Top Women in Business: 2015

By The Lane Report staff

Elizabeth O'Neil
Elizabeth O’Neil

Elizabeth O’Neil

Title/Company: Master Taster and Associate Sensory Scientist, Brown-Forman

How long at company/position: Three years

Previous jobs/positions: Sensory Technician with Brown-Forman for three years

Education: M.Ed. in counseling psychology

Person(s) who most influenced or mentored you: My parents have always encouraged me and my brothers to reach for our dreams and have always nourished our passions.

What inspires/drives you: If you are going to do something, do it right.

When and how do your mornings start: At 5:30 a.m. with a workout, then a cup of coffee with lots of creamer.

What does goal-setting look like for you: I keep many to-do lists – long-term and big picture – then break those down into smaller tasks. Then I have another list for “needs to be done ASAP.” Breaking tasks down into baby steps makes every large
goal manageable.

What you “wanted to be when you grew up,” as a child: An actress or
a teacher.

Hobby/interests/volunteer work: Horseback riding, Bikram yoga, secretary of the board for Green Hill Therapy, Younger Women’s Club member.

What are you reading or watching right now: “Wild” by Cheryl Strayed, “Friends” and “Seinfeld.”

What scares you the most and how you overcome it: Instability. I like to know where my things are and that I can manage on my own. I constantly check finances and keep up on all the moving parts in my life.

Your advice to younger women in business: Never underestimate yourself; you are capable of more than you could possibly dream.

What you are the most proud of in life: My independence.

Mary Ellen Weiderwohl
Mary Ellen Wiederwohl

Mary Ellen Wiederwohl

Title/Company: Chief, Louisville Forward, Louisville Metro Government

How long at company/position: In the position one year and one month; I joined Louisville Metro Government in July 2012.

Previous jobs/positions: Deputy chief of staff and chief of strategic initiatives, Louisville Metro Government, July 2012-June 2014; assistant director, MML&K Government Solutions, McBrayer, McGinnis, Leslie & Kirkland PLLC in Frankfort, February 2003-July 2012; director of legislative and public relations, Education Professional Standards Board, April 1999-January 2003, Frankfort; legislative assistant, Kentucky Senate Majority Leader David Karem, Legislative Research Commission, Frankfort 1998-1999

Education: Bachelor of Arts in music, political science minor, University of Louisville

Person(s) who most influenced or mentored you: I have been fortunate to have great bosses throughout the years – David Karem, Dr. Susan Leib, Terry McBrayer and Greg Fischer. I also have had amazing women mentored me along the way.

What inspires/drives you: I was fortunate to be born with a pretty heavy innate drive. But making a difference and changing people’s lives keeps me moving even when the internal gas tank is near empty.

When and how do your mornings start: Early. Most days it’s around 5 a.m. for a run or a workout.

What does goal-setting look like for you: Impactful, measurable, time bound. Aspirational yet achievable with a stretch.

What you “wanted to be when you grew up” as a child: Everything, literally. Botanist, astrophysicist, architect, band director, governor, president, etc.

Hobby/interests/volunteer work: As a Junior Leaguer, I’ve volunteered all over the place. But some of the most rewarding volunteer work I’ve done has been pro bono advocacy for causes in Frankfort, like Visually Impaired Preschool Services (VIPS).

What are you reading or watching right now: Real news and thought-provoking periodicals on how urban design and built environment impact our economic success and mobility.

What scares you the most and how you overcome it: I actually get a little shy in public and a little stage fright sometimes! A deep breath and a smile at a friendly face in the audience always works. Find your own comfort zone.

Your advice to younger women in business: Work for good people doing good things. If your boss isn’t promoting you, get another job.

What you are the most proud of in life: Making a difference every day in some small way, even if I’m the only one who knew or noticed. The quiet victories can be the most satisfying.

Dianne Leveridge
Dianne Leveridge

Dianne Leveridge

Title/Company: KCTCS Director of Technical Programs, Kentucky Community & Technical College System

How long at company/position: One year. This is a new position within the community college system.

Previous jobs/positions: Director of Project Lead the Way, University of Kentucky for five years. Engineer, IBM/Lexmark International Inc. for 22 years.

Education: Ph.D in civil engineering project management and master’s in engineering project management, University of Maryland; Bachelor of Science, electrical engineering, University of Kentucky.

Person(s) who most influenced or mentored you: I have been fortunate to have multiple mentors at each stage. Dr. Lillie Crowley, Lexington Community College math faculty, showed me I have a brain and can use it. Betty Preece, may she rest in peace, the first woman to earn a UK electrical engineering degree, showed me how “fun work” means working at something bigger than us. Dr. Greg Baecher, University of Maryland, taught me to conduct a balanced discussion and do the research to inform that discussion.

