I’ve been a member and volunteer with HBA Chicago since 2013 and as my current vice president board term comes to an end, I can’t help but be a bit nostalgic. I remember that very first call with Lydia Rohn, relentlessly recruiting me to volunteer with the Chicago chapter, promising that the experience would offer brilliant development opportunities outside of work. Man, was she right.
My first volunteer experiences were on the mentoring committee. I was a program designer with the committee and it forced me to leverage my strengths from my early career instructional design experiences. On the days that I was stretched at work with a new job due to a promotion and feeling consciously incompetent, the experiences with the mentoring committee felt like home – continually reminding me that I was most certainly good at something and I just needed to hang in there through the learning curve at work. The beautiful women on the committee where natural mentors, always building me back up when I felt completely stripped bare – always reminding of my natural strengths and convincing me that I could give so much more.
A few years after leading the program design work for the mentoring committee, I was asked to assume the director-at-large role for the committee. The director-at-large role truly forced me to explore my leadership strengths. I had an immediate task at hand to re-staff the team with volunteers, selecting talent to fill critical vacant roles and recruiting and developing my successor. The team came together fast and furious, taking the program to new levels and for the first time, documenting all of the program processes and procedures. When I left the director-at-large role in the very capable hands of Ashley Samoila, I left proud and full of leadership experiences to apply and share.
These past few years, I’ve had the privilege of partnering with the board and especially Melanie Neal, Anne Allison and Katie Chavanu. Katie’s stellar organization skills and tenacity, Melanie’s balance of patience and logic and Anne’s ever accepting spirit have been leadership lessons for me in and of themselves. I’ve had the opportunity to sit alongside these strong and impressive women and learn from watching and listening to them – there has been a lesson to keep in every interaction and experience.
The truth is, throughout all of my volunteer experiences, I found my leadership voice through experiential learning and watching and engaging with some pretty amazing female leaders. They all taught me what it means to be in service of something – something greater than ourselves. And although my volunteer experience and term with this beautiful board is coming to an end, I leave proud to have engaged – proud to have given and to have received. One of my favorite HBA messages came from past president, Donna Kopera – it was a message about the importance of bringing an elevator down to bring other woman along with us. I can’t tell you the number of times someone from the HBA has opened that elevator door for me through my volunteer experiences – always with outstretched arms and a huge smile while they welcomed me aboard. It’s with these fond memories that I leave you along with an encouragement to volunteer…the elevator is always open and waiting for you.