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19 minute read

Learn about the women who are making a difference in their organizations and their communities

Who or What Has Inspired You on Your Career Journey?

Blough: What inspires me is my love of learning. I was always the nerdy kid in school that always had a book in my hand. When Jim Berlin sent me to my first customs compliance assignment after I graduated from Edinboro University, he told me, “It’s a bunch of computer stuff, and you know that, and a bunch of legal stuff, and you’ll get that.” Well, I did. I learned the import regulations and in 2014, I passed the U.S. Customs Broker Exam and got my broker license, allowing Logistics Plus to file customs entries. Each day, however, is a continuing learning experience. Since I am a customs broker, I must have at least

GRETCHEN BLOUGH

Licensed Customs Broker and Customs Brokerage Manager Logistics Plus Erie, PA

“The most damaging phrase in the language is: ‘It’s always been done that way.’ “ — Grace Hopper

basic knowledge on a wide range of commodities — plastics, machine parts, food, cosmetics, measuring equipment, etc. In order to gain this knowledge, I need to research each topic, meaning I truly do learn something new every day.

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LEADERSHIP PROFILE

Who or What Has Inspired You on Your Career Journey?

Grein: Attending college during the recession had a major impact on my career. The backdrop to my formal education was a struggling economy and companies being forced to enact massive layoffs. Studying business principles with that real-time example was a great motivator. My Business Management professor told our class during our first lecture, that during these times we, as students, should aim to be the best we could be. If we graduated as “B” students, we would be looked at as average, not exceptional, and that only exceptional students would find their place in the current working world. This sentiment resonated with me and motivated me to be the best student I could be, which eventually landed me at

EMILY GREIN

International Manager, Airfreight Logistics Plus Erie, PA

“Dream big and be disruptive. If you are doing the same thing as everyone else, you’ve already failed.” — Kendra Scott

a company where I have been able to grow my career.

I feel fortunate to work for a company that encourages individuality and appreciates hard work. It is rare to find a working environment where you are simultaneously encouraged to set your own goals but are also given the direction and training to grow.

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Who or What Has Inspired You on Your Career Journey?

KELLY DEMPSEY

International Manager, Imports Logistics Plus Erie, PA

“Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap but by the seeds that you plant.” — Robert Louis Stephenson

Dempsey: Day to day, my co-workers and mentees are a huge source of inspiration. I feel a deep sense of responsibility to be my best for the people who depend on me to show up and work hard every day. My customers depend on that of course, but as a leader my team depends on it just as much. I think that mentality has positively shaped my career growth – the more I thought about how best to work with and help the people around me, the more trust they placed in me. In turn, those who mentored me early in my career noticed that dynamic and entrusted me with greater responsibility.

That kind of career progress, based on that kind of trust, is only possible in a work environment that fosters it. Working in an environment that emphasizes taking responsibility and being a good coworker enabled me to get to where I am today. I never take it for granted and try to create the same positive environment for my team.

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LEADERSHIP PROFILE

Who or What Has Inspired You on Your Career Journey?

LIBBY O’HARA

Manager, North American Operations Logistics Plus Erie, PA

“If you can’t fly, then run. If you can’t run, then walk. If you can’t walk, then crawl. But, whatever you do, you have to keep moving forward.” — Martin Luther King Jr.

O’Hara: When I sit down and really think about what or who has fueled my fire, so many people come to my mind. My husband, without him encouraging me to try something new and his support while I was “figuring it out” I would never have been able to do this. My kids, I want to be something that they can be proud of. I want to be an example of how hard work and good work ethic pays off. My team, I love to watch each of them grow and help them find that something that they are great at and watch them pave their own career path. My previous supervisors, they are the ones that taught me so many lessons of what to be and some what not to be. I will never forget when I was told “just let them be the rock in your river.” That little quote has become my daily pep talk to myself. Finally, Jim Berlin, who took a chance on a woman who had no experience at all in this business, and he supports and respects me in everything I do. His leadership style makes me want to be best. The atmosphere here is amazing, and I am truly blessed to have the opportunity to be one of the leaders here at Logistics Plus.

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MOLLY SCHOULLIS

Project Manager Logistics Plus Erie, PA

“Diligence is the mother of good fortune.” — Miguel De Cervantes

Who or What Has Inspired You on Your Career Journey?

