SpotlightYouth Spotlight

The Girl Scouts is an incredible organization that turns young women into leaders. Becka Gately, one of these impressive young women, has always been involved in sports. Therefore, when it came time to choose a project for her Girl Scouts Gold Award, planning a health and fitness night in her community was a perfect fit. Becka established partnerships between the Kent School District, health organizations, and more than 40 volunteers, and she pulled off an event with more than 25 booths about nutrition, physical exercise, cardiovascular health, and more. Over 400 community members attended!

As a high school senior, Becka is involved with many extracurricular activities, including student government, National Honor Society, and DECA, a business leadership development program. She has a passion for business and helping her community, which she has had the opportunity to do through the Girl Scouts. Having been a Girl Scout since Kindergarten, Becka is no stranger to helping others and being a leader. Becka shares what she learned from the Girl Scouts, how she stayed organized when working on her project, and how she defines success. We’re so impressed with this ambitious young woman!

*The Girl Scouts Spotlight Series is an exclusive weekly Youth Spotlight on amazing young women who have earned their Gold Awards, the highest award that a Girl Scout can earn in the Girl Scout organization.

Name: Becka Gately
Education: Kentwood High School

Carpe Juvenis: How do you define “Seizing Your Youth”?

Becka Gately: I think “Seizing Your Youth” means taking every single possibility you have and taking advantage of it. Never in your life will you have the time or the freedom to join any group you want or any team you want. I think “Seizing Your Youth” means to find your passion and run with it.

CJ: What are you studying at school? What led you to those academic passions and why did you choose to study them in a formal setting?

BG: This year I am taking classes that I need to graduate, but in college I want to study business. Since joining DECA I have had an interest in business. I am also heavily involved in leadership in my school and I think both business and leadership correspond with each other. I am definitely a people person so I found that business was not only my interest, but also something that I am pretty good at.

CJ: During your senior year of high school you will serve as Vice President of DECA (a business leadership development program). How did you get involved in DECA?

BG: My brother actually encouraged me to do DECA. He participated in it his junior and senior year. He told me that I didn’t have a choice and that I had to do it because it would be something that will help me with the rest of my life.

Becka 3

CJ: How did you get involved with the Girl Scouts, and what did you love most about being a Girl Scout?

BG: I got involved in Girl Scouts when I was in kindergarten. One of my friend’s mom was starting a troop and my mother put me in it. What I love most about being a Girl Scout is the opportunity to help my community. Being a part of Girl Scouts has given me so many opportunities to not only help the community, but to also meet more people in my community.

CJ: What are the top three lessons you learned from being a Girl Scout?

BG: 1. Respect everyone. You never know where being nice and respectful might take you.
2. Giving back is better than receiving.
3. Your life is what you make it.

CJ: To earn your Gold Award in Girl Scouts, you planned a health and fitness night in your community. By forging partnerships between the Kent School District, health organizations, and more than 40 volunteers, you pulled off an event with more than 25 booths about nutrition, physical exercise, cardiovascular health, and more. The night proved to be a huge success—with more than 400 community members attending. Amazing! Why did you choose this topic for your project, and what did the process of putting it together entail?

BG: I chose this topic because I have always had a love for fitness and sports. I have played soccer since I was five-years-old and played basketball and volleyball for a couple of years. A year of playing tennis made me realize that I would rather hit a ball with my feet than with my hands. I grew up watching baseball 24/7 because my brother played and my dad coached. I was surrounded by sports and fitness all growing up so being active became natural for me.

When I started to look into what I wanted to do for my Gold Award project, it was around the time where some of my younger cousins where getting to the age of having an interest in electronics. I noticed that not only were they not playing any sports but that they would rather sit on an Ipad then go outside and play. Another thing that I realized was I didn’t have the knowledge about nutrition compared to exercise. This was one of the reasons I added the nutrition part to my event. Not only did I want to help the community learn about being active, I wanted to learn about nutrition and what I can do to be healthier.

Once I had this concept an amazing opportunity came about. My mother’s school at the time had been chosen by Molina Health Care and the Hope Heart institute to sponsor a health event at their school. After meeting with both Molina and Hope Heart, the event really started to come together! After that I just had to come up with some activities and get donations.

CJ: How did you keep your project organized as you were working on it? How did you balance your workload with school, extracurricular activities, etc.?

BG: When working on my project, I stayed organized by holding weekly meetings. I had a meeting every Friday afternoon with my advisor and my mother. I really enjoy being busy and giving my time to others, so for the majority of my extracurricular activities I spend time at school. During the school week I usually spend two hours after school being involved with Associated Student Body (ASB), DECA, National Honor Society (NHS), or leadership. Then I play soccer and have dinner. I try to have one night during the week where I can just be home. I also try not to plan things on Sundays so I can spend time with family and get homework done.

