself around confidence and, you know, many other things that, you know, an imposter syndrome, right? "They want me?" or "They want to promote me?," so that there was a lot that I still needed to learn. And so I felt... I didn't notice at the time, but after going through POS, what I felt was that I entered the program as a manager, and I emerged as a leader. And that's because there were so many concepts and tools that I that I'd gained through the program, and also the connections that were made with the other participants in the program that just has helped to open me up. To learn how to use my voice and many other things that I'm sure we'll get to. But absolutely it it really helped me to understand what it meant to be a leader.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 8:52
Right. And tell us real quickly, what has your career progression then since that time?
Marsha Clark 8:58
Girl... This girl is on fire!
Thear Suzuki 9:02
Thank you. So I graduated from POS in 2002. And so I was a manager, as I mentioned. And I eventually got promoted to the title at or the rank at Accenture at the time was called Senior Executive, which is Partner equivalent to the Big Four. And then after that, I was able to help sponsor some other womens through POS. And I stayed with Accenture for 16 years. And then I joined EY in 2012 as a direct admit Principal. And then within EY, which I have been there for about nine years now, there have been a number of roles that I've had the opportunity to stretch into...
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 9:45
To stretch into... I love the way she says that!
Thear Suzuki 9:48
Yeah, one of which was being the leader for the advisory business in the southwest region. So I was the advisory managing partner for the southwest region where I had responsibility for growing the business I'd also operating the business and growing the talent. And then I was also tapped on the shoulders to be the America's consulting talent leader. So if you can imagine I shifted from studying biomedical engineering and wanting to go to medical school, to stumbling into technology consulting, to having the opportunity to run an advisory business, and then to being head of talent, which essentially is HR within a part of the EY business. And now, so as of this past November of 2020, I've transitioned into account leadership. and so I now serve clients here in the Dallas area as a global client service partner.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 10:45
That's wonderful! That's amazing and worn many hats along the way. So tell us about what was it about Marsha's program when you started that felt unfamiliar. And then also tell us the things that that really resonated with you and felt familiar at the same time.
Thear Suzuki 11:05
Sure. I was actually a bit nervous coming to the program because of some limiting beliefs that I had about myself. Of course, I'm sure Marsha and the others in the program didn't think anything about it, you know...
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 11:18
Oh no... Everybody's a rock star... Except ME!
Thear Suzuki 11:20
Exactly! So when I came in, of course, I was a little bit timid. I was a little bit shy. And there were concepts and things that were being covered that went way over my head. I mean, honestly, I was in my mid 20s, at the time. And there was another woman from another company who was also in her 20s, as well. And I think we were two of the youngest in the program. So mid 20s to I think we had a 60 year-old minister. From all walks of life... So it was a very diverse set of participants. And yeah, I mean, I came in expecting to not be treated like, like everybody else. I was expected to be treated differently. But that part was great because everybody welcome to me, and everybody included me and everybody asked me what did I think. And it was really the time when I think I learned how to be vulnerable, and understood how powerful being open to sharing our vulnerabilities is. And how it can lead to meaningful connections and relationships with others. And that was what I hungered for the most was to be close to somebody. And I remember some of the exercises that we did that kind of helped to facilitate the sharing and all of that. But there were some things that I was not familiar with Wendi, like I remember doing yoga....
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 12:45
Yes, I remember that one well!
Thear Suzuki 12:48
And, meditating for the first time. I fell asleep and thought, "This is not for me."
Marsha Clark 12:53
And there had been many fall asleep since you fell asleep that day, too.
Thear Suzuki 12:59
Yes, yes. But there were, there were also some other things like learning about power, and what it meant to have power from within. And as well as when you have the power, how do you use it for good? And the fact that I am powerful... Like, what?!? What a concept! You know, we talked about masculine and feminine attributes rather than male, female. That was a learning for me. Learning about values and the importance of knowing your values and being able to articulate your values, and how to live with greater intentionality to be in a life. Like, all of that was new. And remember, I just gotten married, pregnant with my first son, you know, starting to lead teams at the company that I was with. So there was a lot hitting us all at once. And I have to just also share that my husband, Eric, has been with me along the way. And he's been a part of the big decisions that that we've made, and he's been so supportive. And that has been that has meant the world to me, and that has allowed me to do what I get to do now.
