Chief Strategy Officer
Briefly describe your daily job duties.
As CSO I lead all of my organization’s work in implementing our strategic plan. This includes developing new programs and partnerships in response to needs in the community, building strategic partnerships with other providers and funding organizations, advocating for change at the local and state level, and identifying internal improvements that ensure we can best use our resources. I also lead all of the agency’s fundraising and communication efforts – so every day is really very different.
As a person who stutters, share the most challenging part of your job.
I think, like most people who stutter, speaking to large groups can be a challenge. I have the added challenge of having an accent (I’m Irish) which can sometimes make me feel like it’s harder for people to understand me. It’s definitely something I want to work on and become more comfortable with, as I’d like to be able to do more of it. I am lucky to able to rely on a great team who have many different skills, which allows me to work to my strengths, like being a much better communicator with smaller groups and at building personal relationships. Other than that, many people who stutter will recognize how tired you can get after a long day of talking – sometimes I get home and just need to not talk for a while in the evening!
What are your long-term career aspirations?
I love working in the community non-profit space, and particularly in anti-poverty work. While I imagine one day I would like to be the CEO of a non-profit, for right now, I love what I do. I honestly feel like I have my dream job and I want to continue to do all I can to help meet the needs of folks in our community who may be struggling.
Did you self-disclose your stuttering during the job hiring process?
Yes, I did – in those kind of situations it makes everyone feel much more comfortable, and I feel like by naming it, you lessen the stress and it’s impact on your interaction. The first time I stuttered in the interview, I took a moment to explain that I had a stutter. My boss has been very supportive from the moment I mentioned it, and it has never had any negative impacts on my work. I don’t always disclose, but I will in the right circumstances – I talk very openly about it with coworkers and folks in the community. I hosted a screening of “My Beautiful Stutter” for my coworkers and invited some donors and community partners, and I regularly share information on Stuttering Awareness Day.
What is your proudest moment at your current company?
I’m really proud of all the work my agency does to serve the community – every day we change people’s lives for the better and offer hope in times of crisis. What I am most proud of is how our entire team went above and beyond, working so hard, and being so innovative and imaginative about how we were able to help those in need when the COVID-19 pandemic first hit.
Describe how stuttering makes you a better, more valued contributor at work.
It might be counterintuitive but I think that stuttering helps in a number of ways. It often evokes openness and engagement with people that might be surprising to someone who does not stutter. By sharing that you stutter, and being comfortable with stuttering, you are showing a vulnerability that many people respond to. I feel like I am much better able to build relationships with individuals. I also feel like stuttering has helped me become a much better communicator – I love writing (there is no stuttering in writing!) and the tactic of replacing trickier words or sounds has given me a great vocabulary that definitely comes in handy!
What’s your best advice for people who stutter just entering the workplace and for those in a career striving to achieve greater success?
I don’t know about advice, but I really feel like being open and even a little bit vulnerable is our superpower! While it might feel stressful to put yourself out there, I can honestly say that I have never ever received any negative response when disclosing. Stuttering gives us a unique perspective, we value personal interactions and communication in a different way – in the workplace this can really set you apart and can help you build incredible relationships!