CJ: Do you have mentors? How did you go about finding them?

BG: I have two mentors. One is my DECA advisor and marketing teacher Mr. Zender. I have known him since my brother joined DECA. My other mentor is our school athletics and activities director Ms. Daughtry. I meet her when I decided to join ASB. She has really encouraged me to put myself out there and make a difference. She has also given me so many opportunities to expand my leadership skills and learn more about myself. Now I get the opportunity to work with her every day as I am the ASB president.

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CJ: To you, what does it mean to be a good leader?

BG: I think a good leader is one whose actions speak louder than their words. There’s a great quote by John Quincy Adams that says “If your actions inspire other to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.” I believe a good leader does not just tell people what to do but also shows them and inspires them to become better leaders.

CJ: How do you define success?

BG: I think success is giving 100% of what you have into something. I think everyone has different successes in their life, but you can’t compare other successes to yours. To be successful you need to believe in yourself and be happy with the effort that you are putting into your passion.   

CJ: Will you be going to college next year? How do you plan on tackling the college application process?

BG: I am planning on attending college. My plan is to start early on the application process and follow my gut.

CJ: What is a book you read in school that positively shaped you?

BG: To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee.

CJ: What are your favorite books?

BG: Divergent, The Great Gatsby, and The Art of Racing in the Rain.

CJ: What advice would you give your 15-year-old self?

BG: I would tell my 15 year-old self two things. First, join as many teams and events as possible. You never know the people you will meet and the experiences you will have. Second, that some people come and go but the ones that stay are very special.

Becka Gately Qs 

Images by Becka Gately

Professional SpotlightSpotlight

Entrepreneur, baker, author, and cupcake lover are just some of the words used to describe Trophy Cupcakes founder Jennifer Shea. Jennifer had always loved cooking and baking, but it wasn’t until she saw a cupcake shop in New York City that she realized what she wanted to do. When she went on tour with a rock band doing marketing and promotions, she used that time to also test out different candy shops and bakeries around the U.S. and Europe.

Now, Trophy Cupcakes has four locations in Washington state. Jennifer has also written a cupcake cookbook and appeared on Martha Stewart – amazing! Even with all her success, Jennifer continues to be hardworking, kind, and generous with her time. It was incredible to discuss with Jennifer how she got to where she is today, challenges she faced along the way, and what it means to be a leader.

Name: Jennifer Shea
Education: BS in Nutrition and Dietetics from Bastyr University
Follow: @trophycupcakes / Instagram / Facebook / Trophy Cupcakes

Carpe Juvenis: How do you define ‘Seizing Your Youth’?

Jennifer Shea: It’s about identifying your dreams, your bliss, and really focusing on what you’re passionate about. It’s also about taking steps to make your dreams happen. The people who realize their dreams are the ones who put one foot in front of the other and just do it. Even if your dreams or goals seem out of reach, just start talking to people about how to accomplish them. You’ll be amazed how the pieces will start to come together.

CJ: You majored in Nutrition and Dietetics at Bastyr University. How did you determine what to study?

JS: I’ve always loved food (who doesn’t), especially cooking and baking. But I honestly had no idea what I wanted to do right out of high school. I was already interested in nutrition because I was a vegetarian at the time. But, because I couldn’t put my finger on what my passion was or what my career was going to be, I landed on nutrition by accident at a job fair. I came across Bastyr University’s booth and saw that they had a whole foods nutrition program, which sounded fascinating. I decided to just go for it.

CJ: You spent some time touring with a rock band doing marketing and promotions after college. What was that experience like and what did you learn from it?

JS: It was a really exciting time, but super hard, too, because it’s rough to live out of a suitcase day in and day out. I was glad I’d majored in nutrition, but I wasn’t seeing myself in that profession in a typical capacity. I happened to meet and date a guy soon after passing my boards and he asked me if I wanted to go on tour and sell T-shirts. To the horror of my mother, I said yes.

I’d worked really hard in school and had a full time job, so I needed a break and touring sounded like a dream come true. I also didn’t want to be the girlfriend stuck at home while her boyfriend was on tour doing who knows what. So, I basically created a position for myself in the band. I eventually called myself their Merchandise Manager and I figured out how to help make sure the band got all of the profits. I really got into figuring out what made their fans tick and what kind of merchandise they would love.

I introduced a whole line of pillowcases with song lyrics going across the cases and badges that were exclusive to each tour so as you went to more shows you could collect the different patches. I had a lot of fun with it, and it taught me a lot about merchandising and presentation. It was a good first experience with having my own little business.