Marsha Clark 14:11
Yeah. I just want to say Thear's one of those people that when I think about you, every, you know, like, if you think about big events in our lives, you know, it's like laying a stone on a pathway. Right? So here's the stone. Here's the next stone. Here's the next stone. And it has created the path that you have followed and the fact that you've been so much more intentional in all the choices that you've made, because we're a product of our choices. I mean, if you think about it in those terms, but the intentionality with which you live your life now. And we're going to get into how you're utilizing that in big and meaningful ways. I just think about all those stones that we're getting laid for you during that timeframe. And this idea of, you know, the power from within or the power within. That was actually the working title of the program before we called it "Power Of Self." And I even have old files that are called W.P.W. -- Women Power Within. And so, you know, you speaking about that, and I think there was this aspect of trusting the process. Yes, I, you know, I have to tell you the first one that was kind of like when we did our first podcast, you know?! It's like, "Is this gonna work? Are we doing it right?" You know, all the things that we go through. And, as much as we were teaching trust the process to the program participants, I was telling that to myself because trust the process, trust the process. And where I would have these moments of anxiety about different topics... because we did do deep work. We took big risks. We asked the women to take big risks and putting themselves out there and investing in themselves in all of this. And there would there would be UUUUGHH moments, right? And is this going to work? And is it going to yield the result that we want it to yield? And so the trust the process was something for all of us to be working with.
And if I can add to that, you know, we also learned about choices. That was huge for me. And that was transformational for me that I always have a choice. And there's never a last choice. I hadn't thought about it that way. Because growing up, I didn't feel like I had a choice, and having a choice was a was a luxury. You can choose. And so I was starting to learn how to think about what I needed and what I wanted. And being able to ask for it. And then know that that I could choose ultimately choose, and that I shouldn't feel like I'm forced into anything. I always have a choice. And that was and that was great. And I also wanted to mention that while I learned these things in 2001 2002, it has taken years for me to get into a different habit of showing up. A different way of talking. A different way of interacting with others. And so I don't want people to think, "Okay, you go to this thing. You collect all these tools, and you're good." Right? No, it takes hard work during the program. And it takes hard work after that, because it's a habit thing that we have to it's a muscle we have to build on all of these things.
Thear Suzuki 16:06
Well, and if I can... I know we've talked about you read a book about how to establish habits and so that it becomes your new behavior or your recurring behavior after you finished "Power Of Self." So it was a part of your steps and stones and journeys. That part of the journey of establishing it within yourself.
That's right. Yeah, that's right. Yeah.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 17:43
So Thear, of the tools that were unfamiliar to you and new, what would you say is the one that you remember the most... that sticks out with you the most?
Thear Suzuki 17:56
That's a good question because there were so many. would have to say it's a tie between two. One, I would say choices. That I mean, that is such a powerful tool. And, you know, sometimes we may oh, yeah, sure, yeah. It's about how you respond to things. But if you, if you think about how you can apply it in every situation, it is much more powerful than you originally think. Okay, so that's one. The second I would say is values and living with greater intention and aligning your behaviors to what you say your values are. And for me for a long time, I would say my values are these things. So for example, family, very important to me, yet, what what was I doing? I was working all the time. And if I wasn't in the office, or at the client site, I was thinking about work. You know? I would, you know, take a break for an hour to have dinner with the family and then get back online until two or three o'clock in the morning. And I'm thinking about work, so I'm never really present. And so that was something that I really, really need to work on. And it took me a long time to get to this point. I would say it wasn't until in my 40s. You know, and I remember I did this program in my mid 20s. And so the lesson here is that you can acquire information and knowledge and tools...
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 19:26
... And even know that it's the right knowledge and information and tools. And, yet...
Thear Suzuki 19:31
To get yourself there to apply it it takes some a lot intentionality. It takes perseverance. It takes also knowing how to do that. So that's why your resources like the power of habits and atomic habits, and you know, there are a lot of resources that I leverage in order to help me improve the areas that I want to improve.
