This past summer, MMA GROW* hosted its Inaugural Bay Area Keynote Speaker Event at Franklin Templeton Investment's San Mateo Campus. The organization welcomed keynote speaker Ramona Pierson, Co-founder and CEO of Declara, a tech startup that is revolutionizing the way people share knowledge. Declara aims to shape the future by focusing on what is possible instead of impossible, a mission inspired by Ramona’s own story of resilience in the face of extreme adversity.
At the age of only 16, Ramona, a mathematics prodigy, attended the University of California, Berkeley where just two years later she was recruited by the Marines to write algorithms aiding F-18 fighter missions. Four years later, tragedy struck. Ramona was hit by a drunk driver while running and spent the following eighteen months in a coma and the next eleven years blind. This life-changing event forced her to relearn simple human functions: everything from breathing and seeing to walking and smiling. Refusing to let the accident hold her back, Ramona used the many skills and insights she gained during her recovery to propel her forward. Her experiences fostered the drive and determination in her to build two companies where personalized learning and relearning are the center of all products.
Ramona addressed an array of topics including education, politics and science, all of which generated a vibrant discussion during the Q&A session. When touching on leadership, she said that leaders should forget their egos and focus on being empathetic and intuitive. Ramona added, “When you truly hear yourself, you can see how you are coming across to your team.”
The CEO’s main piece of advice to companies was to hire exceptionally smart, talented staff and then get out of their way to give them the opportunity and space to fail. “If you can allow your leaders and your team to fail, they are going to learn from that and innovate themselves forward.”
Ramona’s insights, fueled by her story of courage and resilience, inspired the entire audience to continue to seek all that is possible both personally and professionally and made the Bay Area’s Inaugural Keynote Speaker Event a smashing success.
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*Marsh & McLennan Agency's women’s initiative, MMA GROW, was formed in 2010 to attract, retain, educate and support women in the firm.