CJ: You opened Trophy Cupcakes in Seattle in 2007. What inspired you to open a cupcake shop, and what does your role as founder entail?

JS: I first saw a cupcake shop while visiting NYC and I instantly knew it was what I wanted to do. My life flashed before my eyes. I realized that I’d been complaining that I didn’t know what my passion was, yet I baked all the time. I didn’t know that I could turn my hobby into a career. Touring was a great way to do research because I visited so many candy shops and patisseries in the U.S. and Europe. I took mental notes about architecture, design and perfect little details I saw.

My role as founder has changed a lot over the years and it’s always morphing. In the beginning, I did everything—from baking the cupcakes, to opening the register, to training and managing employees, to doing payroll, to coming up with new flavors and marketing. When you’re a small business, you have to do it all yourself. I should’ve just slept in my shop, really. I would get there at 4am and leave at 9pm. As we started to grow, I was able to bring in more experts.

Right now I focus on marketing, social media and innovation. I’m also our brand ambassador, making sure that we are living up to our brand promise and that my team understands what that is. I also act as the face of the company. I do several speaking gigs each year about how I got started. I also teach classes in my shops and online through Craftsy.com. I also wrote a book, which took a lot of my time, but was totally worth it.

CJ: In your role as founder, leadership is important. How have you learned to lead and what does it meant to be a leader?

JS: That has probably been the most challenging part of having a company. I haven’t always been a good leader and work really hard at it now. I think being a good leader means understanding how differently people work. It’s not a one-size-fits-all situation. Everyone has a different way of getting motivated and inspired. You have to really listen…really see people. If you can take the time to see what makes people tick, you will have a much easier time inspiring them and leading them to represent your company the way that you want.

On another level, I try to inspire others to do something amazing with their lives beyond Trophy. I like telling people my story because I didn’t come from a background where I had parents who pushed me toward business. I didn’t have money or experience that would have made you guess I could do this. I really just followed my dreams and figured it out along the way. The more I believed I could do it, the more the doors to success just kept opening right in front of me.

CJ: What have been the greatest challenges in running your company, and what do you wish you had known before opening your shop?

JS: Entrepreneurs have to be naive because if they knew how hard it was before they started, they wouldn’t do it. I always say that entrepreneurs succeed because they don’t know any better.  I didn’t know anything when I started. I had taken some business courses as part of my registered dietician training, but I didn’t have any experience with the business of baking.

I wish I’d known there are so many people out there willing to help you and you don’t have to do it all by yourself. I have that type of personality where I think I have to do everything myself, but I learned that it’s okay to ask for help and that there are all kinds of women/young entrepreneur groups in just about every area that can be super helpful. I also wish I had asked someone to be my mentor earlier on, so that he or she could give me pep talks. I recommend finding a support system—a group or person—that can help you with business-specific problems along the way.

The thing I wasn’t expecting was for me to stop baking. I thought I was always going to be the one baking the cupcakes, but the more I learned about business, the more I realized that when you run a business there’s a point where you have to be steering the ship and looking at the big picture. If I was in the kitchen for 8-10 hours per day, I wouldn’t be able to determine our next move.

CJ: Almost a year ago you published your first book, Trophy Cupcakes and Parties. We love that your book not only provides recipes, but also party how-to’s. What was your book writing process like?

JS: The publisher came to me and asked if I wanted to write a cookbook. That sounded exciting right off the bat but I knew the cupcake cookbook world was already saturated. (I have so many of them myself!) I said I loved the idea of writing a book, but in order for it to be marketable it needed to have more than just recipes. I wanted to help people learn how to plan parties. I also wanted to appeal to more than just bakers.

Little did I know this book would be 10 times as much work as a cookbook. Every single cupcake recipe includes party ideas and a craft, plus suggestions for décor, drinks, and food. Writing all of that content and then photographing it was challenging. But I love the way it turned out. I tried not to do anything that would be dated; I wanted everything to be classic so the book would always be relevant.

Touring with the book through Williams Sonoma stores was super fun and I love that I now have fans across the country and beyond!

CJ: What should a teenager or young adult who wants to have their own bakery and run their own business do now to set themselves up for success?

JS: Believe you can accomplish your dreams, then know that believing is half the battle, doing is the rest. Also, embrace your fear! Everyone is scared. The key is to know that fear is a part of the process and not be paralyzed by it. This mentality is not necessarily easy if you weren’t raised that way. I started reading books about manifesting and having an abundant state of mind, and that really changed my life. I also started doing guided meditations focused on love, success and manifesting…amazing! I would also recommend traveling and going out of your way to meet people who are inspirational to you. You can meet almost anyone if you come from an authentic place, and you’re not pushy. Most people are happy to help you or answer questions. Sometimes even brief encounters can really end up paving a road for you.