Marsha Clark 19:54
Part of the reason, many reasons, that I love Thear is that she is a continuous and lifelong learner. Right? So she accumulates. She packs it away. She organizes it, and then it gets useful. And I want to make a tie to something that you said about values and choices. As you know, my dear friend, Dottie and I wrote a book about that, right? So the idea here is that when we make choices that are aligned with our values, we like them a whole lot better. And yet, if I'm not really clear about what those values are, I can't make choices in alignment with that. So I want to make that link and tie. And then this idea of the continuous learning gives you competence. Gives you confidence. Gives you courage, and those are things that just add clarity. So those are all things that are part of creating the output of the program, if you will. And yet we're all on a journey. I learn something new all the time. And I hope that our leaders, or our listeners, and our, you know, audience can help us in that regard as well.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 20:56
Exactly. So what do you think, Thear, as you grew older impacted your decisions about your career, about your life, your choices? When you chose to use your power?
Thear Suzuki 21:10
Yeah, so, you know, remembering and reflecting on who I was, as a child, to who, you know, I was, as I was going through school, and starting my career and to, to who I am now. Every stage of life, there's learning from every stage of my life. And I would say what I've taken away from, as I reflect back (and reflecting is really important by the way), something else I learned in POS is that, first of all, I will always remember where I came from. Which is a place of maybe "without" and a feeling of "lesser than" and I've, with the help of mentors, and advocates, and sponsors, and people like Marsha, I'm in a different place now. And I've learned to have empathy. Great empathy for others who are now going through that journey. And they maybe are at different points in that journey. And it's okay, wherever you are. As long as you're continuing to learn, you're continuing to work to get better. Not only for yourself, but for others around you. And not only with people at work, but with your families, people that you love, you know. So the decisions I make now are very different from how I used to make decisions before. Before it was, oh, whatever they give me or whoever will accept me, I'll go with the flow. Now I can make those choices. I can pause and think, "Okay, is this is this something I really want?" Or am I just trying to please somebody by saying yes. And so there's so much there's just so much that, that I've learned throughout my life that is now helping me to make better decisions for myself, my family.
Marsha Clark 23:05
So you have an amazing early life story? Would you be willing to share your journey from your home country to here?
Thear Suzuki 23:13
I would, I would be happy to. And I think it's really important to share that part of my story so that our audience can better understand kind of, "Wow, what is this transformation?!?" Yes, I have really come a long way. So I was born in a very small third world country in Southeast Asia, Cambodia. So I was born in Pnom Penh. And when I was two or three years old, that was when the Cambodian communist regime they won the Civil War in Cambodia. And there was a lot of unrest in Southeast Asia at the time with the Vietnam War, and all of the other surrounding countries, Cambodia being one of them. And the Cambodian communist regime, when they came into power in 1975, drove millions of people out of the city and into the countryside and forced into labor camps. And it's because they wanted to turn the society back into an agrarian society made up of farmers. You work with your hands. You eat from the land. And they felt that influences from the Western world was all evil. And so they split up families into different labor camps. And again, that was at the beginning of my life. And so four years of their rule, during the four years of their rule from 1975 to 1979, almost 2 million people died of starvation, disease, and execution. That's about 25% of the population. If you can imagine within four years... Think about that in four years. Close to 2 million people and horrible, horrible deaths. They destroyed, you know, everything. They destroyed schools, hospitals. They persecuted the educated. Those with faiths. You know, all sorts of religion. The currency was destroyed. Like, everything was completely... If you can imagine, you know, starting all over again...
Marsha Clark 25:06
Not knowing anything.
Thear Suzuki 25:07
Exactly. So my parents, they have five kids. I'm the youngest of five, and it was, must have been so difficult for them. And so we survived which is a blessing, you know, that that we did. And then we escaped and went to the Thailand refugee camps and lived in refugee camps for two years. And then we were sponsored by a Catholic aid organization here in Dallas, and that was how we ended up here. So I came when I was eight years old.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 25:32
I was gonna ask how old you were.. Eight!
Thear Suzuki 25:34
I started school for the very first time. Right? Because the first eight years was Civil War, genocide, refugee camps. As an eight year old, you start school in third grade, of course.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 25:46
Right? With no English?
Thear Suzuki 25:47
No English. No one spoke English. And we didn't know anybody here. We were lucky to have so many people in the Dallas community support us. And there are many stories of how my family was helped and how I was helped. And so I'm just so grateful. And they're role models for me. They are my model for how to be... How to live in community with others. I'm grateful to them.