Schoullis: One of the things that I love most about my role is the incredible group of individuals that I interact with every day. I took a leap of faith two years ago to join LP because I knew the people I was going to work with would not stop for anything to make a positive difference in other people’s lives. I am fortunate to come across quite a few of these people throughout my career; their desire to teach and want more is what truly inspires me.

Before joining LP, I worked at Starbucks and was managed by Tom Valerio. I had just graduated and was eager to learn and progress in an upward direction. Tom acknowledged my zest to work

hard and grow and spent the time to teach me about the industry, the intricacies of the business and how to lead others with kindness and respect. Tom believed in me, respected me and empowered me. Because of Tom, I want others who work with me to feel the way I do about Tom. I can only hope to grow and inspire others the way Tom inspired me.

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Who or What Has Inspired You on Your Career Journey?

KORTNIE HARMLE

Project Manager Logistics Plus Erie, PA

“If I have seen farther than others, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.” — Isaac Newton

Harmle: Throughout my career I’ve been very lucky to be surrounded by true professionals who are passionate about their craft. Personalities varied across the board. They brought different perspectives to solving problems, but everybody was focused on common goals and the bar for success was set very high. I’m extremely grateful for that.

Those experiences influenced my approach to leadership and managing teams, which is a complex problem to solve. It takes understanding, planning, patience and many more characteristics that I work to improve continuously.

At Logistics Plus, our culture, goals and mission have all been developed over time – they’re the cumulative result of everything we’ve done. And we’re a self-selecting group. Everybody is likeminded here (passionate, hard-working, entrepreneurial, risk-takers). There is nothing more rewarding than knowing I am part of, and a leader of, a team that truly cares about what we do and subscribes to the same beliefs. And as we keep growing, I strive to build a culture that will bring perspective, energy and fun to the challenges at hand.

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LEADERSHIP PROFILE

Who or What Has Inspired You on Your Career Journey?

Piazza: My goal was never to choose leadership, but I was inspired by a very progressive Human Resource leader. She encouraged me to join hospital committees and take advantage of the many educational opportunities being offered. When a leadership opportunity became available she gave me the courage to apply. I found I loved leadership. I believed and still do that I can influence and make a difference.

How lucky I have been in my career choice as a nurse where there are so many opportunities and possibilities. I love being a nurse and feel honored to be in such a wonderful profession. A good deal of my career has been at the front line. That training and experience has helped me to be a better leader. When I am making difficult decisions, I

SALLIE PIAZZA

Chief Nursing Officer, Saint Vincent / Allegheny Health Network Erie, PA

“As a leader, I want to always remind our nurses of the wonderful worthwhile work they do every day.”

keep two things in mind, our patients first and how will this affect the nurse.

My front-line experience has taught me to appreciate the hard work and dedication of all our nurses. They are the true heroes of health care. Day in and day out they take care of the sickest people selflessly. They see the worst of humanity and the very best. Nurses are challenged every day to be motivated, energized and inspired. As a leader, I want to always remind our nurses of the wonderful worthwhile work they do every day. I want them to see the many opportunities and possibilities in their work. Our success is the small efforts repeated day in and day out.

LEADERSHIP PROFILE

Who or What Has Inspired You on Your Career Journey?

Taylor: I have been inspired and supported by many people in my career including family and friends; however, I would say the people who inspire me the most are my clients. They trust me with their most important financial decisions, and I do not take that trust for granted. We go on a journey together in planning for their goals and I become very invested in them personally and helping them be successful and live out those goals. Many of them have touched my life in various ways and helped me evolve into the person and advisor I am today.

BRITTANY L. TAYLOR, CFP Principal and Senior Financial Advisor HBKS Wealth Advisors Erie, PA “I feel blessed to be a part of a firm whose values and goals have aligned with doing what is in the best interest of our clients long before the industry started making it a priority.”

community where I live means that I often get to see those results firsthand – whether it’s a student graduating from the college that their grandparents helped fund or attending an event at a charitable organization supported by one of my clients. It makes me happy that my children can see that I enjoy what I do and view hard work in a positive light.

Who or What Has Inspired You on Your Career Journey?

