Words of Wisdom From Powerful Cal Poly Women

Cal Poly is full of brilliant individuals, and we are often left in awe after meeting someone truly inspirational. We have met so many wonderful women during our time at Cal Poly and have been motivated by their passion and determination. We have admired a few powerful women in particular for their accomplishments, and we strive to emulate their strengths. We asked them to share their tips with us in the hopes that we can all benefit from their success.

The ladies:

Krista Le PianeHonors student, HNRS 100 TA, Alpha Zeta member, WOW leaderSheila Mann – Diversity/Inclusivity Grad Assistant, Graduate Student Connection President, Cal Poly Ballroom Team, Student Campus Computing Committee, Graduate Studies CommitteeRachel Smith – Neuroscience Club President, CENG Ambassador, SWE member, Honors studentAmy Wright – Sigma Kappa VP of Finance, OCOB representative for UUAB, Accounting Club President

What qualities make a strong leader in your eyes?


Krista: A strong leader is someone who isn’t afraid to take responsibility for his or her actions. A leader steps up when others won’t and makes sure others are on the same page as the task continues.

Sheila: A strong leader always leads by example. I do not believe that being a successful leader is about persuading your team to your point of view or agenda; instead, it is much more about listening carefully and trying to understand the points of view you do not agree with. I think it is essential to be as open-minded as possible in order to think outside of the box and discover innovative solutions to chronic problems.

Rachel: I’ve always admired leaders who understand exactly what kind of influence they hold and use that power in a conscientious fashion.

Amy:  Positivity, good communication, open-mindedness and a genuine passion for what they are leading or involved with.

What’s your secret to success?


Krista: Finding my passions and pursuing them. I’ve questioned my place at Cal Poly too many times to count, but what always kept me going was my passion for learning and my drive to succeed in life. 

Sheila: Open your mind to new ideas, your heart to new people. Be true to yourself and always give 100% effort in everything you do. You are the only thing holding yourself back; dream big and go get what you want from the world.

Rachel: I believe in results and I take a lot of pride in my work. At any one time, we represent ourselves, our families, our organizations, our companies, our schools, etc. I hold all of these things in such high regard, so whatever I do, I make sure to do it well. 

Amy: Always having a positive outlook and taking advantage of opportunities. We have control of our lives and it is up to ourselves to seize every opportunity and make the most of it.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?


Krista: The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz. He said, “don’t take anything personally.” When you put yourself out there, you are often met with criticism, but it helps me to realize that those dissenting opinions don’t matter as long as I’m following my own path and walking in a good way. 

Sheila: To accept myself unconditionally for who I am, believe that I am worthy and to always move forward. – I think learning to forgive yourself is one of the most challenging things you can accomplish. “Hard work beats talent every time when talent does not work hard.” – One of my best friends told me this when we were 17, I’ve actually kept it as a note on my phone for years now because it motivates me to work hard!

Rachel: Keith Ferrazzi’s book Never Eat Alone changed my entire perspective on networking and relationships. My biggest takeaway was this: by raising others up, we raise ourselves up too. Believe in collaboration, not competition. 

Amy: The best advice I have received is from my parents. They have always emphasized taking advantage of opportunities. I am so blessed to have these opportunities and so by taking them, I add value to my life. Also giving back to those who have helped me is a strong value in my household. 

What is one piece of wisdom you can share with fellow college ladies?


Krista: It’s okay to not have everything figured out. Just be yourself, follow what you love and the right path for you will unfold.

Sheila: People might not remember exactly what you said or what you did but they will always remember the way you make them feel. I think it is essential to always be yourself and say what you mean. College is simultaneously an exciting, engaging, overwhelming and stressful time in one’s life – it’s important to build a good support system. I believe that presentation matters and that college is the beginning of your professional reputation. You never know where a job offer might come from even 10 years down the line in your life.

Rachel: Find your “raison d’etre”, your reason for living. Reach out to people who may help you achieve your goals and embrace the hard work that comes along with making them happen.

Amy: Take advantage of opportunity. It is very easy to say no and be “too busy” but college is short and it would be a shame to look back and wish to have done more. Also, begin creating a large network. We meet so many great people here at Cal Poly and I believe this won’t be the end of our time together. These are some of the smartest people and we should remain in contact and create lasting relationships because you never know when you’ll need them. 

Thank you to all of these beautiful women for sharing their wisdom!