By Tamara Prazak

Being a newer member of Cloud Girls, I was both excited and nervous to attend my first annual retreat. While I was thrilled to spend a weekend with the amazing, accomplished women in the organization, I was a little hesitant not knowing many members. I had to remind myself that true growth comes at the end of your comfort zone. With a leap of faith, I booked my flight asking myself, “How can you say no to a weekend that is focused on recharging and renewing, while being in the great company and community of career-oriented women?”

I felt a deep sense of community from the moment I arrived — meeting up with other new members at the airport and spending the day with old friends and new. The entire weekend was spent in a nurturing environment where talented, successful women were graciously sharing their insights, experiences and knowledge. Plus, did I mention that there were loads of laughter (the deep belly laughter that brings tremendous joy) and cocktails? By day two, I found myself asking when next year’s retreat is scheduled so I can make sure to block off my calendar!

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The retreat included a membership meeting during which the Executive Board Members reviewed the goals and strategies of the group and shared insights about the direction of the organization, while we ate brunch and sipped mimosas. I participated in not one, but two meditation sessions led by our enlightened spiritual guru and fellow Cloud Girl Lorraine Bassett, Global GSI Lead at Amazon Web Services. This was followed by a wine tasting and workshop on how to successfully select wine at a business dinner led by member Kedra Simm, who is studying to be a sommelier in addition to her day job as director of Channel Program Strategy at Riverbed. The weekend also included an executive panel moderated by Laura Romero, director of solutions partners at Plex Systems, and featuring Lorraine Bassett; Pam Casale, managing partner for ASAP Marketing; and Rajashree Varma, CEO of Arth Systems. These amazing tech veterans shared their insights on career growth and life balance. Plus, we enjoyed amazing food, a scenic hike and lots of bonding and laughter in the backdrop of a beautiful home in Lake Tahoe.

There’s a Chinese proverb that says, “Tension is who you think you should be, relaxation is who you are,” which is symbolic of how I felt throughout the weekend — relaxed within the safe haven of nurturing, accomplished, like-minded women. I felt a strong sense of kinship with everyone I met and felt relaxed that I could be myself, ask any question that came to mind and contribute to and learn from this tremendous community. As promised, it was a powerful weekend of renewal and recharging. The hardest part now is waiting for next year’s retreat!

Tamara Prazak is director of channel strategy and marketing for ViaWest. She also is the Communications Work Group Co-chair for Social Media.

Editor: Amy Kramer, senior account executive at Anexio, and Communications Work Group Member

Photos: Communications Work Group Members Tamara Prazak; Rajashree Varma, CEO at Arth Systems; Khali Henderson, senior partner at BuzzTheory Strategies; and Laura Romero, director of solutions partners at Plex Systems.