Marsha Clark 26:11
The empathy, the love, the support that you received you are now giving back tenfold. And I'd also like our listeners to know that... You may be familiar with former President George W. Bush? H.W. Bush? 43, the son. That he painted your portrait in a book, and it's a book of immigrants. And it's "Out of Many... ONE" which is what E Pluribus Unum represents and Thear is one of the featured stories and portraits in there. I love the picture of your family getting to meet the President. So think about that? We came from a ravaged country. We got displaced. We lived in really a horrible existence. And now, we're meeting the President of the United States. And it's just precious! And, you know, I also wanted the audience to know you have four sons now.
Thear Suzuki 27:10
Marsha Clark 27:11
So her oldest is now... Is it sophomore?
Thear Suzuki 27:14
He will be a sophomore at SMU.
Marsha Clark 27:17
So following in Mama's footsteps there! And I mean, this think about all that, that that has happened in that timeframe. It's amazing, Thear.
Thear Suzuki 27:26
And you know, this living this American dream would not have been possible without the kind strangers early on in my life who helped myself and my family. The mentors and advocates and sponsors along the way, you know, every step of the way I can connect back to, you know, the individuals who have helped me. That's why it's so important to me to give back and pay it forward. Any way that I can.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 27:53
So, talk to us more about this "pay it forward" for you... What does that look like?
Thear Suzuki 27:58
Thank you, Wendi. I love talking about this because it's it just brings me so much joy. You know, I talk about it in terms of what I get to do. And I know sometimes it may seem like, "Wow! She's everywhere! How did she get it all done?" And it's because it's it's so close to my heart. So for POS in particular, for "Power Of Self" in particular, when I graduated, you know, some years had passed by before I got into a position of influence where I was able to sponsor other women through the program. And so I was so proud, you know, to be able to say, "Yep! We're going to set aside budget for this. And we're going to have two to three women a year to go to this program because it's going to help them and it's going to make us more competitive to retain her talent and have strong leaders!" And so I yeah, I was able to pay it forward by sponsoring other women. And they have been able to pay it forward to other women as well, which I feel so honored to be a part of that. And then when I when I joined EY nine years ago, I, you know, again, this is the leadership development program that's been most impactful and most transformational for me. And so I brought the idea to EY as well. And we developed a custom program at the firm. And, you know, we were able to, I think impact over 150 lives and then the lives that they've impacted. And so my my hope is that the actions that I'm taking and the influence that I've been able to make is to help build other leaders because my personal passion is to increase leadership and philanthropic capacity in others.
Marsha Clark 29:46
Yeah, I want to give even more texture to the story because it is the power of women supporting women. So in addition to Thear sponsoring women from Accenture into the program, one of those women (this is the ripple effect) bbrought us into Manila. The Accenture Manila office where there's a large percentage of women that make up that workforce. And we taught a version of the "Power Of Self" program for seven years. Until COVID, and we hope to go back there. And, you know, that opened up the program to a whole new audience of people that I am still in contact with. They are some of my dearest friends as well. I don't, you're my client, you're also my friend. So that and that often happens. So that was one piece. And then going into the EY organization and delivering the program there. Thear also sponsored her best friend since third grade, personally, into the program as well. So this isn't just a "I'm gonna get my company to pay for things." This was a personal gesture of love for your dear friend, Mylinh... my dear friend, Mylinh. And I mean, that speaks volumes as to who she is. And then even next was Texas Women's Foundation.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 31:02
Yes, yes... let's talk about that!
Thear Suzuki 31:03
So I had the opportunity to collaborate at the time with the Dallas Women's Foundation. This was back in 2011, I want to say or 2010. Because I was developing a women's executive program at Accenture, and I thought I wanted to collaborate with a big nonprofit like the Dallas Women's Foundation. And through that collaboration, I got to meet Roslyn Dawson Thompson. And then she invited me to join their board shortly after I joined EY. And I served on the board for about six years. And then after that, I served as co-chair of economic leadership council for about two years. And now I'm just involved, and a big fan, still a member of the ELC. And so the economic leadership council is a group of very strong C-suite women from area companies. And one of the things that we wanted to do was positively impact the progression and advancement of women into the C-suite. And so we were looking to do something that was different, you know, from what is being done by other organizations. And so working with the other amazing members of economic leadership council, we talked about leadership development program for women. And so the Women's Leadership Institute, lovingly known as W.L.I., was born. And Marsha has been instrumental in terms of from the very beginning ideation and conceptual time, when we talked about this. And she's now continuing to facilitate that program.
