My weekend in the “D” – an open letter to my DELPers

Dear DELPers,

This past weekend, we came together in the Detroit area for a special purpose.  It was the 10th anniversary reunion of the Diversity Executive Leadership Program (DELP).  Sponsored by the Detroit Metro Convention and Visitors Bureau, it was an opportunity for alumni to reconnect and haze meet the new class of DELP scholars who we affectionately call the newbies.  Sure, I could run down the activities we participated in from the visit to the Arab-American Museum to taking in a Detroit Tigers game, but that would be boring.  The real story here is about how this one program has changed us all. 

To the newbies, yes, it’s a whirlwind, overwhelming experience.  It’s a lot to take in over the course of five days. You start with a two-day orientation at ASAE headquarters followed by a weekend in Detroit where you meet a bunch of people with impressive resumes and years of experience.  How can you not feel a bit intimidated by that?  However, by Sunday evening as you flew home, my hope is that you understand that this program is more than just professional development, it’s about family.  Class of 2011-2013, congratulations and welcome.  You’ve gained an entire network of bright, talented individuals who are willing and able to help you through this journey.  Don’t be afraid to call on us if you need anything.  These next two years will only be as productive as you make it.  Go forth and make us proud. 

To the esteemed alumni (especially my class of 2008-2009, aka The Best), it was so good to see you, to share some laughs and hugs and business cards.  This weekend should serve as a reminder of why we applied (sometimes more than once) to be a DELP scholar in the first place:  to receive the resources and support needed to reach the next level of our careers.  I hope you feel as inspired and ready to conquer the world as I do.  As former ASAE Chair Velma Hart once told us, the time is now to start making an impact.  That journey has begun, but there’s much more to do.  Let’s be a good example to the current DELP scholars. 

Looking forward to seeing many of you in St. Louis in August.  Until then, thank you.  I am blessed and honored to serve as a DELP scholar with you.  Continue to support each other and this valuable program. 

-S

Want my respect? Be willing to sort the mail

I started my career as an assistant to the Government Relations Director of a small association.  My job was doing his grunt work: filing, faxing, sorting mail, and answering phones.  I even made coffee.  What I didn’t do was anything related to advocacy.  No lobbying visits, no advocacy training, no coalition meetings.  That job taught me to appreciate administrative tasks no matter how big or small.   I knew that it was the starting point to my career so I was glad to help out and learn.  So it frustrated me when a young administrative assistant in my current association was recently let go for refusing to perform the tasks they were hired to do.  After the first week, they felt sorting and distributing mail was someone else’s job.  Which begs the question: Is the idea of paying your dues to get ahead no longer relevant?

Just so we’re clear, this is not a bash Gen-Y post.  This is not a problem exclusive to them.  I knew a lot of people who after a month on their first job out of college, demanded a raise and an office with a window.  Rather, I’m trying to figure out why some believe that administrative tasks are beneath them.  How does one develop this mentality?  To me, there’s something satisfying about working hard, proving yourself and earning respect.  

I credit my upbringing for developing a strong work ethic. Before my siblings and I were born, my parents worked two jobs each and were able to pay off their house within five years of purchasing it.  My dad continued working two jobs, not because he had to, but because he wanted to.  If you wanted money from my parents, you had to work for it.  If you wanted to learn the meaning of a word, you had to look it up.  I can’t think of many instances in my association career where an opportunity was handed to me on a silver platter. 

Which leads us back to the issue of paying dues?  I get that we all want to take credit for a new idea or taking the lead on a project.  It makes us feel wanted and special.  However, just as babies crawl before they walk, staff must do the same.  Look, we all have that one thing we hate about our jobs.  With a previous employer, it was assembling packets for meetings.  I hated it with a passion.   However, it had to be done and done well.  When it was done well, I was then allowed to sit in on those meetings.  Soon, I was able to contribute in those meetings.  Why?  Because I was willing to be a small spoke in a very big wheel.  Are you?

Technology – Making my life simple one bag at a time

I love bags.  I have way more than should be allowed by law.  However, I must confess that most are more functional than stylish. My work bags tend to follow a certain pattern: large with at least one external pocket (yawn).  At the beginning of the year, I started carrying a large beige bag.  It was simple, classic with a few modern touches.  Most importantly, I could carry everything (and I mean everything) in that thing.  It became the bottomless pit of my existence.

Then it dawned on me.  The only reason I even carried a large bag was to be able to bring files home from work.  Files that were now available electronically.  Then came the epiphany or the biggest duh moment in history.  I have an iPad and have just heard of this cool web-based file management software called Dropbox.  Why don’t I use them to access files when I away from the office?  With a few clicks, all of the files I routinely review and work on from home were on a portable device with a nice large screen.  No longer did I have to haul multiple folders to and from the office.  Now they were on my iPad along with my magazines and books.

Suddenly, I no longer needed my large security blanket work bag.  I could shed it for something smaller, more compact, dare I say, even sexier?  Thanks to a recent shopping trip to DSW Shoes, I now have a fab milk chocolate bag that’s large enough to hold my iPad, wallet, keys and other necessities, but small enough not to be considered a fire hazard.  It looks great whether I’m on the Hill or enjoying an evening out with friends.  Best of all, my back and arms love me again.

As far as my large bags, they do make excellent carry-on luggage.