Celebrating Women’s History: Sharon Imperiale’s Story of Success

As we commemorate Women’s History Month, it’s essential to recognize and celebrate the remarkable achievements of women leaders who continue to inspire and empower others. In this special edition blog, we have the privilege of sitting down with Sharon Imperiale, the Owner and CEO of CCI Consulting. For over 30 years, CCI Consulting, a Certified Women’s Business Enterprise, has been recognized as a highly successful consulting firm known for its innovative approach to talent management and organizational development.

Interviewer: “Sharon, thank you for joining us today. To kick things off, could you share with our readers a bit about your journey to becoming the CEO of CCI Consulting?”

Sharon: In the year 1990 at a New Year’s Eve celebration, several friends and I wrote letters to ourselves predicting what we would be doing in the year 2000.  We sealed the letters and put them away barely remembering them as 10 years progressed. On the eve of January 1, 2000, I did not recall what I had written.  Two things gave me pause.  I predicted that I would have a baby girl which I did in 1993 and that I would quit my corporate career and work in the consulting world.  In December 1999, I began this journey.  I made the move just in time to fulfill my prediction.  But I assure you that that decision and that prediction were unrelated…I had no idea what I wrote.  What I am thankful for is that I created some sort of self-fulfilling prophecy.  It was meant to be and after many years of ups and downs, successes and mistakes, trials and errors I think we can say we made it.  What propelled that success?  Having the right people, the right plan, the right attitude, and someone up there looking out for me!

Interviewer: “Sharon, reflecting on your career trajectory, what are some of the pivotal moments or experiences that have shaped your leadership journey?”

Sharon: You need to manage your career and often that involves risk. My most pivotal moment was leaving the comfort of my corporate position and assuming the role here at CCI. It was a big risk. The company was small with a somewhat ill-defined path forward, yet I felt this sense of personal vision for what could be. At the core the work was good; assisting people to navigate their career opportunities because of job loss. When I truly looked inside my aspirations and assessed what motivated me, I identified my true passions. I loved building new lines of business, start-ups, and ventures.  Making this move checked off those boxes but challenged my confidence and comfort level.  To many that would cause angst but for some reason I found myself signing an offer and rolling up my sleeves. I never looked back.


Interviewer: “As a prominent woman leader in the consulting industry, what challenges have you faced along the way, and how have you navigated them?”

Sharon: In small business, every day, week, month, and year is a challenge, and you are truly managing at that level until you gain scale and momentum. You do not have a corporate trove of money to back you up… you are literally “eating what you kill.”  Managing a business at this micro level requires diligence and lots of patience!  Patience is not always my strength so learning to set reasonable goals and milestones so you can self-manage your tolerance level is critical. What really gets you through are the wins and successes. Happy clients, returning clients, clients telling other clients about you… that is momentum.

Interviewer: “Women’s History Month is a time to celebrate the achievements and contributions of women throughout history. Can you share some insights into how you’ve seen the landscape change for women in leadership roles over the years?”

Sharon: Sounding a bit cliché here but when I entered the workforce as an adult, there were very few women leaders and those at a “leadership” level were in a more supervisory capacity. But that was then, not now. So much is published about how many women are or are not in top positions at top companies or on boards, but I don’t measure the progress women have made that way.  Women own businesses, women run schools, women send people to the moon, women create life-saving drugs, treat patients, and adjudicate legal issues… we do it all and we are raising families while doing so… the big change for me is that we now recognize the shapes and sizes of leadership, count our accomplishments, and pat each other’s backs. Women have been leading for a long time… we now celebrate both that history and the “History in the making”.

Interviewer: “Diversity, equity, and inclusion are critical topics in today’s corporate world. How does CCI Consulting prioritize these values within its own organizational culture, and what role do you see them playing in shaping the future of leadership?”

Sharon: It starts with a commitment to the team and our clients.  We owe it to ourselves to ensure that we have the best and brightest on the team working to meet our goals.  To achieve that we need a strong diverse team able to both share and learn; we need to help each other grow in understanding the unique and diverse needs of each other and our constituents. DEI is not just a statement on a web page. A commitment to a diverse team is inherent in our practices, our policies, and our loyalty to that commitment. Culture is organizationally driven, and leaders need to nurture the respect and reverence needed to prosper in an inclusive and caring environment. 

Interviewer: “Mentorship and support networks are often cited as essential elements for career advancement, especially for women. Can you speak about the importance of mentorship in your  journey, and how do you encourage mentorship within your organization?”

Sharon: My mentor was named Vin… who better to help me navigate the world of work and the path to leadership than a great leader and champion of talent, regardless of gender, race, size, etc.; find your Vin!  A Vin is someone you trust and trusts you, has confidence in you even when yours may be waning, knows your capabilities, and expects you to live up to them.  It’s like a parent on steroids in your grown-up world.  Not all days are created equal.  When those bad ones creep in your mentor is your safe place to go vet the issue.  On the good days, your mentor is a great place to go for a secret pat on the back.  We all need those.

Interviewer: “Looking ahead, what advice would you offer to aspiring women leaders who are navigating their career paths in today’s competitive business landscape?”

Sharon: I am going to use one of those seemingly overused phrases… have confidence and be optimistic. Nothing blows up a path to success better than an “Eeyore” attitude and a posture of self-doubt.  Know where you want to go directionally but don’t be afraid to veer off course or take a twist here and there.  In no journal did I ever write that I wanted to find a small company where I could hang an entrepreneurial hat, make it grow, and learn more than one life’s amount of knowledge.  Whether luck, serendipity, or design, find your right path.

Interviewer: “Finally, as we celebrate Women’s History Month, are there any women leaders—past or present—who have particularly inspired or influenced your leadership style and approach?”

Sharon: So many… women like my grandmother and mother overcame tremendous adversity to be stellar role models for whom women should be… strong, kind, steadfast, and altruistic.  Imagine if all leaders embodied those attributes.  Women who led the way often did so behind the scenes, confident in their achievements, never needing public affirmation (e.g., the World War II code breakers or scientists on the Manhattan Project or the mathematicians who calculated our way into space). These were servant leaders offering intellect and inclusion. Imagine if all leaders embodied those attributes. Women who are confident in their purpose make history every day.

Sharon Imperiale’s journey to success serves as a testament to the resilience, determination, and vision that define women leaders who pave the way for future generations. As we continue to honor Women’s History Month, let us draw inspiration from Sharon’s insights and experiences, championing diversity, inclusion, and women empowerment in all facets of leadership and beyond.