I believe in synchronicity and that if you’re following your dreams, the universe will end up putting things in your path that will help you down the road. Be adventurous and put yourself out there even if you don’t know where you’re going. I didn’t necessarily know where I was going. If I hadn’t gone on tour (and horrified my mother), Trophy may not exist today.

CJ: What does a day in your life look like? How do you balance your career roles and goals? How do you stay organized and efficient?

JS: Every day is a little different, depending on what projects I’m working on. And as an owner, you have to wear lots of hats. But usually, I wake up early and meditate (this sets the tone for my day), then I get my son ready for school. My workday starts with checking in with the bakery, which is the heart of our business. I really like knowing first thing in the morning that the bake has gone well and that everything in our stores is “Trophy-quality.” I try to visit each shop and I check in with our general manager, work on social media, and talk to employees working on different projects. I may do a talk for a local Girl Scouts or entrepreneurs group. Or, I may have back-to-back meetings about a million different things. My goal is to get to a point where I make sure to do something for myself each day beyond meditating.

Balance…it’s super tricky. If you are super passionate about what you’re doing, it’s very easy to lose site of family, friends and even yourself. I have learned that it’s very important to take time out of your business path for self-care. If you are not well rested, taking the time to recharge (through exercise, spending time with family or reading a good book), you will eventually crash and burn. You cannot be a good boss, entrepreneur, friend, (fill in the blank) if you don’t make time for yourself to recharge each day.

I stay organized through using tools like Basecamp — it keeps all of my to-do lists in one place. I also use my calendar religiously so that I don’t overbook or forget meetings. I also try to never schedule meetings for Mondays. That gives me an entire day to plan my week and tie up any loose ends from the previous week.

CJ: You have had many amazing career moments in such a short period of time, such as being featured in Vanity Fair magazine, appearing on The Martha Stewart show, and releasing your first book. What other goals do you have for Trophy?

JS: My goal is to continue figuring out how to make Trophy a relevant and inspiring business to the community and to myself. What we do is about so much more than cupcakes. We sell little pieces of happiness and people feel emotionally invested in it. I’ve seen people eating Trophy cupcakes on their first date. I’ve also seen people serve Trophy cupcakes at their wedding, and then again at their baby shower.

The best businesses stay fluid and I think there always has to be a fresh idea and a new outlook for what Trophy is giving to everyone. That’s what I stay focused on. I also really want to open something that’s exciting with more offerings and where people can have more celebrations.

CJ: What is your favorite book?

JS: Daring Greatly by Brené Brown.

CJ: If you could enjoy an afternoon eating cupcakes with anyone in the world, dead or alive, who would it be and what kind of cupcake would you bake?

JS: My dad. He passed away when I was a baby, so getting to spend an afternoon with him would be a dream come true. I would create an angel food cupcake with chocolate whipped cream filling for him. It was his favorite type of cake that my grandma used to make him.

CJ: What advice would you give your 20-year-old self?

JS: I would tell my 20-year-old-self to believe in me, and the power of the universe. It took a lot of years before I believed that I really could do anything. I spent a lot of years flailing and not really seeing that I had a passion. Who knew that your hobby, what you love to do most, could be your career?! I’d tell me, “Just get out there make your dreams happen!”

Jennifer Shea Qs

Images by Carpe Juvenis

Professional SpotlightSpotlight

It’s not every day that we have the opportunity to interview someone who’s life ambitions are matched so closely to our own. Jessica N. Grounds, the co-founder of Running Start and also Director of Women for Ready for Hillary, is a champion for youth and specifically for women. While her professional career takes place in the field of politics, her mission and core purpose for the work she does is to empower young adults across the United States to engage with their communities, have their voices be heard, and make a real impact and change.

Jessica was gracious enough to answer some of our burning questions about what it’s like to be an advisor and leader in such a competitive world, and how she handles it all with grace and perseverance. We are thrilled to introduce to you Jessica N. Grounds.

Name: Jessica N. Grounds
Education: B.A. in Political Science from Pepperdine University; Graduate Certificate in WomenPolicy & Political Leadership from American University; Executive Masters in Leadership from Georgetown University – The McDonough School of Business
Follow: Ready For Hillary | Running Start Online | WUFPAC | @Jessica_Grounds

Carpe Juvenis: How do you define “Seizing Your Youth?”

