Candy Lee: My Dinner with Sheryl Sandberg - Lean in Canada

(or, Takeaways from the Lean In Global Leaders Conference)

When you meet someone of greatness, it is hard not to stand and stare.

So stare I did, along with 80 others, when we were treated to an intimate meet-and-greet-slash-dinner with Lean In founder, viral TED talk speaker, bestselling author of “Lean In” and now “Option B”, and oh right, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg.

We were all there last week for the Lean In Global Leaders Conference, an annual gathering of the regional leads of Lean In chapters around the world – China, Pakistan, Israel, Japan, Italy, UK, Ireland – the list goes on. I am grateful I was given the opportunity to represent Lean In Canada. Lean In is a global nonprofit dedicated to empowering women to achieve their ambitions, and the two days were dedicated to best practice sharing and leadership training.

Back to the staring. Luckily, it was just a momentary lapse before I found the power of speech again – but what a special moment to chat with someone who’s inspired a movement across the globe.

That was the cherry on top of a jam-packed, intense two days.

We know that across the globe, we still have work to do. That said, it was truly uplifting to see the fruits of the labour of Lean In leaders to mobilize and empower women around the globe. Rome wasn’t built in a day – we will get there. It was encouraging to see examples of some companies and groups taking important steps.

“If you can’t out-big them, out-little them..” -Dr. Jen Welter (first female NFL player)

To summarize all the learnings from the full two days in one measly blog post would be to do the organizers a disservice (and would surpass any kind of blog word count) – so instead, here is a sprinkling of some ‘ah ha’ moments that… behold:

Dr. Jen Welter – the first female NFL player, first female NFL coach (and somehow found the time to get a doctorate in Psychology) spoke about the importance of finding your own style rather than imitating others – notable quotes:

  • “Be the heartbeat of everything you do” – Look for something bigger than yourself.
  • “Play bigger than you are” – the ripple effects are huge and you will be rewarded. That – or if you can’t out-‘big’ them, then out-little them.
  • “Own the moment – don’t let the moment own you” – you can make every situation what you want.
  • “You can only have ONE thought at any given time.” so just as likely as you are having a negative thought, your mind can shift gears quickly to a positive.
  • On imposter syndrome – “People only know what you show.”
  • And my personal favourite – “Go forth and sprinkle your own special sauce on life”

Dave Evans, Stanford Business professor and author of NYT bestseller “Design Your Life“, weighed in with this:

  • When thinking through 5, 10-year goals, start by going for broke with the crazy, audacious ideas, even if they are completely ridiculous – the exercise will help your mind break through a barrier to unlock hidden ideas. More ideas will generate better ideas.
  • Dave’s view of life design is simply: “Get curious / talk to people / try stuff.”

“If you don’t tell your story, someone will tell it for you.” – Megan Rooney, speechwriter for Hillary Clinton

Megan Rooney, speechwriter and policy advisor for Hillary Clinton (as well as being the first female speechwriter for a president – Obama), argued that it’s not about building your personal brand these days – it’s about building your story:

  • Self / Us / Now – Use the story of your self… to connect to why it matters to us… and why we need to act now.
  • “If we don’t tell our stories, others will for us.”

And so the story of Lean In is one that needs to be told – regardless of gender, everyone and anyone has likely at one time been made to feel small, or been told they couldn’t do something. Isn’t it time we talked less about what we can’t do, and more about what we can do?

(and PS – for those who were wondering – Sheryl had salmon for dinner, and no, she’s not running for president.)

This post was originally published on LinkedIn by Candy Lee

Lean In Canada is a national nonprofit dedicated to empowering women to build purposeful and fulfilling careers and lives.

Join the network at! Membership is free, and we hold monthly events out of Toronto and Vancouver chapters, open to men and women, on a variety of professional development topics. (and did we say wine was included?)

Candy Lee volunteers on the national board of directors at Lean In Canada, and is currently leading efforts to expand nationally to new Lean In chapters across major cities in Canada. By day, she works in brand marketing and was previously named Marketing Magazine’s Top 30 Under 30. She was previously at Anheuser-Busch InBev leading brand marketing campaigns for Budweiser and Bud Light Canada, and now works at Senior Brand Manager at ecobee, an Amazon-backed startup dedicated to transforming smart home technology. Contact her on all matters Lean In Canada at

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