What is something you learned or some advice you were given at the start of your career that has influenced you?

“The old adage that most things are ten percent inspiration and ninety percent perspiration—that if you really want to accomplish things, you have to look at what motivates you and excites you to be able to work hard and to deliver on what you’re hoping to accomplish. People early in my career helped me realize that it takes a lot of effort to do things that will produce the kind of outcomes you’re hoping for.”

 What do you do to relax after all you do for your company and community?

“I like to play tennis, read biographies and historical fiction, go out to dinner, kind of chill. I think that’s important.”

Sue Kirsch. Photo by Tracy Certo

Sue Kirsch. Photo by Tracy Certo

 Susan Kirsch, shareholder-tax advisory services, Schneider Downs

Susan has built a reputation not only for mentoring other women both within and outside her firm, but also for mentoring local non-profits. She serves on several non-profit boards and shares her financial acumen to keep local organizations focused on their missions.

What career advice would you give to a young woman just starting out today?

“A career is a marathon and not a sprint. I think sometimes that folks tend to believe that they have to accomplish everything yesterday. Your career is really a growth experience and you grow and change over time, and find yourself in new learning environments.”

What do you wish you knew then that you know now?

“I think as you age that you become far more comfortable and far more confident in your contribution. I wish I had recognized that I didn’t have to know everything right at the start and I didn’t have to take it all so very seriously. I think it’s very important that you’re networking externally as well as internally—really building that network. I tended to be one-dimensional and there wasn’t the right balance—if I’m being completely honest—in my approach to networking in the beginning.”

How can every woman help promote others in the workforce?

“I’ve often said that if you lead with an open heart and an open hand, you can lead other women in the workplace. Collectively we’re stronger and far more powerful than we are individually. Sometimes I think we all get caught up in needing a program and a rulebook to engage in mentoring activities, when it’s really about connections and helping others make connections.”

What is something you learned or some advice you were given at the start of your career that has influenced you?

“That I didn’t have to abandon my goal of achieving the balance that would make me happy and fulfilled in having a successful personal and professional life.”

What do you do to relax after all you do for your company and community?

“I exercise—spinning, hiking, biking, skiing. I run when I have to. Exercise has been a very important part of my life as I’ve matured. It has been wonderful for me. 7 Springs and Big Sky Montana are my favorite skiing spots, and the Laurel Highlands biking trail is spectacular. This city has so much to offer!”

Karen Larrimer. Photo by Tracy Certo.

Karen Larrimer. Photo by Tracy Certo.

Karen Larrimer, chief customer officer and chief marketing officer, PNC

Karen has held many different positions in the nearly 20 years she’s been at PNC but perhaps the most important ones aren’t part of her current job description. She’s one of three women on PNC’s 13-member executive committee, and she focuses on mentoring working mothers and other young bankers.

What career advice would you give to a young woman just starting out today?

“People need to stay open to being out of their comfort zone. Pushing myself outside my comfort zone and staying there as long as I could improved not only the depth but also the breadth of what I was learning. You need to believe in yourself. I really emphasize to women, especially those starting out, that you need to build your confidence. If you don’t believe in yourself, people won’t believe in you.”

What do you wish you knew then that you know now?

“I wish I would have known that the first job I had taken in banking would lead to a 30-year career in banking. I tell young people to watch that first job you take when you get out of school. If you’re just taking it as a job and not really thinking ahead, sometimes you look back and think, ‘How did I end up doing this for 30 years?’ Sometimes that first opportunity puts you on a track.”