Brad Moderates Marshall University’s Third CEO Panel With Chris Gardner and Shellye Archambeau

The Lewis College of Business and its Brad D. Smith Schools of Business at Marshall University hosted its third CEO Panel discussion on March 3, 2021. The panel is part of the Dean’s Distinguished Speaker Series and started in 2018 as the highest-profile community event of the Brad D. Smith Schools of Business. The Dean’s Distinguished Speaker series offers a rich and vibrant experience to Marshall University students and various other stakeholders as they learn from renowned c-suite executives, entrepreneurs, intrapreneurs and industry leaders about business successes, effective leadership and the future of work. As a part of this series, the CEO Panel — put together by Brad Smith and his team at Intuit — brings globally recognized, top-tier CEOs to provide insightful perspectives through dynamic discussions covering a broad range of topics. The goal of these conversations is to influence the world of business and draw powerful lessons from the boardroom to the classroom. The CEO Panel has featured prominent CEOs such as Daniel Schulman, President and CEO of PayPal; Shantanu Narayen, Chairman, President and CEO of Adobe; and Jeff Weiner, Executive Chairman and former CEO of LinkedIn. Brad D. Smith moderated the discussion and participated in the audience Q&A.

The latest instalment in the series featured Shellye Archambeau, the first Black female CEO in Silicon Valley. The former CEO of MetricStream has been described as the woman who pulled off one of the most incredible Silicon Valley turnarounds, and whose name you likely haven’t heard, by Reid Hoffman, the co-founder and former Executive Chairman of LinkedIn. 

Archambeau grew up in Philadelphia and moved to a suburb of Los Angeles when she was six years old. From an early age, she knew she was different from the people around her. Facing racism throughout her childhood in the 1960s, Archambeau was determined to live her life proving others wrong in their misconceptions about her as a Black female. 

Archambeau explained that her mother served as her role model growing up. The lessons she learned from her mom inspired Archambeau to get involved in school clubs and leadership opportunities. It was in high school that Archambeau decided she was going to become a CEO. From that point on she made sure that every decision she made was a conscious effort to work towards her dream of being a CEO of a company. 

During the panel, the Unapologetically Ambitious author shared some of the most important lessons she learned throughout her career and childhood. One lesson she shared: decide what you care about, focus on getting that, and forget about the rest. 

Archambeau was joined by Chris Gardner, an entrepreneur, international best-selling author and an award-winning film producer. His autobiography, The Pursuit of HappYness is the inspiration for the critically acclaimed film The Pursuit of HappYness, for which Will Smith’s performance received Golden Globe, Screen Actors Guild and Academy Award nominations.

Growing up, Gardner spent time in foster care while his mother was in prison. Later in life, Gardner was a struggling single parent who experienced homelessness before becoming a successful stockbroker. Gardner’s biggest message, and the premise of his next book, is that no matter who you are or where you come from, you can do or be anything you dream to be. He called this permission to dream.

During the panel, the virtual audience was able to ask Brad, Gardner and Archambeau questions, the first revolving around learning from mistakes. Archambeau shared a story of a time a boss confided in her about a change that was going to affect someone close to her. The situation made Archambeau uncomfortable, and she regretted not speaking up. The experience taught Archambeau to stick to her values, even if it means breaking a rule. In response to the same question, Gardner went on to share that every mistake he has made taught him something. He explained the importance of remembering the lessons learned over the mistakes themselves.

The panel concluded with Brad sharing his gratitude to Archambeau and Gardner. He echoed the importance of ambition and perseverance as displayed by both inspiring participants.