Consultant at Dot2Dot
Hometown: Malvern, Arkansas
Briefly describe your role:
The mission of dot2dot is sharing one vision, connecting many efforts. We do that by facilitating trusting relationships and collective decision-making among partners and allies. With a focus on building more effective systems and/or stronger resources to serve children and families.
Q: Is what you’re doing now what you always pictured you would do?
A: Yes and no – I have known for a very long time that my work would focus on making things better for children.
In the beginning, I thought that was working directly with children. Over time, I learned I could help more children by improving things for the adults who care for and work with children.
Q: What do you see as the greatest challenges for women in your chosen industry? What are the greatest opportunities?
A: The sector I most often serve is early education. It is made up of 99% women and we have so many challenges! First, being seen as a profession. Somehow, we (as Americans) got it in our heads that the older the student, the more important the work. I feel like we hold college professors in higher esteem than high school teachers and high school more so than middle school… by the time you get to the infant teacher, well isn’t that just babysitting? When you look at the capacity for learning it is actually the opposite. My colleagues in ECE are brain builders. More so than any other colleague in the education profession. But because of this misunderstanding, my colleagues do not make a living wage. In fact, a preschool teacher with the same credentials as her colleague teaching kindergarten is likely to make as much as $18,000 less each year.
Regardless of their passion for the work and their love for our youngest citizens, some cannot stay in the field and meet the needs of their own families. That is a tragedy and soon to be a crisis for the whole economy. The early education workforce supports ALL other workforces in America.
We are the only industrialized nation that doesn’t have paid family leave or offer a universal early education system. I believe that is not only the greatest opportunity for my chosen industry but the country. Economist Dr. James Heckman had been studying this topic for years. We know the return on investment but just refuse to act. I hope I see that change very soon.
Q: Who has inspired you in your life/career?
A: I have been blessed to have many mentors during my career. Women and men who graciously and patiently shared their valuable time and knowledge. But when I think of inspiration, it is hands down ECE program leaders. They perform small miracles every day. Juggling the needs of children, staff, and families on razor-thin margins. You will not find another profession that contains so many people with such big hearts and so much grit!
You know that saying, Ginger Rogers did everything that Fred Astaire did, but backward and in heels? Well, picture Ginger but with a baby on her hip and talking to a parent on the phone. They are AMAZING!
Q: What advice would you give to an aspiring professional?
A: Find your people. The best way to prepare for the unknown is to develop a network. When a question arises that is outside of your scope, or you need a resource you don’t have… have an idea of who to call. But beyond that – find the people that care about what you care about. When things get hard, you won’t feel alone. And make sure those people are smart. I told my children to hang around people smarter than them because it rubs off. I took my advice. Not only do these smart people help me in my work, but they make for the best lunch and happy hour conversations too.
Q: What’s been your secret to success?
A: Know yourself. ALL the best leaders I have known are self-aware.
Then surround yourself with folks that have talents other than your own. Nothing on my resume has been done alone. I not only enjoy working in a team, but I am 100% confident that all the work I do is better for it.
Don’t turn yourself inside out to do things you aren’t good at or don’t enjoy. Believe it or not, there is someone out there that loves that thing. You keep working and getting better at your thing. Foster your talents and pursue your interests. And bit by bit create your perfect job doing those things you love and are good at.