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Bonfire: Fueling Women’s Careers

December 13, 2022

Anne Brocchini is the women’s leadership strategy and innovations lead at ZS, a management consulting and technology firm focused on transforming global healthcare and beyond. She began her Bonfire experience in the summer of 2021; by the end of Bonfire, Anne assumed her current role, which expanded her scope of work. Four months later, she was named one of Healthcare Businesswomen’s Association’s 2022 Rising Stars. Brocchini lives in Davis, California.

This conversation has been lightly edited for length and clarity.

Q: Tell us a little bit about who you are. What does your life look like beyond work?

A: I have always created my professional goals based on what I’m interested in learning. In 2016, I made a deliberate shift in focus, aligning new projects I took on with what I loved to do outside of work, so that the reading I do for pleasure and for work are one and the same.

In fact, I usually have 10 books that I’m reading simultaneously. Right now on my bedside table, I have a mountain of books – like “Inclusion on Purpose,” “How Women Rise” and “Athena Rising.” If I were still living in an earthquake zone, I would be worried that I might get crushed because this pile is precarious.

I have two teenage children and as a recovering anxious achiever, I am finding a newfound calm and focus. For fun, I love anything outdoors, especially involving water, whether it’s whitewater rafting, kayaking, sailing, paddleboarding or even inner tubing. I started my career as a science teacher, whitewater raft guide and ropes course leader. Then I went back to school and got a master’s degree in public health and an MBA from the University of California, Berkeley. While I used to have a career, I’m now moving into my calling.


Q: You’ve been working with ZS for 17 years. What has your career been like at the company?

A: From 2002, when I started as an intern, to 2010, I worked directly with clients in healthcare, biotech and pharmaceuticals. I left ZS in 2010 to focus on my kids and heal from an injury but returned in 2013. I was asked to come back to lead research about emerging trends in global pharmaceuticals.

In 2016, I joined the Women@ZS team, which I now help lead on a global scale. In my current role, I think deeply about the needs of women at ZS, who currently make up 35% of our workforce. I’m also thinking about organizational transformation. How do I help move senior leadership’s thinking forward? How do I build commitment for people to create an amazing workplace for women by noticing hidden barriers and dismantling those barriers? Those questions guide my work.


Q: How were you introduced to Bonfire? How did your experience impact you? Are there any anecdotes that stick with you?

A: As part of the ZS team initially considering Bonfire, I had the privilege to track the experience of our initial cohort of three women. Early on, it was clear that Bonfire provided tremendous value and that we needed to extend this to a bigger group of women. I joined that group, in part to assess whether we could bring any Bonfire concepts broadly to more women at ZS.

Co-founders Suzanne Muchin and Rachel Bellow have designed Bonfire to be a unique experience for the whole person. It is so different from other programs. Throughout the program, Bonfire descends into who you are, what matters to you, even in introductions. Instead of saying, “I’m the strategy and innovations lead for women at ZS,” I learned to talk about my essential self, inside and outside of work, in a way that makes people interested in connecting.

Bonfire now permeates through everything I do. When Suzanne and Rachel talk about why they created Bonfire, they say the future of work is human, and we can get there through women’s leadership. That notion now underpins the work I do at ZS.

Another idea Bonfire shares all the time is, “What is a conversation that you would like to have all day long? And how do you create situations to have those conversations?” That’s something I’m always thinking about and working toward.

Early in the Bonfire program, management expert Dr. Nicholas Pearce, clinical professor of management and organizations at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management, and author of The Purpose Path: A Guide to Pursuing Your Authentic Life’s Work, comes in to talk with participants. He asks, “What is success?” To that question, I added “for you.”

I use this question in so many of my coaching calls with women at ZS: “What is success for you? What does it look like?”


Q: Was there anything that surprised you during your Bonfire experience?

A: I was expecting that I could get value out of the program, but I was not expecting that more than a year later, I would still be in touch with my Bonfire cohort. We’ve been meeting almost monthly since we first met in June 2021.

We’ve celebrated successes with each other. We continue to provide advice and counsel to each other. We celebrate the ways in which we’ve all become bolder.

Bonfire is more than a program you experience once. It’s a movement. There’s a groundswell, and you can feel the energy and courage that comes from being a Bonfire woman.

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