By Marcia Heroux Pounds
Despite objections from parents who meant well and negativity from friends, three South Florida women found their own paths to successful careers by embracing risk.
They shared their stories at the first Office Depot Foundation Women’s Symposium on Tuesday. About 300 people gathered at Office Depot’s headquarters in Boca Raton to talk about innovation, collaboration and other keys to success for women in business and life.
Palm Beach County wine shop owner Virginia Philip overcame a male-dominated industry to become a Master Sommelier, one of only 11 women in the world to earn the accreditation. She has since won the title of “Best Sommelier in the United States” from the American Sommelier Association.
She initially learned about wine by working in an Aspen wine shop and then enrolled in a hotel-management program, much to her parents’ chagrin.
Philip was the first woman sommelier for The Breakers Palm Beach hotel. But when she started, some customers would request a male sommelier. She tried not to feel hurt.
In 2011, she ignored naysayers and took a financial risk by opening the Virginia Philip Wine Shop and Academy in West Palm Beach, which she designed to help people learn about wine “without all the hoopla.”
“Everyone kept asking, ‘Why are you doing this? You’re at the top of your career.’ I said, ‘If I don’t do this, I’ll always regret it’,” she said.
Victoria Rixon, managing director for J.P. Morgan Private Bank in Palm Beach, Fort Lauderdale, Vero Beach and Jacksonville, said it initially took her time to find her passion and path in life.
After college, she took a job in banking against her mother’s advice, who had worked in the industry.
“I had the courage to say, ‘this is what I want to do,’ ” said Rixon, who later worked for Bank of America for 17 years.