Jessica Grounds: Seizing your youth means taking risks and not letting what you think you “should do” get in your way. It’s so important to experience life and not hold back. I think it means to not let expectations get in the way of you stepping out and doing things. And especially for women, it’s very important for us to challenge ourselves and step out of their comfort zones.

CJ: What sparked your passion for politics and women’s issues?

JG: When I was in college, one of my classes required me to work on a political campaign.  I decided to work for the re-election campaign of a local California Assemblywoman, Fran Pavley. Through that experience, I got to see what it was like to work on a campaign and how much responsibility you can have as a young person.  But more importantly, I saw politics as a very public way to show people that women make decisive and strong public leaders. Later in my career I learned there are too few women in these important decision-making roles.

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CJ: You work with students who are not yet at the eligible age to vote. What makes young people so important and why has their empowerment become a primary focus in your career and life?

JG: My particular focus is to inspire young women to run for political office. What we find is that women don’t approach politics the same way men do. Girls don’t see politics as an avenue to pursue a career. We know that we need to talk to girls before they reach voting age to get them to consider political leadership.  It is planting the seed early that is really instrumental in changing people’s perceptions, particularly for girls in leadership roles.

CJ: You’ve advised hundreds of female candidates throughout the country in their political ventures – what advice would you give to a young person hoping to set themselves up for success in the world of politics or non-profit?

JG: Build your network. Develop a robust network of people you know in different industries and communities. They will be vital to a potential political run because they will vote for you, volunteer, and donate. They’re also your ears and eyes to the people of the district. Build your people network and make sure it’s diverse in all facets of the word.

Think about where you want to be a political leader. Where do you want to build your network? Be strategic. Where you represent should fit who you are. For example, if you’re a conservative in San Francisco, you may not do so well.

Talk to people who have run for office before and get their advice about what they did to be successful. Also talk to those who have ran for your position to see what they did to win.

Lastly, don’t take no for an answer. Always ask, never assume.

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CJ: What has been one of the most unexpectedly interesting parts of your career to date?

JG: So, I’m now marrying a Republican who also works in politics. I’ve built this bipartisan network in both my professional and personal life, which has helped me with street cred and helps refine what I stand for as a Democrat. I feel like it also helped me hone how I talk about the issues I care about.

CJ: Every day in your life must be different depending on your projects and the time of year, but what does a Monday look like for you?

JG: I never plan anything after work on Monday’s. I am big on work-life balance. By creating these boundaries, it has helped me to better balance my work because I make sure to take care of myself. I always go to the gym on Monday nights. During the day, I don’t schedule a lot of meetings, if I can help it.  Monday’s help me set the tone for the week and help me ease into things with control. I’m also on the phone a lot – building support for Hillary!

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CJ: You recently joined the ONE Campaign for a political delegation to Rwanda. What has that experience been like?

JG: That was a life-changing trip! Going to Rwanda was the most powerful experiences I’ve had to date. I was exposed to a lot of work that ONE champions to fund the combat against HIV/AIDS, malaria, and tuberculosis in sub-Saharan Africa. I also learned more about the economic empowerment space and how NGOs and government organizations are working together. I was particularly excited about the potential for women’s political and economic empowerment. I actually met with the Kate Spade team and they are producing product in Rwanda. Not only is it an effective business strategy to train women in the country, they are doing it in a way that was economically viable for the company.  The line produced in Rwanda is called: “On Purpose.”

CJ: Leadership skills training for organizations and academic institutions is an area you thrive in – what are some ways young people can become better leaders?

JG: I always recommend learning how to talk about an issue you care about. Most people aren’t born with the ability to speak effectively, so learning how to be clear and concise in communication is really a powerful tool. Practice talking about what you care about, debates are effective. Also, work on your writing skills, that’s another tool you can use to talk about issues you care about. Push yourself to do public speaking exercises. Run for student government or sit on a board for an organization or volunteer for a local non-profit where you can be an advocate and speak about these issues.

Identifying mentors in your life will also help steer you in your career. Not everyone wants to lead and those that do sometimes feel lonely in their quest but finding mentors can encourage and nurture you to stay on the right track for inspiration. “Leadership is a lonely enterprise.”

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CJ: What is an area, either personal or professional, that you are working to improve in and how?

JG: I’m working on “being in the moment” more. I think as a professional type-A person, it’s very easy to think about what you did or didn’t do in the past, and what’s happening in the future.  It’s difficult to be in the “here and now” and enjoy it for what it is. One thing that helps me do that is yoga (which I also need to work on doing more) because it helps you to think about your breadth and what you need to do in the moment. It’s a great thing to practice and cultivate.

