Meet the 2020 Class of Emerging Leaders

The purpose of the Emerging Leaders Program is to focus on advancing association professionals under the age of 35 within their careers.

By The FORUM Magazine Editors

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The program highlights influential and powerful techniques that teach young professionals how to take the next steps to success using conventional and nonconventional methods, creating a quality, exclusive cohort learning together over the course of six months.

The program started at Forum Forward, and the Emerging Leaders attended monthly educational events. They also read a book on leadership throughout the six-month program concluding with a book report presentation to an executive panel. Each Emerging Leader was matched with an association executive mentor. The program concluded at Holiday Showcase. Below, we asked each Emerging Leader a series of questions to find out what they took away from their experience in the program.

  1. What was your biggest takeaway from the Emerging Leaders program?
  2. How do you plan to apply what you learned to your career?
  3. What drew you to the association industry?
  4. Who has inspired you in your career?
  5. Any advice for other young professionals?

Dan Beavers

Dan Beavers, Member Programs Coordinator, Selected Independent Funeral Homes

Takeaway: If you want to be in a certain role or at a certain professional level someday, you need to embody that kind of attitude and start seeking out and solving those kinds of problems now. You can’t sit back and wait for somebody to force a promotion on you. You need to actively go after those opportunities.

Application: I’ve been trying to ask myself “bigger” questions that move me forward even if that may feel scary or I don’t have the answer right away. I’m trying to focus on ideas and actions that force me out of my daily routine and into planning to build my skills and advance myself.

Attraction: I happened to get my first association job as a temp in the Member Service Center at the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Most of my career has been in customer service, so it was a great fit. I enjoyed the call center and helping members solve their problems. That also happens to be where I met my wife, and she still works there. Today, I work for Selected Independent Funeral Homes and I love the passion that association professionals have for helping people. I’ve never been a salesman, but I’ve always cared about taking care of people and doing right by them. That’s essentially the entire mission of the association world—our job is to make their jobs easier.

Inspiration: There have been a lot of inspirations but maybe my weirdest inspiration is Mike Holmes. He had a reality show in Canada where he would go around fixing botched construction projects. He was obsessed with quality and he would always tell the people he helped, “Don’t worry, we’re going to make it right.” And he would. People would have a ruined home and he’d make everything perfect for them. I have his picture on my wall with a note I wrote myself that says, “When in doubt, make it right.”

Advice: Ask more questions and work for people who are willing to answer them. Often, young people have a fear of being caught not knowing something, so they don’t ask. Ask the question. If you’re interested in an aspect of the business that isn’t necessarily on your to-do list, ask if you can learn more about it or be a part of it.

On a Sunday morning you can find me … doing consultations for my dog behaviorist business. I teach people how to understand their dogs’ behavior, how to earn a dog’s respect and how to establish healthy routines and boundaries that give them a more fulfilling bond with their dogs. If I’m not with a four-legged client, I’m at home drinking coffee and spending time with my wife, our three daughters and two Labradors.

Brittney Conway

Brittney Conway, Grant Development Manager, American Society of Anesthesiologists

Takeaway: That developing your personal brand early helps your colleagues in the industry understand who you are and sets the stage for moving forward in your career.

Application: I plan to be more intentional in establishing both my personal brand and my career goals. I already have a strong set of goals and writing them down will help me visualize where I want my career to progress in the future.

Attraction: I’ve always been very active in volunteer organizations and I enjoy working toward a common goal to improve the communities around me. It wasn’t until a few years ago that I realized I could actually work for an association and help its members with their mission.

Inspiration: I’ve been lucky that I’ve always had very supportive managers throughout my career. The two who have inspired me the most are Debbie Greif and Colleen Broomhead. Both are extremely smart, driven women with a strong work ethic who have excelled in their careers while juggling family and other obligations. I respect them both and they’ve provided a lot of good advice over the years.

Advice: Try to be the most helpful person in the organization. One of my least favorite things to hear people say at work is, “That’s not my job.” By being open to doing things outside of your job description, you not only gain the trust and respect of your colleagues, but you expose yourself to more opportunities and areas of the organization.

The last thing I watched on TV was … “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia”

Maria Dickman

Maria Dickman, Communications Manager, Chicago Association of REALTORS

Takeaway: The importance of building your personal brand and identifying the stepping stones to your career path. Emerging Leaders helped introduce me to other ambitious association professionals, grow my network and connect with mentors and role models who are highly successful in the industry.