Renaud: I’ve been very blessed to do work that I feel passionately about, but I’m also privileged to be surrounded by people who are just as passionate about CBB: co-workers who energize each other by sharing ideas and successes; colleagues at our partner hospitals who care so deeply for their patients; donors who never stop moving me with their kindness and generosity; and recipients who have trusted me enough over the years to share their personal stories.

There is a quote by Steve Jobs that always resonated with me: “If you are working on something exciting that you

DEANNA RENAUD

Executive Director, Community Blood Bank Erie, PA

“If you are working on something exciting that you really care about, you don’t have to be pushed. The vision pulls you.” — Steve Jobs

really care about, you don’t have to be pushed. The vision pulls you.” I’m inspired by the work, to be sure, but to do it alongside others who are pulled by the vision makes me exceptionally grateful.

LEADERSHIP PROFILE

Who or What Has Inspired You on Your Career Journey?

Farrar: My career path was inspired by an internship at the Erie County Historical Society. That experience inspired me to work in the nonprofit sector for mission-based organizations over the past 20+ years.

At each organization, the mission and the donors who support it, continue to keep me inspired and motivated to work for a better community. At Asbury Woods, I’m able to blend my nonprofit experience with my personal values of protecting and enjoying the natural world.

JENNIFER A. FARRAR, CFRE

Executive Director, Asbury Woods Millcreek Township, PA

“I’m proud to be part of this dedicated team that believes in appreciating and protecting the natural world.”

recreational experiences that inspire a greater sense of environmental awareness, sustainability and stewardship.

We achieve this mission through a diverse array of programming for schools, community groups, families and individuals of all ages; by providing outdoor recreational opportunities; and by protecting, managing, and interpreting our 205 acres of property. I’m proud to be part of this dedicated team that believes in appreciating and protecting the natural world.

Who or What Has Inspired You on Your Career Journey?

Gibson: My inspiration to lead others comes from my first experiences as a young nurse in the hospital. I loved caring for patients even on the busiest days. The reward of making a difference through a kind word, a touch or the care you provide was an awesome feeling. However, I struggled with the lack of encouragement, feedback and support I received as a new nurse. I came to learn that you don’t have to have a title to make a difference.

Informal leaders are just as important and effective as formal leaders. I believe that the informal leaders embedded within an organization

JANE GIBSON

Executive Director, Asbury Springhill Erie, PA

“Help me to be less fearful of the measure of time, and more fully alive in the time that simply is. Help me to live time, not just to simply use it; to breathe it in, and return it in acts of love and presence.” — Avis Crowe have abilities to make a difference with their peers in ways that formal leaders don’t. As executive director of Springhill Senior Living, I am committed to our residents, but I am just as committed to our associates and all others that we serve. I believe we have a great responsibility to mentor and support the next generation of leaders to be the very best they can be through our own actions and interactions! I feel blessed to have this opportunity to serve them.

LEADERSHIP PROFILE

Who or What Has Inspired You on Your Career Journey?

Cook: I’ve drawn much of my inspiration and passion for serving the Erie community from my parents, who have both supported and challenged me to be a better leader and person.

During my tenure, the Credit Union has grown from $31 million to over $330 million in assets and now employs a staff of 110 – and counting! In this time, Widget Financial has achieved national recognition for its volunteer efforts in the Erie Community and has been nominated as one of the best credit unions to work for in the country. I’ve

GAIL COOK

Chief Executive Officer, Widget Financial Erie, PA “There are no secrets to success: don’t waste time looking for them. Success is the result of perfection, hard work, learning from failure, loyalty to those for whom you work and persistence.”

— General Colin Powell also overseen 14 mergers, and seven branch renovations and construction projects with the newest state-of-the-art branch opening on Millfair Road in March. This year, I’m proud to be chairing the American Heart Association Walk on September 10, as well.

Who or What Has Inspired You on Your Career Journey?

French: Growing up in an immigrant, bluecollar family in Detroit, and working my way through college plunged me head deep into the true meaning of “Whether you think you can or think you can’t, you’re right.”

Years later with a Bachelor’s of Science in Mechanical Engineering my career focused in helping others in the safety restraints systems and airbags industry. The thrill of INTENTIONALLY crashing full size vehicles was tempered by the sobering realization we were trying to minimize fatalities in infants and adults. I thrived on knowing I was helping others, even though the results were distant and unknown.