Marsha Clark 32:44
We are. We've graduated four classes. We're in the midst of five, and we're taking registration for six. And it is powerful. And, you know, I'm want our listeners to also know you may have a women's foundation in your city or your geography somehow someway. And if not go go start one and create one. Because the work that they do to support women and girls, everything from grants that they issue to in funding for nonprofits that serve women and girls. They do advocacy at the legislative level around laws that impact women and girls. They do programming like this that we do. And they do research for people to understand beyond our bubble world, whatever that may be, that there's a whole other world out there. And that's something when you talk about the diversity of the first "Power Of Self" program. It is by design that we've had for profit, not for profit, education, healthcare, military, government, ministers, artists, poets, storytellers, dancers. I mean, we've had... and by being very intentional about that, the intentionality of it. You know, I worked in a big company worked around the world thought I know what was going on. And then I meet all these women from so many different walks of life and the beauty of understanding what it means to be a woman has to encompass all of that. I think, because just because it's not my experience doesn't mean it's not other women's experience and being able to hear that story and value that story. And I say early in every program, everybody's got a story. And everybody's working on something. You know, we want to be able to make sure that we give space for that. And, you know, what you've done in supporting and bringing it into other organizations and exposing this material in a bigger way is, is tremendous. It's tremendous.
Thear Suzuki 34:43
And I would say what's really different about POS, relative to maybe other leadership development programs that I've been a part of, is the whole providing the space for the deep work on self. And also, you know, giving us the time to think about how do we want to show up with others, and then understanding ourselves within the system. And the duration of the program matters, too. So it's, you know, across what is it over eight months in some cases?
Marsha Clark 35:13
It's like nine months of pregnancy. We give it 9 months to birth itself.
Thear Suzuki 35:17
By the way, we gave birth before the last module of POS in 2002. And we brought our babies to graduation!
Marsha Clark 35:26
They did! It was awesome. We had a big shower. There was another woman who ended up being pregnant. And, do you want to tell the story about how we brought recliners in because of the swelling? We've done it in the hotel.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 35:41
Should have had recliners at ours!
Thear Suzuki 35:43
Okay, so when I was pregnant with my first son, I think I was 85 pounds.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 35:50
Thear Suzuki 35:52
Before I was pregnant, maybe less than 85 pounds. You know, the heaviest that I got with my first son was I gained 35 pounds. Oh, that's almost, you know, weight. So, yeah, my legs were swollen. And so Marsha and the team brought in recliners. We were in a hotel right and recliners for me and Regina to, you know, to put our legs up while we were participating in the program.
Marsha Clark 36:16
Once again, demonstrating the power of a women's leadership program!
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 36:20
Finding those recliners!
Marsha Clark 36:22
Anybody that's been pregnant knows that if you take your shoes off, and you can't get your shoes back on!
Thear Suzuki 36:29
By the way, both Zachary, my oldest son, and Regina's oldest daughter... They're both at SMU.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 36:34
Oh my gosh... Are they friends, too?
Thear Suzuki 36:37
They don't know each other.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 36:40
Yet! We're working on that! Okay, now, Thear, I know that you serve on a variety of boards and committees outside of your work at EY, and I'm going to let Marsha kind of go down this list.
Marsha Clark 36:54
So I have to read it because the list is so long I can't memorize it. So, Thear is on the board of the SMU Lyle School of Engineering executive board. Again, not many women in that field. More today than 20 years ago when we started. The Dallas Holocaust and Human Rights Museum, which again is about a persecuted people, and how do we honor and respect their history and their being. The SMU Tate Lecture Series, which is one of the highest rated lecture series on any college campus. The National Asian Pacific Islander Chamber of Commerce and Entrepreneurship. The Boy Scouts of America, and then she also serves as co-chair on the 50/50 Women on Boards for the Dallas Initiative, which is trying to get truly balanced out and get 50/50 men, women on boards to support women having more influence and having a seat at the table.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 37:52
I love it. I love it. So Thear, really.... You're married and you have four boys! How do you have time to do all this? And then also, I think more importantly, why? Why are you making the space and the time?