CJ: Having a loaded schedule can sometimes be overwhelming. What do you do when you’re having a bad day and need to unwind or reset?

JG: If I feel like being healthy and unwind, I will go to the gym and work out hard and then hit the steam room because it makes me sweat. If I don’t feel like working out, I drink a very nice glass of Cabernet Sauvignon or Super Tuscan.

CJ: What is your favorite book?

JG: Old school favorite: Catcher in the Rye; New school favorite: Lean In.

CJ: What advice would you give your 20-year-old self?

JG: I would tell myself to chill out and that things work out the way they’re supposed to.  Don’t be so worried about making the right steps all the time. I do feel lucky, though, because I found my passion very early in life and this helped me make decisions when there was a fork in the road.  Over the years I have really learned to listen to myself.

Jessica Grounds Qs

Image: Jessica Grounds

Professional SpotlightSpotlight

The world of non-profit is an incredible place with some of the most generous and selfless people we have ever had the chance to meet. One of these inspiring people is Jake Weber, the Executive Director of FamilyWorks, a Seattle based family resource center and food bank. Since before 1995 FamilyWorks has been serving its community through learning initiatives and volunteerism opportunities. As the leader of this organization Jake Weber is entirely hands-on, from working with food bank vendors to attending fund raising events. As a leader in her community Jake knows how to inspire the organization staff and get nearly 300 volunteers excited about their work! (Plus she’s not afraid to get onstage and sing her heart out!). We are so thrilled to introduce Jake Weber!

Name: Jake Weber
Age: 56
Education: B.S. in Music Therapy and Master’s degree in Social Work from University of Washington
Follow: Facebook
Explore: FamilyWorks Seattle / United Way / Seattle Works / VolunteerMatch / Idealist

Carpe Juvenis: How would you define ‘Seizing Your Youth’?

Jake Weber: I would say it’s about exploring as much as possible. Some things you fall into but for the most part you just can’t be afraid of doing different things. Some things will be more interesting and exciting, but just say yes. Just go for it. Follow your passions.

CJ: You majored in Music Therapy. How did you discover that passion and decide to pursue it for your undergraduate degree?

JW: Music has always been a very strong passion of mine, along with helping people. I always knew I wanted to help people and then I realized, “Wow you can combine music with therapy,” and that rang so true. And there was part of me that wondered if I was good enough at music or good enough with helping people. But I did it, and I did enjoy it. And although I discovered that it wasn’t exactly what I was supposed to be doing forever, the process of doing it brought me many different places and I don’t regret a minute of it.

Jake Weber portrait

CJ: How would you suggest discovering passions if you don’t know what those are yet?

JW: Don’t be afraid of failure. Kids might think “I’m not good at this so I’m not going to try.” The fear of failure prevents a lot of people from doing things. So if you even have the slightest interest in something go for it, and look to work with someone who has experience. They can share their skills in a way that makes sense to you. They can share their passion, which can help your fire get lit by someone else’s enthusiasm for something—even shadowing somebody for a short period of time. If we’re talking about the non-profit world, there are a lot of volunteering opportunities. It’s about getting out there, and there are a million opportunities for that.

CJ: Can you elaborate on your experience with earning your Master’s degree in Social Work from the UW? Would you do it again if you had the choice?

JW: In the non-profit world, experience and training matters a great deal What I discovered in doing music therapy was that I liked training staff in the nursing homes to be able to use music on a much broader level than just me using it on an individual basis. In following social work, and wanting to learn more about social justice and all the systems at play, I wanted to use that body of knowledge and philosophy in my work. So I really enjoyed studying social work—with a focus on community development, and getting a chance to work in different organizations, it really helps to work with various people and various jobs.

CJ: You did your Master’s at UW, did that influence your decision to stay in the area?

JW: Well I grew up on the east coast and spent many years there and did a back and forth from coast to coast, in term of my studies. But once I did my Master’s here I knew I was re- planted.

CJ: What sparked your love of community outreach and how did you get involved with Family Works?

JW: When I was at my former job we started a family support center. And what I learned about family resource centers was that the model was very appealing to me. It was very empowering, and it was based on partnerships in the community – everyone coming together so we could help all families and all participants thrive. I helped start that there, and then was asked to be on the board of this emerging family center. At the time food banks were pretty new to me, but it made a lot of sense to combine programs that provide nutrition for you physically, and combined with other programs that provide sustenance for you in other social, emotional, economic and strengthening ways.

CJ: In your experience what factors and traits allow you to love your job?