Application: I’m being more intentional in my extracurricular involvement. I’ve joined an Association Forum committee to continue building connections in the industry, and I’m seeking out more involved professional development opportunities, as well.

Attraction: I stumbled into the association world by accident—CAR needed a writer and I had just quit my job in sales. I had no idea what an association was, but I’ve been slowly learning about the association world and all the good we do for so many industries and careers.

Inspiration: Polina Osherov, a photographer and entrepreneur I worked with in Indianapolis. She’s talented, runs several businesses and is an incredible friend, wife and mom. I’ve learned so much from her over the years about working hard, caring deeply about your work and having a community impact, but also maintaining balance.

Advice: Say yes—to happy hours, meetings, classes, lunches, programs, etc. It can be so easy to fall back on “I’m too busy” and get bogged down in the work. But say yes, and make those commitments. That’s where you’ll build relationships and gain enormous perspective.

My life’s theme song would be … “American Girl,” by Tom Petty

Kim Ellison

Kim Ellison, MNM, CAE, Governance Specialist, American Society of Anesthesiologists

Takeaway: Everyone has a very different path to becoming a leader.

Application: I already have! The lesson of focusing on the bigger goal to get past some smaller battles has really helped guide my day-to-day approach.

Attraction: What drew me (and keeps) me in associations is seeing the great impact of volunteerism. Inspiration: Kate Dockins, CAE, who encouraged me from day one to get involved with Association Forum.

Advice: Identify your unique set of skills and be proud of them. At the start of my career, I downplayed these because I thought anyone could do them, but with experience, I have found that is actually not the case. Now, I am proud of them and find ways to use them.

The last thing I watched on TV was … “Hot Ones” (a YouTube interview show where they eat increasingly spicy hot wings)

Kathleen Fultz

Kathleen Fultz, Global Regulatory and Government Affairs Manager, Water Quality Association

Takeaway: Joining a cohort and the larger association community through the Association Forum and Emerging Leaders Program has expanded my personal and professional growth. For me, it reaffirmed the value in exchanging knowledge, experience and advice with peers to further the association industry.

Application: I have started to seek opportunities to become further involved in the association community and have started participating with advisory councils, SIGs and think tanks. These experiences build upon what I have learned in the program and present the chance for reflection, discussions of experiences and insight that can expand my leadership and communication skills.

Attraction: I began my career by interning in the association industry, which gave me an opportunity to engage with multiple departments. I quickly saw how associations can empower an entire industry to strive further together. During the Flint, Michigan, water crisis, I volunteered with other association members to provide valuable consumer education to residents, predominantly seniors, in a proactive effort against scams. The power of an association to be a resource during a time of crisis solidified my passion for associations.

Advice: If a call for volunteers reaches your inbox, do not be dissuaded from participating because of perceived experience. We all have different perspectives and life experiences to draw on and enrich the conversation.

On a Sunday morning you can find me… outside, rain or shine, enjoying a run. However, I draw the line at snow.

Jamie Garcia

Jamie Garcia, CMP, Meeting Manager, Emergency Nurses Association

Takeaway: During this program, I have been able to reflect on my goals and where I want to be in the future. The industry leaders we met with have been very open and insightful in their discussions. These conversations have helped me reexamine my goals and redefine exactly what I want to achieve.

Application: In looking at my own trajectory and absorbing the successes as well as the struggles of other leaders, I feel encouraged and motivated to not accept the status quo and challenge perceptions. The program cohort has been extremely supportive and I’m excited to have more industry colleagues in my network.

Attraction: During this time where technology can cause isolation, I believe it’s important to bring people together to make connections and learn from each other. I love the creativity of the meetings industry and I’m proud to support organizations that do good in the world.

Inspiration: There are so many people who have inspired me and continue to inspire me. I’m particularly encouraged by women who are leaders in the industry.

Advice: Work hard to prove yourself and add value to your organization, however don’t assume that your work will speak for you. Speak up!

In 2020, I’d like to … teach my twin girls how to Irish dance.

Michael Golak

Michael Golak, Accountant, Bostrom

Takeaway: My biggest takeaway was being able to share ideas and thoughts with my mentor on nearly a daily basis.

Application: I plan to apply my new leadership techniques and strategies throughout my career by focusing on building and maintaining strong teams.

Attraction: It was totally random: I was focusing on jobs in the accounting field and quickly fell into the association industry.

Inspiration: My parents—they are extremely hard-working individuals.

Advice: You will be surprised where hard work and determination can get you. Keep pushing forward and continually keep learning.

On a Sunday morning you can find me … playing in a competitive basketball league.

