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Liz Ryan used to hate schmoozing. Now she's making a career of helping professional women

Veteran info-tech executive Liz Ryan never did like professional networking events. During her nine years with modemmaker U.S. Robotics, outside Chicago, industry cocktail parties, at which people seemed intent on bragging their way up the corporate food chain, made her queasy. "I once read that the secret to networking was to enter a crowded room with 50 business cards and get rid of them in an hour. That made my stomach turn," says the unpretentious Ryan. "For me, it would just be wasting cards."

What a difference a few years make. The former antinetworker now has more contacts than a political...

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