Thear Suzuki 38:04
Yeah, so it's it's a daily thing to I think, manage my energy and manage my time. And I try to make decisions on what I say yes to based on if there's a personal connection. So if you know me, you know that every single one of these boards there's a personal connection. Boy Scouts of America... I became a U.S. citizen through their exploring program when I was a teenager in high school. And if I hadn't become a U.S. citizen, at that point, I would have had less opportunities for scholarships. The Texas Women's Foundation that goes without saying. By the way, Marsha, I first was introduced to the Dallas Women's Foundation through you. You invited me to the luncheon years ago, and that was how I started to learn about the the Dallas Women's Foundation which is now the Texas Women's Foundation.
Marsha Clark 38:57
Well, and when I was in EDS, we were the primary sponsor of it year over year over year. Because even way back then, I was all about the women. I'm glad to hear that. I did not know that connection.
Thear Suzuki 39:08
So I can go down the entire list and tell you how the work and the mission of these organizations have personally impacted me. The value that I see for others in the community, and how I might be able to lend my support and contribute in order to continue to pay it forward. And they're all doing very, very important work. And so for me, it's more purposeful living. I don't necessarily, you know, jot down all the many hours that I spend on these different things and see if the math works. It's it's if this aligns with my values, and this aligns with my purpose, I will say yes to it. And I somehow figure out how to get it done.
Marsha Clark 39:49
And she does it every time. She comes through. She's so reliable.
Thear Suzuki 39:54
And in terms of balancing with with home, you know, I kind of see my life as one life. I don't have a work life and a home life. I have over the years learned, through a lot of hard work, how to integrate my life and get to a rhythm that works for me and my family.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 40:13
Okay.. let's go a little deeper on that.
Marsha Clark 40:16
I just want to say she does one-on-ones with each son. So she can have dedicated time. So this is how intentional and clear she is about the quality, not just the quantity, as she said, but the quality of time you spend.
Thear Suzuki 40:29
Yes, yeah. When my fourth son was born, his name is Alex. I think when he was three or four years old, he was dominating the time when I was at home. "Mommy, mommy! Play with me!" And meanwhile, you know, the older boys aren't doing that. And so therefore, the time that I had, I was spending time with him. And one day, he said, "Mommy play with me!" So I said, "Okay." I had my phone right next to me, all my notifications were on, I was checking emails. And while I was... he was like, "Mommy, you're not playing!" I was like, "What do you mean I'm not playing?" "THIS is how you play! Okay?" My three or four year old was teaching me how to play. So I realized at that point, that this is not... this is not great. I'm not being the kind of mom that I want to be. I had a coach at the time. And I described that story to her. And she's wonderful. And she suggested, have you considered doing one-on-ones with each of your boys? So, that's not a bad idea. And so that was when it started, and that was just about four years ago. And so it's been wonderful.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 41:33
What does that look like? What is it? Like Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday? How does that work? Husband gets Friday? When's the one-on-one time for him?
Thear Suzuki 41:48
That's another show! HA!
Yeah, so it's on the weekends, and so each boy, they get... Yeah, each weekend, there's a time for a boy. And they choose where they want to go eat for lunch, and then they choose what they want to do afterwards... an activity or something. And I get to veto where we go eat for lunch.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 42:14
Otherwise, McDonald's every weekend.
Thear Suzuki 42:17
No set agenda. And then sometimes we do walk-and-talks.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 42:21
Oh, wonderful! I love that. So tell us how specific lessons from "Power Of Self" show up in your family. We've described the one-on-ones which we did a lot of those during the Power Of Self program, but how are they showing up on a day-to-day basis in your life, now?
Thear Suzuki 42:43
I would say the things that I've learned about communication and how to communicate with one another and how to really listen... That's been a growth area for me. And I'm still I'm still trying to get, you know, better at that.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 43:00
Are you a "stuffer?" I'm just asking... Do you hold things in, rather than?