Having an appreciation for the power of intention, my desire to help others led me to a career in executive and technical recruiting. Being able to directly assist in changing another person’s life story, helping them to visualize

SOPHIA FRENCH

Branch Manager, NextStep Resources Erie, PA

“Whether you think you can or think you can’t, you’re right.” — Henry Ford

their own potential, while at the same time providing a company with their next new Innovator/Designer/BIG THINKER, is the best of all worlds. There are many who can’t see past their current circumstances, yet their abilities are far beyond what they can see. The same holds true for companies, especially those used to doing things the “same as we’ve always done it.” Helping both parties see the potential they have together, while fulfilling their independent goals, makes my efforts worthwhile. Putting the right combination of people together can create a powerful synergy, that can overcome any obstacle. You only need to THINK YOU CAN.

LEADERSHIP PROFILE

Who or What Has Inspired You on Your Career Journey?

Waite: Since the age of 14, I knew that I would be working in business. I couldn’t wait to work! After starting my first job at 15 years old and working at the school store during high school, I knew I had made my choice.

After graduation, I was lucky enough to have a boss who gave me the opportunities that led me into management and corporate training. The experience of traveling and training has been a major part of who I am today as a leader. I’ve become very passionate about teaching and empowering others, helping people bring out the best in themselves.

I’ve been at Bonnell’s Auto Group for almost 11 years now, starting at the front desk and working hard to become a successful manager. The automotive industry is fast paced and requires the work of a team. Every department has a significant role so, at the end of the day, it doesn’t work without the entire team. For me, a

CHRYSTAL WAITE

Office Manager, Bonnell’s Auto Group Erie, PA

“I believe that hard work, the willingness to learn and the strength to empower others is what builds a great leader!”

team atmosphere is where I belong because I am always up for the challenge to work with, support and learn from others.

Again, I am blessed to have a terrific boss who has given me the opportunity to grow in this industry and who has also inspired me to be a part of the community working with many other organizations throughout the years such as Relay for Life, Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, United Way, Erie Christian Business Leaders, Michael Making Lives Better, Convoy of Hope and more. All of this, along with the support of my husband and children is what brings out the best leader in me.

Who or What Has Inspired You on Your Career Journey?

Moore: I never dreamed when I started my career that I would find my professional purpose “in the eyeball business.” I started at the Sight Center in 1999 as a grant writer while I stayed home to raise three small children. It wasn’t long before the people I met who were blind or losing their vision began to have a real impact on my life.

I came to admire the optimism and positive attitudes with which many people face an uncertain future without sight. They inspire me to work every day to ensure the future of this wonderful agency that means so much to them and to me.

LINDA J. MOORE

Chief Executive Officer The Sight Center of Northwest PA Erie, PA

“I am inspired every day by the people we are privileged to serve at the Sight Center. Their courage, optimism and often-creative attitudes toward life with vision loss give me the energy to go to work every day and do the best we can.”

The team at the Sight Center is an amazing group of people dedicated to serving our mission to prevent blindness and promote independence for those with vision loss and those who are blind. They are among my favorite humans on the planet. There’s no place I’d rather work!

LEADERSHIP PROFILE

Who or What Has Inspired You on Your Career Journey?

KAREN WAGNER

Director of Financial Services, CPA, Shriners Hospitals for Children — Erie Erie, PA “When the focus is on the patients and the mission, you are inspired to do the very best in your role as part of that mission.”

Wagner: Many times those of us in the finance profession are focused on the dollars and cents, and not the people behind an organization’s operation. Through my career at Shriners Hospitals for Children – Erie, I have been lucky enough to see firsthand how my hard work can have an impact on the patients and families that come to our medical center.

Instead of shareholder dividends or profit margins, my focus is on the patients and the mission of Shriners Hospitals for Children. This has been the overarching motivation for my career. I’d like to think that I’m using my financial management talents to make the lives of our patients and my fellow employees better. It can

be humbling to hear the patients’ stories of success and positive attitudes. This provides great motivation to best manage the financial resources that we have in order to continue to provide these services. This attitude radiates through my fellow employees as well. Everyone’s focus on making children’s lives a little better makes for a very rewarding career.