Briefly describe your daily job duties.
I run a nonprofit called Sarah’s Guest House. We are a healthcare hospitality home that provides lodging, transportation, meals and comfort to patients and families of patients receiving medical care in Central New York. I oversee all operations including directing staff and leading our organization. This includes developing and furthering community relationships, fundraising, managing house operations and developing and administering a budget.
As a person who stutters, share the most challenging part of your job.
I am constantly challenged in my job when speaking. Each day, I must communicate with my staff, our volunteers, and the 1,000+ guests who stay at our house annually. Not to mention our partners, donors, and supporters. I often speak in the community about our organization. This requires me to present at local hospitals, churches, events, and anytime outreach is needed. At times I am only given a few minutes to tell someone or a group of people about our organization and I must make sure I am using my time wisely and articulating our mission properly.
Did you self-disclose your stuttering during the job hiring process? If so, how did you do it and how do you currently disclose your stuttering to unsuspecting co-workers, clients and or customers?
I did self-disclose. My resume noted that I am the leader of the Syracuse chapter of the National Stuttering Association, and I spoke about it during my interviews. I knew the job would require the Executive Director to be the face of the organization and be comfortable speaking in front of large groups of individuals on behalf of Sarah’s Guest House. I described my plethora of experience speaking to local audiences about stuttering including giving a TEDx Talk in 2014.
I don’t always disclose my fluency disorder to everyone I speak with. It depends on my day and the situation. If I feel an additional amount of pressure (on top of the usual everyday pressure), I may say that I a person who stutters, “please be patient as I articulate my message.” This is especially true if it’s an important meeting and I’m asking someone to make a donation or pledge to Sarah’s Guest House and I want their full attention. I almost always mention my stuttering when presenting in the community or speaking at an event. I believe this helps put both my audience and myself at ease so they are not wondering why I might be struggling to communicate in a way they might be used to hearing. This also offers me an opportunity to educate the public in regards to stuttering, which I believe I am called to do.
Describe how stuttering makes you a better, more valued contributor at work.
The guests who stay at Sarah’s Guest House are typically going through one of the most difficult situations in their life when they decide to stay with us. It is of dire importance that we as staff and volunteers are able to show an ability to understand and share the feelings of another – to be empathic. I believe that there is no group of people more empathic than individuals who stutter.
I also believe that in a fast-paced, perfection seeking world, being the leader of an organization as a person who stutters allows me to flip the script. My staff, volunteers, board members, and those around me know that I am not seeking perfection, but rather a commitment to do the best we can in a manner that shows respect for our duties and those we are serving.
What is your proudest moment at your current company?
This past year was one of the hardest in my career. Leading a healthcare organization during the middle of a pandemic was very stressful. Our largest fundraising event had to be cancelled and we had to pivot plans to raise enough funds to continue operating the house. This led us to holding several smaller virtual fundraisers during 2020 including a one-week digital campaign we called ‘Fund the House.’ This unique campaign raised over $30,000 in one week utilizing only social media.
Our campaign was nominated and selected as the Central New York Business Journal’s NONPROFIT AWARDS Outstanding Fundraising Event of 2020 with the award criteria being “running an innovative and unique event which engaged donors, board members, volunteers and staff to further the organization’s mission.”
What are your long-term career aspirations?
I am in the career I feel I was called to be in. I have always known I have wanted to give back to the public and my community. I hope to be blessed enough to do so for many more years.
What’s your best advice for people who stutter just entering the workplace and for those in a career striving to achieve greater success?
It’s interesting, when I was younger and even into my early 20s, I never talked about stuttering. It wasn’t until I was introduced to the National Stuttering Association while in graduate school that I felt I needed to be more open with myself and others. I decided I wasn’t going to let my stutter control me any longer. My life took a 180-degree turn and I began down a path that led me to being able to use my voice to advocate for others. I know everyone who stutters, stutters differently, and has a different story. But I would encourage you to never sell yourself short. Always advocate for yourself and be open with those around you. You are the next leader and you have an opportunity to educate others – go for it!