Thear Suzuki 43:05
Yeah, because I'm conflict averse. So I want peace. And so I think you can understand why coming from the world that I came from. And so it was always difficult for me to bring up something that I disagree with because I felt like, oh, then we might argue. You know? And so particularly, you know, with, with my, with my husband in particular, I would say and so the communication piece I use every time every day, you know, to... Okay, I need to not be thinking about work when I'm having dinner with my family. I need to listen. And what does that mean to listen? How do you show that you're listening so that you're engaging in the conversation? So and then I think in the word context, from a how we communicate standpoint, something that I use every single day is don't start a sentence with "I think..." or "I apologize... " Right? We talked about that a lot. How we marginalize ourselves in the language that we use. And so there are many, many little things that have been so impactful in terms of how I'm being perceived now that I'm using different language from how... from the language that I used to use and how I show up. You know, to project confidence and credibility and this was not me before.
Marsha Clark 44:29
Yes. And I think about what I hear the women coming through the program talk about time. And more importantly, what their bosses or their sponsors might say about them. "There's something different about her. I can't quite put my finger on it, and yet, there's something different." And that's those small things that over time accumulate and people begin to see you differently, relate to you differently, and engage differently in that regard. So it is small things that are big, powerful things in how we want to show up in that regard. You know, I want to go back because we talked about family, and I know that you helped start something at the Texas Women's Foundation. So in thinking about representing the Asian Pacific Island community, as you know, communities, which I don't want to get away from this podcast without you talking a bit about the Orchid Circle.
Thear Suzuki 45:18
Thank you for asking about that. Yes, I think we all know that the Asian American community have tended to be seen as the invisible community, if you will. Model minority, invisible community. And the model minority piece really does us and our communities a disservice, because it pits us against other communities of color. And so within North Texas, and within Dallas, some of us, you know, have would see each other at different events, you know.... At the luncheon or at other, you know, functions. And, you know, even though we didn't know each other, we always kind of I, you know, we kind of just like when we noticed the women in the room, you know. For me, I noticed the Asians in the room, too. And so, you know, eventually we all got introduced in various ways. And we felt like, we wanted to have our voice be heard in the community as well. And the way we wanted to do that was to bring in like-minded Asian American women who cared about the community to help democratize philanthropy. Because oftentimes, we think of philanthropists as people who are millionaires and billionaires. Like, you know, and that's not me. We're putting a different message out there and saying, "No, you know. Philanthropy just means love for community." And there are many different ways to give in terms of time, energy, treasures, you know. And so the Orchid Giving Circle is a fund within the Texas Women's Foundation, and there are other giving circles that exist as well. And it's a group of women, you know, in their 20s to in their 70s, who've come together to raise funds in order to grant them to nonprofit organizations that support the Asian community in North Texas. And we have the Texas Women's Foundation to help us from an infrastructure standpoint. We have the same grant cycle as the Texas Women's Foundation. So we've been in existence for seven years now, I think? No, six years. We started in 2015, and so there were a small number of women who came together and became founding members, and I was one of them. My best friend is another and many of our good friends, you know, were founding members. And that has been such an empowering thing. And this past year, we did a, was it just this year in 2020. Where we did the... No, May, yeah, May 2021. This this year, we hosted a Power Leadership Forum. Where we had, I think over 600 people participated in this virtual forum, and it's so empowering, you know, to bring this community of women together. So we're quite proud.
Well, so again, going back to women supporting women, not just in the peer relationship, that you have the women who were in the Orchid Giving Circle, but then all the people that, like 600 people, that you're bringing in to introduce to a much broader concept of women and leadership. And Asian women and smart, powerful Asian women as leaders. I mean, that's amazing. Yes, that's, that's why I said we can't get let this go on without talking about that. I'm a big supporter of it, and want to spread that word, you know, wide and far.
Marsha Clark 48:20
Excellent. Wonderful. Well, let's go back to talking about your friend that you sponsored through the "Power Of Self" program. Talk to us about that.