Amanda Hortsman

Amanda Hortsman, Esq., Specialist, Legal Affairs, Society of Critical Care Medicine

Takeaway: That being a leader doesn’t mean you know everything right away. As a leader, you should always be open to learning new things and skills.

Application: I plan to take what I learned and grow, both personally and professionally, to ultimately lead an association of my own someday in the near future.

Attraction: Initially, I lucked into the association world by finding a job right out of law school. However, I choose to stay within the association world as I find the work meaningful and the members amazing.

Inspiration: The people who have inspired me are my parents. I wouldn’t be where I am today without their guidance, support and little nudges along the way.

Advice: Get to know association professionals whose roles differ from your own. You’d be surprised on how much you can learn from their perspectives.

The last thing I watched on TV was … “Jack Ryan,” Season 2

Tim Mucha

Tim Mucha, Communications & PR Specialist, Emergency Nurses Association

Takeaway: That there are various ways you can contribute to your association. It’s okay to jump in on projects that you don’t have experience with. You will bring new ideas to the table that others may not have thought of while gaining experience. Projects shouldn’t be completed in silos, so get involved in any projects that interest you.

Application: I plan to volunteer to join and lead more initiatives and projects during my career. When I hear of something that interests me, I’m going to see how I can contribute from a communications perspective.

Attraction: I like that the goal is to provide the best work possible for a group of members instead of just selling a product and moving on.

Inspiration: I had a really great social media professor during my undergraduate program. She had a strong grasp on social media and helped me find my passion for digital communications. Her course taught me many tactics and strategy efforts, and any time we had a chance to receive feedback, she helped me better understand areas for improvement as well as develop my strengths.

Advice: My advice would be to find mentors throughout your career. There are many people within your association who would be willing to help you grow, learn and improve while also learning from you. The exchange of information will be mutually beneficial and you’ll have a great new relationship. The Emerging Leaders Program has partnered us with mentors in the association industry and it has been one of my favorite aspects of the program so far.

On a Sunday morning you can find me … doing one of three things: spending time with my wife and two daughters, running or golfing.

Gina Orlandi

Gina Orlandi, Marketing Project Manager, CCIM Institute

Takeaway: What it means to not only be a manger, but also a coach for my colleagues and direct reports.

Application: By continually working on my professional development. I want to ensure that I enlist new ideas and best practices and pass that innovative spirit onto my team.

Attraction: The opportunity to help professionals grow in both their careers and passions.

Inspiration: My colleagues and family.

Advice: Surround yourself with people you admire both in work and life.

On a Sunday morning you can find me … on my couch, wrapped in a comfy blanket.

Angelica Pollard

Angelica Pollard, Corporate Relations Coordinator, American Society of Anesthesiologists

Takeaway: Developing professional relationships with other peer leaders and industry executives has been invaluable.

Application: I plan to use the various techniques I learned in my everyday work responsibilities and to also use these techniques to improve current processes.

Attraction: My mom, Helen Pollard, has worked in the association industry for more than 30 years. She has inspired me because I have seen how she has managed to build a successful career that she truly enjoys.

Inspiration: Chris Wehking, chief program officer for the American Society of Anesthesiologists. I was his assistant for a few years and I learned a lot from him and he always pushed me and believed in me to pursue my professional goals.

Advice: Take time to focus on your professional development and keep track of your progress.

I never leave home without my … Kindle because I love to read whenever I have some downtime.

Erik Rancatore

Erik Rancatore, Association Marketing Manager, National Marine Manufacturers Association

Takeaway: It was incredibly encouraging to see so many leaders within the association space willing to give their time, energy and learnings throughout this process.

Application: We all preach the less-is-more ethos, but putting that into action is something that I plan on applying throughout my career. This program has reinforced that it isn’t about the list of accomplishments you can tackle throughout the week, rather, focusing on the quality of what you produce that will have the most meaning.

Attraction: I honestly fell into it accidentally. When I was looking for a new career opportunity, I applied for an opening with an association and learned that the industry gave me an opportunity to expand on my interests in ways that I would have never previously imagined.

Inspiration: I am fortunate that someone who inspired me early on continues to serve as a mentor and colleague today. Ellen Bradley, chief communications officer at the National Marine Manufacturers Association, was my supervisor while I was an intern, and I was lucky to join her team again at this stage in my career. During that internship, I not only learned valuable lessons in thinking about the long-term goals, but also was constantly inspired by her ability to bring in a fresh and strategic perspective to every conversation and project.

Advice: Take every chance to explore your curiosities. You never know when something that starts out as a side project could turn into a new career path.

