My fellowship with The Patterson Foundation (TPF) has been (and continues to be) an incredible experience. It has been instrumental in my growth and development as a professional and as a human being. A recent realization has been a game-changer for how I view my future in the philanthropic sector.

TPF Fellows come to Sarasota, Florida, aspiring to become leaders in the field. We pick up and move our lives to work side-by-side with President and CEO Debra Jacobs to glean new insights and gain new perspectives as we work on high-level projects and initiatives with the core staff and an army of super-talented consultants. While the purpose of the fellowship is to develop future leaders in the field, we each come with unique backgrounds and experiences to draw from as we continue to learn and develop new muscles.

9 13 21 diagram1What I have come to realize is the power contained at the moment when my own winding paths converged:
  1. My 20-year career in the hospitality industry
  2. My academic background as a graduate of the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy (LFSOP)
  3. My experiential learning throughout my 4+ years in the nonprofit sector, including this fellowship
  4. My lived experience, passions, and interests

These are four distinct lenses through which I view my work and the world. No one else has that same view. Sure, there are others with similar paths, but each individual is unique in experience and perspective.

As I reflect on how each path has informed who I am and how I contribute value to the world, it becomes clear that the skills I have developed have become inter-related as I constantly draw from my lived experience in my daily work as a fellow. This recent reflection has illuminated my professional "sweet spot."


9 13 21 diagram2My winding paths have taught me multiple ways to listen deeply, be curious, ask probing questions, and understand issues in play, even if they are buried beneath the surface. This skill has had an immeasurable benefit on the quality of my work, the relationships I build, and how I interact in the world. And I know without a doubt that wherever my current path leads me next, my ability to build trust and strong relationships through meaningful and authentic interactions will serve me, the entity I join next, and its beneficiaries remarkably well.

I have not exactly had a traditional path to where I am now. And I would not have it any other way, even if I could do it over again. I invite you to reflect on your path and how it has molded you to become who you are. For me, that exercise was a game-changer. And as a result? I'm ready to change the game, and the world, no matter where my winding path leads me next.

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