Connection and Inclusion

Connection and Inclusion

How do you decide where to invest your time?

I recently had the pleasure of attending my first Diversity Alliance for Science event at the recommendation of DA4S President Jinus Moghbeli of Amgen. It was the organization’s West Coast Conference and I drove down from Hollywood on an unusually cold Wednesday morning to the Laguna Cliffs Marriott Resort & Spa, the midpoint between L.A. and San Diego.

The conference kicked-off in the afternoon of that first day to the thumping sound of opening music that had everyone on their feet, clapping to the beat. It certainly wasn’t the typical conference welcome. I soon discovered it was because this was not a typical business organization. Here are my top three takeaways:

1. Know who you are. 
DA4S was very clear from the opening of the conference to its closing the following afternoon that they occupy a unique niche. In this case, it’s one squarely focused on the intersection between the life science industries and a mission committed to “providing a platform to identify, attract and develop small and/or diverse businesses to drive inclusive procurement practices.” What’s also clear is that this is not the place for “wannabes.” Membership is available only to corporations in the life science industries and to diverse suppliers with a proven track record in the space.

While their message of “knowing who you are” is their mantra to prospective members, it’s also the talk that members walk together as they look to strategically grow the organization. Here the road chosen is quality over quantity, based on their determination that selectivity and experience are the more important drivers of focused value delivered to both diverse suppliers and corporate members.

2. Finding inspiration. 
One of my favorite speakers was Deborah Wood of DWA Healthcare Communications Group. There’s something incredibly empowering about someone who is willing to share their story in a way that realistically conveys the often imperfectness of success. Rarely is it a straight, upward trajectory, and she was even willing, privately the day after the presentation, to reveal her challenges, bumps and all.

Her approach to her business and her sense of purpose inspired me, as did the great quotes she shared during her presentation. My favorite: The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why. —Mark Twain

My conclusion was that, for me, “culture” was a stand-in here for the notion of “community.” It took me back to a Harvard Business Review article from a few years ago that talked about the need for networks and communities and how we often confuse them. Says the article: “Social media certainly connects us to whoever is on the other end of the line, and so extends our social networks in amazing ways. But this can come at the expense of deeper personal relationships.”

3. Community matters. 
During the Q&A portion of a session for non-members led by DA4S’s board of directors, I mentioned that I’d observed the word “culture” referenced several times during the conference. I then asked the board members present what it was about the organization’s culture that engaged them and made them decide to invest their time and energy here. Jinus Moghbeli’s response was to turn the question back to me and asked that I answer that question for myself after the conference.

In short: “Networks connect; communities care.”

What draws you to the business communities where you engage?

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About the Top 3 series:

“Top 3” is a quick roundup on our key takeaways from some of the conferences and events we attend.

Bonnie Nijst
Written by Bonnie Nijst

Bonnie Nijst has been a wire service bureau manager, and VP of sales for both a publicly traded broadcast communications company and an Internet startup. She has also served on boards for organizations focused on economic opportunity, diversity, public health and civic engagement. She is president and CEO at FIDGET. Email Bonnie directly at or call her at 323.658.8000.