My hidden talent is … I’m becoming a passable ukulele player, but just don’t ask me to play on the spot.

Monae Redmond

Monae Redmond, MBA, Manager of Member Care, Chicago Association of REALTORS

Takeaway: I took away so much knowledge and guidance from my mentor. My favorite session so far took place at the American Bar Association. Such an eye-opening experience to interact with such high-level executives.

Application: I plan to elevate my personal brand and executive presence, effectively manage conflict and successfully navigate crucial conversations. I also plan to become more involved with Association Forum through volunteer opportunities.

Attraction: I love the idea of giving back, providing services to help others achieve success and advocating on behalf of others for the greater good.

Inspiration: My inspiration comes from helping others, whether it’s a member, colleague, student, etc. If I am able to help a few people each day, I am fulfilled. I have three individuals who have inspired me the most in my career: Ginger Downs, previous CEO of my company. She showed me how well-respected a woman can be in this industry. She worked in every single role within the association world, from the front desk to the C-suite. Amanda Withrow, VP of Professional Standards and Membership. Watching her push through grad school and law school with three children at home inspired me to finish my MBA and always strive for more. Lastly, Michelle Mills Clement, current CEO of CAR. She has inspired me in so many ways. In short, I know for a fact I can do anything I set my mind to, all because of her.

Advice: Never stop growing professionally, personally and spiritually. It is easy to get sidetracked and fall into the routine of going to work every day, but you have to set goals for yourself. Write them down, create a vision board and hold yourself accountable. Do not let a year go by without being able to look back and be proud of something that you’ve accomplished.

On a Sunday morning you can find me … spending time with my son and fiancé, and couponing.

Dianna Reeves

Dianna Reeves, Office Manager, CFA, Society of Chicago

Takeaway: I enjoyed connecting with my cohort, a like-minded group of association professionals. I hope to maintain relationships with them after the close of the program to continue to have inspiring conversations that can be useful in our individual work.

Application: We’re all trying to do what’s best for our associations. I learned that most of us run into similar challenges with association work—whether it be member retention or transitioning to more modern technology. Recognizing and sharing our success stories allows growth and sparks new ideas.

Attraction: I did not purposefully seek out a role within an association. This is my first position with an association.

Inspiration: All of the 2019 Emerging Leaders and those who worked to support us during our journey and organize such an interactive program.

Advice: Continue to look for ways to grow through educational and professional development opportunities and connect with others in your industry.

On a Sunday morning you can find me … drafting recipes, cooking and baking.

Julie Rossberger

Julie Rossberger, Education Specialist, Emergency Nurses Association

Takeaway: The importance of finding my voice.

Application: I am challenging myself to speak up and voice my thoughts and ideas.

Attraction: I sort of fell into my career with associations, but after six years I can’t imagine working in any other industry. I really enjoy association work because every employee’s work contributes to the mission and culture of the organization.

Inspiration: I am inspired by the managers and directors I have worked for throughout my career. All are women and many are under the age of 40. Their success and accomplishments motivate me to advance my career.

Advice: You create your own luck by saying ‘yes’ to opportunities and projects that come your way.

My hidden talent is … I am a registered yoga teacher.

LaShay Sydnor

LaShay Sydnor, Solution Center Coordinator, CCIM Institute

Takeaway: Be true to your personal brand through the work that you do.

Application: I plan to continue to learn and grow beyond my comfort zone, which will allow me the opportunity to move into the next level of my career.

Attraction: I enjoy helping others. With my organization, we assist professionals in taking their career to the next level.

Inspiration: Shonda Rhimes and Ava DuVernay.

Advice: Figure out where you eventually want to be in your career, and make a plan to get there.

On a Sunday morning you can find me … doing yoga.

Christine Young

Christine Young, Director of Professional Development, Hematology Oncology Pharmacy Association

Takeaway: The concept of branding yourself. I thought it was interesting to use different social media platforms to brand who you are as a professional.

Application: To continue to enhance the way adult education is planned, delivered and executed.

Attraction: Planning meetings for healthcare professionals. I loved the idea of planning an educational event that could make a small impact on the patient.

Inspiration: My parents—they are extremely supportive and have always encouraged me in my career path. They taught me to never give up!

Advice: Network and find a mentor who can guide you to pursue your career goals.

Brent Novosel, Communications Associate, National Board of Certification & Recertification for Nurse Anesthetists

Could not be reached for a response.

Emerging Leaders

About the Author

Written by the FORUM Magazine Editors.

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