JW: I love the range of connections with people working together to strengthen the community – the Board, the community members, participants of the center, staff, volunteers, the City, Churches, Schools other organizations. It’s a powerful thing when all of these forces act together for the greater good. Perhaps it is my love of people and people power and mobilizing those forces that make my job so rewarding.

CJ: What does a day in your life look like at Family Works?

JW: As the executive director in a small organization I engage in a very broad range of things you have to do to run an organization. Such as program and partnership development, fundraising, managing staff, writing grants, , getting customer input, collecting food at the farmers market, (the list could go on) and did I mention fundraising?

CJ: What can people do now to set themselves up for success in the non-profit world?

JW: What we really need now from young people are for them to bring new and interesting ideas to the table and engage their circle of contacts in causes that they believe in. All organizations need resources to further their mission. In terms of getting into the field, talk to people doing work that you find interesting, ask to shadow them, read about best practices, current trends and then get your hands dirty!

Jake Weber

CJ: If kids want to get involved with their community but aren’t sure how, what would be the easiest way to do so?

JW: There are so many local organizations to get involved with and volunteer programs at each organization. Find a service area that appeals to you and their website should guide you to volunteer opportunities. Don’t get discouraged, sometimes it takes time to nail down a position.

CJ: How do you handle the difficult days at your job?

JW: Some days you just do what you can and feel like you haven’t made a dent. There’s a book written called Trauma Stewardship, and describes this classic feeling across the board with people in this helping field—they never feel like they’re doing enough. This sets you up for not only dissatisfaction and stress. I like to talk to people who use the program and remind myself of the impact we actually do have on people.

CJ: How do you like to spend your fee time?

JW: I really like being outside, riding my bike and hiking, especially with friends and family members I play in a band and that brings me incredible joy and actually relieves a lot of stress. I sing, play guitar in a swing/country/bluegrass group called The Wiretappers. . It’s important to have something outside of your work that’s pure happiness. Even though I love my job but there’s also a lot of responsibility and stress that’s a part of that, so having something else that’s a passion combined with creative self expression is important to me. Exercise in general is really important and keeps me full of energy.

CJ: How do you ever combat stage fright or self-doubt?

JW: If there’s something that you really enjoy, not everyone is going to like you or love what you’re doing. And I wasn’t like that when I was younger, and was a bit more afraid of what people thought, but if you feel strongly about what you’re doing and enjoy doing it, and you will find the people who also appreciate it. Just enjoy it as much as you can!

CJ: What is your favorite book?

JW: The Impossible Will Take a Little While by Paul Rogat Loeb.

CJ: What advice would you give your 22-year-old self?

JW: I would probably say travel, get out there and experience the world in that way and be fearless. Just follow anything that even vaguely resembles interest. If you don’t know what the passion thing is, you’ve got to follow your interests. Find people you admire, talk to them about what they like about their work and that could trigger some other ideas for what you could be interested in. Don’t let anybody else tell you or guide what you think might should be your path. Just go for it.

EducationSkills

“A leader is best when people barely know he exists, when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say: we did it ourselves.” – Lao Tzu

As someone who has both led and been led, I have found this quote to be true in every situation.

The thing is, many leaders believe their job is to “tell” their team what to do, and to create and stick to their vision.

While it is important as a leader to have a strong vision and communicate it clearly, it is also important to keep open ears and an open mind, allowing team members to creatively and collaboratively contribute their own thoughts to the group vision. Inflexibly telling everyone what to do is a waste of the unique mind power each team member possesses.

Instead, I’ve compiled, from my experiences, six ways to ensure open communication and creative collaboration, and they’re pretty easy:

1. Make your team a communication “safe space.”

Be sure to actively listen, encouraging input and questions. This means showing appreciation for ideas, even when they aren’t great. This will keep team members unafraid to contribute potentially stellar ideas and ask important questions. Never talk at, always talk with. Remember, your leadership position should never have you on a pedestal.

I was training as a host at a restaurant. During a weekend night when we were absolutely slammed, the manager welcomed all of my questions. Because of that, the next night when we were even busier, I was able to handle the finicky crowd gracefully on my own, much more so than if I’d been afraid to ask her questions in the moment the night before. As a result, she was able to pick up the slack for a brand new server, keeping the customers much happier. Be patient and welcome all communication from your group, even if you’re stressed. It will pay off.

2. Provide continuous feedback (positively).

Show your team members you hear them and see what they’re accomplishing. Sometimes, people can be blind to our own strengths. Pointing them out can give members the confidence to take those strengths and run (a win for you). Be sure to also share things you expect them to improve, letting them know you believe they can do it and providing suggestions as to how they can.

