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February 21, 2023

My Afternoon At Lunch With Leaders

Belle Mercurio

By: Marketing & Communications Manager, Belle Mercurio


I didn’t know what to expect going into my first event and first lunch with leaders with Engage! Cleveland! Boy, was I pleasantly surprised!

My first few weeks in this role were spent training and learning the ropes of this position and promoting Lunch with Leaders. This event was presented to me as one of the most valuable for our young professional audience, and after participating in it, I would have to agree.

The City Club of Cleveland was the perfect venue for this event, a nice balance between professional and approachable. We were able to have time before to set up in the lobby where our amazing volunteers and I were able to check guests in and direct them inside to find their seats. There was some time beforehand to eat while we had speakers give their opening remarks and welcome our guests and leaders to the event.

Once the sessions commenced, the room was a buzz with the energy of conversations and connections blossoming between our guests and leaders! I was able to hop into a conversation with John Hawkins from FirstEnergy Corporation here in Cleveland. It was so refreshing to have an honest, relatable conversation with such a high-level executive. I was under the assumption most of the conversations with these individuals would be strictly business and all professionalism.

We were given about 20 minutes with each leader before they rotated around the room. Most of the leaders I spoke with started off the conversation by telling us they wanted to have an open conversation, let’s talk like real people; again so refreshing! It also let a little bit of air out of the room and helped ease probably what was going though most of our heads about keeping this professional and making good first impressions.

I ended my afternoon with Kelly Ricker, Chief Product Officer at American Greetings. I loved how personable she was, and still at her peak energy level after talking to a room full of eager people. She spoke about her journey to American Greetings all the way from her beginning her career on Wall Street in New York City. Kelly knew this career path didn’t align with her overall goals, and quickly made the switch and went back to school. She has now been at American Greetings for over 20 years! Her story resonated with me personally about perseverance and how it is truly never too late to make a career change to align more with what you want.

I truly loved this event and look forward to our next one coming up on March 10th!


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