What inspires/drives you: Teaching people who don’t know they can think how to think, and think critically, so they can have informed, balanced discussions.

When and how do your mornings start: Quietly. Coffee and my Bible app.

What does goal-setting look like for you: My career has been about solving problems, developing sustainable processes to provide consistent, repeatable, quality outputs. In education, I enjoy the privilege of applying those problem-solving and process-development skills to programmatic outcomes.

What you “wanted to be when you grew up,” as a child: Olympic show jumping rider.

Hobby/interests/volunteer work: Reading; gardening; crocheting; writing; riding; anything old. Member of the Society of Women Engineers for 25 years and the Project Management Institute for 10 years.

What are you reading or watching right now: My new favorite website is the Guttenberg Project with thousands of free books. Reading “The Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Perkins Gillman. I just finished “Night Comes to the Cumberlands” by Harry Caudill. Next is “The Federalist Papers” by Hamilton, Madison and Jay. I also
like Ambrose Bierce. I don’t own a
TV, and my screen watching is online news outlets.

What scares you the most and how you overcome it: I am most afraid of personal inertia. Many women suffer from this lack of confidence and/or the fear of failure. For me it’s been a fear of the work and of the failure that is necessary to overcome to enable learning more and more about how to improve what you do. Research continues to show confidence is boosted more by learning from failures than by achieving success. Success happens once; learning is a continuum.

Math terrified me so I worked 17 workbook chapters in one day to learn how to do my college algebra homework, due the next day. The result was a hard-earned A
in the course, and becoming an engineer.

Your advice to younger women in business: A huge component of success is recognizing we all bring elements of a problem’s solutions. Today’s complex, interconnected problems provide opportunity for jointly developed solutions. Also, grow and expand your strengths. Research shows improving upon strengths results in higher-magnitude gains than gains associated with improving weaknesses. Focus on what you do well, and build a career upon that.

What you are the most proud of in life: Overcoming personal inertia. Ten years ago a Ph.D. in engineering was outside the realm of my possibility, just like college algebra had been. Persistence to learn and obtain education paid dividends. Money comes and goes, but you can’t unlearn – you can only build upon it.

Jenean Hampton
Jenean Hampton

Jenean Hampton

Title/Company: Candidate, Kentucky Lieutenant Governor (running mate with Matt Bevin, Republican)

How long at company/position: Six months

Previous jobs/positions: Worked in the corrugated packaging industry 19 years as a sales representative, quality facilitator, plant manager and machine supervisor. Served in the U.S Air Force seven years as a computer systems officer, including deployment to Desert Storm. Worked at General Motors five years as a computer operator and one summer as an engineering intern.

Education: Bachelor of Science, industrial engineering, Wayne State University. MBA with concentrations in marketing, entrepreneurship and electronic commerce, William E. Simon School of Business at the University of Rochester (N.Y.)

Person(s) who most influenced or mentored you: My 87-year-old mother taught by example that the right path isn’t always easy, and the easy path isn’t always right. She instilled a love of reading and cooking, and is the epitome of Southern hospitality.

What inspires/drives you: I find great joy in learning something new and solving problems. I’m a firm believer in continual, life-long personal improvement.

When and how do your mornings start: I rise between 5 a.m. and 6:30 a.m. depending on first campaign event. I start every morning with prayer. Breakfast is usually a protein shake.

What does goal-setting look like for you: I make handwritten lists to track short-term goals. For long-term goals, I use a spreadsheet or word processor to subdivide big tasks into smaller ones. Love to brainstorm using the big dry-erase board in my office.

What you “wanted to be when you grew up,” as a child: In the 1960s, inspired by America’s space program, I dreamed of becoming an astronaut. Although the space shuttle program is defunct, I still harbor hopes of traveling in space someday.

Hobby/interests/volunteer work: I volunteer at a low-income housing complex, ministering with conversation, food, biblical reading and inspiration. Also, as an amateur ham radio operator holding an Extra Class license, I’m acutely interested in the communication role that hams perform during emergencies
and disasters.

What are you reading or watching right now: Currently reading Malcom Gladwell’s “What The Dog Saw” and Sarah Young’s daily devotional “Jesus Calling.”

What scares you the most and how you overcome it: I’m alarmed by the accelerated erosion of liberties in America caused by the failure of elected officials to uphold the constitution and the failure of American citizens to demand accountability. I’m running for office to help reverse that trend.

Your advice to younger women in business: Approach your job as though you own the company. Watch for opportunities to improve processes, even ones outside of your immediate responsibilities.

What you are the most proud of in life: I’m proud and honored to be part of the Matt Bevin gubernatorial team that will help revive Kentucky’s independent spirit.