Thear Suzuki 48:51
So her name is Mylinh Luong, and she is such a gift. She has been such a gift to me and everyone who's come who have come to know her. I know that she's a gift to them. So she, she and I have been best friends since the seventh grade. Yes, and she has been helping me since then. When I was in the seventh grade, and prior to that I was in regular classes, you know, and I was always embarrassed to not be in T.A.G. - Talented And Gifted. And I had friends who were in T.A.G. and so the the the first impact that she's had on my life where she said, "Girl, you need to be in T.A.G.! You need to be in pre-honors!" And so because of her encouragement, we went to my counselor in the seventh grade and asked her to change my math class to our pre-honor class. And instead of changing only my math class, my counselor changed my entire schedule to pre-honors. And you know, that once you get on a track, right? Because we get the unconscious bias, right? If you're not... you must not be smart if you're not in pre-honors or a T.A.G.. And so because of her, I was able to get onto the pre-honors track and then I stayed on it since then. And, you know, she's a type of person who gives to everybody else. She gives to everybody else. She's a caretaker for her family and with all of her friends. She does everything for us. And so I, when Marsha actually it was a, it was a silent auction at one of the graduations. You know, the POS, that particular POS class did a silent auction. And I made the purchase of the program of the POS program and then gifted it to my to her. Because I felt like this was something that I thought she could really benefit from.
Marsha Clark 50:45
And she has and we all have from her being a part of the program. She's an amazing woman, just like you. And and what I love is she knew at the age of 13 years-old that seventh grade about that... ASK for what you want. ASK for what you need. Where along the way we lose that, I'm not sure., but at that point... And yet, it's also easier for us to ask on behalf of someone else. And, she did that. That's what great friends do.
Thear Suzuki 51:09
That's right. And she also came to this country with nothing as one of the boat people from Vietnam.... escaping the atrocities there. And she's now the chair for the Orchid Giving Circle.
Marsha Clark 51:25
She's found her voice in big ways.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 51:27
Yes. Well, well Thear, I think it's a.... I just want to say thank you, and point out to everyone who's watching and listening that it's amazing to me how these tools and these lessons learned have moved across your life. Like as you've grown in your career, as you've grown your family, as you've grown your network, and your influence, the power of these of these tools and things that you've learned through Marsha's program. And then finally, I just really want to thank you for being here with us today. It's been an honor to finally meet you. I've heard your name for many years now, and so it's been an honor to finally meet you in person.
Thear Suzuki 52:05
Thank you, Wendi. And my life has been so blessed, and you know, with Marsha in it. And you know, the things that I learned in POS, I keep on coming back to it. And this will stay with me for a lifetime. And I describe it as the gift that keeps on giving. Because you know, this was a gift from Marsha. Many people may not know. In 2001, that was the beginning of the financial crisis at that time, and companies were not investing in their talent by, you know, paying for leadership development programs. And Marsha and Dale, at the time, made the decision to continue with the pilot, the inaugural class, and I benefited from that. I didn't pay for it. My company didn't pay for it. So I'm so grateful, Marsha, because it changed it changed my life. And I am where I am because of what I was able to experience through your through your program and with your love.
Marsha Clark 52:05
Well, thank you. This is the part that really does get hard. I love the work that we've done together. I love you, and your heart even more. And I love our friendship. So thank you.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 53:24
Okay, well, thank you all for joining us today on this "Kleenex-sponsored" video podcast version of "Your Authentic Path To Powerful Leadership" with Marsha Clark. Please download, subscribe, share this podcast with the women in your life who need that extra dose of courage and leadership. You're going to get it here.
Check out our website, MarshaClarkandAssociates.com for all of the emails that you can subscribe to. Check out Marsha's book that has just come out, "Embracing Your Power," and connect with us on social media and everywhere else you can connect with us on the website. Thank you!
Marsha Clark 54:11
Well, I want to thank you, Wendi, for always being the hostess with the most-est! And, Thear, as I said, "You were always going to be my first guest." I mean, from the minute we identified doing a podcast, you were going to be my first guest for all the reasons that we've talked about here. So thank you very much for being here.
And I know that our listeners and our viewers have been inspired by the path that Thear has lived, continues to live, the choices she continues to make, and those are possibilities for all of us. So we want to hear from all of you as well! So consider us your new best friends and we want to we want to hear from you and we want to be a resource and support for you. And as we've spoken about through the stories that we've shared with you today... Here's to women supporting women!