I worked at a PR agency under a great CEO. When I got strong media placement results, he would take the time to stop by my desk and let me know he saw I’d been getting good results that week, and to keep it up. It kept me intrinsically motivated to keep improving my results.

3. Ask for your own feedback.

Good leaders must not be afraid to hear criticism. Anonymous surveys are good for receiving candid answers about this. Ask questions that will lead to honest and productive answers.

Honestly taking feedback into consideration creates a level of trust and mutual respect between you and your team. It also allows you to improve yourself as a leader and a person.

The best professor I’ve ever had checked in several times throughout the semester with anonymous surveys, and also asked for feedback on the fly if he felt something was off. He used it to improve his teaching methods, resulting in higher student test scores and retained knowledge.

4. Hold everyone accountable (yourself included).

When people are assigned tasks, tell them their deadlines and when you will check in with them. Then, do it by asking about their current progress and next steps. I’ve liked doing this via email and during team meetings. Just be sure everyone knows they’ll be asked about it during meetings so they don’t feel put on the spot, and can address concerns with you beforehand.

Update everyone on your own activity, too, so that they also know you’re all in it together. Set examples by meeting your own deadlines.

As the director of my university’s Children’s Miracle Network dance marathon, I often met one on one with team members to discuss individual progress and determine where we could tweak or add things. I created Google docs with each member’s proposed timeline, which we edited together as the year progressed. I also set aside about five minutes to begin our meetings by providing updates on my own activity. It kept us on track in exceeding our main goals.

5. Remember your team members are humans.

This sounds obvious, but it’s important; people will make mistakes. They’ll encounter personal roadblocks that drain them. Be sure to show interest in these things. If someone’s performance has dropped, don’t assume anything. Ask if they’re ok and listen to their concerns. Be sure also to recognize what motivates or discourages your teammates individually, as different people respond to different things in different ways.

In high school, my basketball coaches saw I’d been playing poorly for several games in a row. Instead of getting harder on me, they pulled me into their office after practice to ask me what was going on. They came to find out a personal stressor had been weighing me down; they showed their constant support and understanding. I was back to normal within a few games. They recognized that, while other teammates responded better to tougher love, I responded well to more gentle feedback.

6. No micro-managing!

Offer your help and provide advice, but trust your team to complete their tasks. They may mess up, but it’s better than keeping them from improving and learning. They also may do things their own way, which could turn out to be better than yours!

As the director of our dance marathon, we ran into some roadblocks with corporate sponsorship. We needed about $6,000 in less than two weeks, which my faculty director could have easily secured on her own. Instead, she put the trust in me to do it. I ended up applying for and securing all of the funding and grants we needed, and gained tremendous confidence in the process. She likely had a plan B on hold, but she let me grow and learn through the process.

In the end, your and your teammates’ personal and professional growth should be just as important as the project results. Don’t forget that you’re all teammates, regardless of titles, and that happy people do the best work!

What tips do you have for quality leadership? Any stories about good or bad leaders you’ve encountered?

Image: D I, Flickr

Education

Today we honor and respect the man who turned ripples into tidal waves and whispers into marches. As a humanitarian and African-American Civil Rights Movement leader, Martin Luther King, Jr. inspired thousands of Americans to open up their minds to the possibility of a racially and socially free and equal America. Despite the cruel treatment MLK, Jr. and his supports sustained, his enduring message of peaceful protests and nonviolence echoed across every speech he gave and every rally he attended.

Although there were many influential and important Civil Rights Movement leaders in the United States throughout the mid 1950s such as Rosa Parks, the Freedom Riders, Malcolm X, Thurgood Marshall, and many others, none remain as prominent in our current day rhetoric as MLK Jr. This is in large part due to his exemplary leadership abilities.

MLK, Jr. was and still remains a leader.

  • Serving as a pastor in Atlanta, Georgia, MLK, Jr. learned how to speak to an audience and move them with his words. His presence was felt when he presided over his congregation, and that same power and control helped him lead a nation in years to come.
  • As the face of this Movement, MLK, Jr. had a clear and sustained plan of action based around nonviolence. His commitment to this ideology gained him the respect of thousands and served as a bright light in the construction of an unknown and unlit path.
  • He moved forward – never back – with conviction. MLK, Jr.’s path was a straight and narrow one. Although the Movement as a whole faced daily backlash, the objective was never lost. When goals are kept clear and taken seriously it gives people the motivation to keep going. MLK, Jr. never backed down.

In 1964 Martin Luther King, Jr. won The Nobel Peace Prize. The video of his acceptance speech exemplifies the three traits mentioned above. Today we give thanks to this leader who lived boldly and in solidarity with his mission of peace, equality, and love.