Sannie Overly

Sannie Overly
Sannie Overly

Title/Company: House Majority Caucus Chair, State Representative 72nd District; partner at Overly & Johnson law firm; candidate, Kentucky Lieutenant Governor (running mate with Jack Conway, Democrat)

How long at company/position: Kentucky General Assembly for eight years. I’ve owned my own business for 14 years.

Previous jobs/positions: Attorney with Jackson Kelly for six years; civil engineer for the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet for five years.

Education: Bachelor of Science, civil engineering, University of Kentucky; juris doctorate (cum laude), University of Louisville Brandeis School of Law

Person(s) who most influenced or mentored you: First and foremost, my parents Betty and Larry Overly. Professionally, Don Kelly, the former secretary of the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet, also served as a mentor.

What inspires/drives you: My two daughters, who are 18 and 13, both inspire and drive me every day.

When and how do your mornings start: I usually start my day around 6 a.m. getting my girls ready for the day and preparing them to go to school.

What does goal-setting look like for you: Setting goals and outlining a sturdy plan for achieving those goals is vital, but I have found the ability to identify and take advantage of opportunities to be the most important key. Setting goals is crucial, but it is no substitute for a keen eye for the open door and the courage to walk through it.

What you “wanted to be when you grew up,” as a child: I wanted to be a private detective. I loved to look for clues and try to solve mysteries.

Hobby/interests/volunteer work: I enjoy reading and traveling with my family. Kentucky history and working on my family farm are primary interests. I have previously served on the board of the Paris-Bourbon County Hospital, Historic Paris-Bourbon County Inc., and the Hopewell Museum.

What are you reading or watching right now: I recently finished re-reading “To Kill A Mockingbird” and am starting “Go Set a Watchman.” I watch lots of KET shows, from “Downton Abbey” to “Antiques Roadshow” and all of its political and current events programs.

What scares you the most and how you overcome it: With only a few changes in our commonwealth, instead of moving forward like we have been for the last few years, Kentucky could move backwards. I want to make Kentucky a place where everybody has the opportunity to succeed academically, economically and personally. I stay involved locally and statewide politically to help make it a place where our children are confident they can live safely and happily, where they want to stay and raise a family, and prosper if they are willing to work hard and play by the rules.

Your advice to younger women in business: Be confident, be fearless.

Lisa Cooper
Lisa Cooper

Lisa S. Cooper

Title/Company: Executive Director, Northern Kentucky Area Development District

How long at company/position: I have been with NKADD for 19 years, and am beginning my fourth year as executive director.

Previous jobs/positions: Associate director for public administration/community development at NKADD; business manager at The Counseling Source Inc.

Education: Master of Public Administration, Northern Kentucky University; Bachelor of Business Administration, University of Kentucky.

Person(s) who most influenced or mentored you: Many local government officials, community leaders, board members, family members and colleagues have taught me valuable lessons in my career and in life. Their work ethic and dedication to public service and community have been such a positive influence on me and my professional development.

What inspires/drives you: The three most important women in my life.
My talented, eager and intelligent daughters Sydney and Emma motivate me to work hard, make a difference, have fun and live in the moment. My mother has always been a supportive rock and encourages me to smile
and make the best of whatever life
has in store.

When and how do your mornings start: No one day is like the other, but beginning the morning with my incredible and supportive family gets me off to a good start.

What does goal-setting look like for you: I like to step back and look at the long game – determine the ultimate goal and what steps, challenges and opportunities need to be taken or overcome to succeed.

What you “wanted to be when you grew up,” as a child: I wanted to be an attorney or an actress. On any given day I may get the chance to dabble in one or both.

Hobby/interests/volunteer work: I enjoy hiking, reading, travel and attending my daughters’ plays, concerts and sporting events. In addition to various professional boards, I serve on fundraising and planning committees in our local school system and church.

What are you reading or watching right now: “Go Set a Watchman” by Harper Lee

What scares you the most and how you overcome it: I am an admitted control freak, so not having a plan of action makes me uneasy. I try to overcome this by surrounding myself with trustworthy, capable people who provide balance in my sometimes crazy and hectic life.

Your advice to younger women in business: Don’t be afraid. Don’t be afraid to be yourself, take chances, fall, be loud, forge a new path, or be the only woman in the room. Life is an adventure – have an adventurous spirit.

What you are the most proud of in life: I am proud of my family, our sense of community and the life we have built. I am proud of the meaningful work I get to do with NKADD. Our organization, board, staff and the whole Area Development District network around the state work together, behind the scenes in most instances, to improve the lives of commonwealth residents. Public service is challenging and rewarding at the same time.

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