President and CEO, Valley of the Sun United Way
Describe your very first job and what lessons you learned from it.
As a young adult in high school and my early college years, I worked at Greystone Park Psychiatric Hospital in my hometown state of New Jersey. I consider my time at Greystone to be one of those pivotal life-shaping experiences. As an orderly and camp counselor, I worked serving the needs of mentally ill adults and children from all walks of life. Here I learned the power of empathy, patience and the true meaning of human potential. These virtues continue to shape my life and career daily.
Describe your first job in your industry and what you learned from it?
Upon graduating from Penn State University, I began my finance and accounting career at Arthur Andersen. Throughout my tenure at the firm, I sharpened my skills in business management and developed a business approach to accounting. I continue to utilize the financial management, operations and strong business ethics I learned early in my career at Arthur Andersen. I am genuinely grateful that my first industry job led me to a strong relationship with United Way. During my career at the firm, I served as a United Way loaned executive. As such, I worked alongside United Way staff helping to increase the understanding human service needs, and encouraged donations to the annual fundraising campaign. This journey has come full circle for me, as loaned executives are tremendous support to Valley of the Sun United Way.
What were your salaries at both of these jobs?
I made minimum wage at Greystone Park (around $3.25 an hour) and earned about $10,300 a year at Arthur Andersen.
Who is your biggest mentor and what role did they play?
My career and professional mentorship hit its pinnacle as Valley of the Sun United Way’s president. I am fortunate to have the counsel of leaders that span diverse industries, leadership levels and areas of expertise. As a leadership group, I look to corporate CEOs, nonprofit leaders, community philanthropists and many others for advice on pressing issues in the areas of education, income and health to guide Valley of the Sun United Way’s work. Equally important is the community’s voice to ensure pressing human care needs continue to be met. This wide-range community perspective is powerful and reflects a desire from all to create opportunities for a better tomorrow.
I continue to be inspired by my professional and community mentors and will work vigorously to improve the quality of life in our community for individuals, families and children.
What advice would you give to a person just entering your industry?
The nonprofit sector continues to innovate and transform to meet community needs. I would encourage individuals entering the field to consider that changing community conditions takes time, tenacity, innovation and a degree of risk. I’ve seen an increasing number of nonprofits moving toward the integration of business models and social change theories. All of this represents a great opportunity for individuals, organizations and the communities served by nonprofits.
With this in mind, find an organization that fits your passion and has bold community goals. Surround yourself with innovative thinkers and agents of change. Reach for the opportunity that maximizes results for you and the organization. Remember that long-term change will not be achieved overnight — look for an opportunity with longevity.
If you weren’t doing this, what would you be doing instead?
I can honestly say that I cannot imagine doing something else. We often seek to find that job we can be so passionate about that it does not seem like “work” or a “job.” I am very lucky to be living that today. It’s so rewarding to work with business, nonprofit, faith-based, government, academia and so many other sectors to strengthen the quality of life in our community each and every day. I’ve met so many inspiring individuals whose lives have been touched by Valley of the Sun United Way and our many partners. I am humbled to be serving our community and will continue to do so proudly.