“On the Job with ...” is a weekly Sunday Inc. series, spotlighting area business owners and executives. Today’s interview is with Wendy Wilson, director of alumni affairs at Albany State University.
Q. What was your first job?
A. Assistant director of student placement. At the ripe old age of 16, I held the responsibility of placing summer interns on job assignments and monitored their work performance. It was my first experience with personnel management and development.
Q. What was the first thing you spent money on when you received your first paycheck?
A. A Coach duffle bag that I still own.
Q. What’s the single most effective technique you found over the past two years for keeping employees motivated?
A. Thanking them at the conclusion of each work day for their effort and input remains a constant on my agenda. In light of budget cuts, furloughs and the like, it is easy to become disenchanted. I often remind them that their roles influence the success of the department and institution.
Q. What led you to your current position?
A. Three years ago I faced a “Carpe Diem” moment in my career. Presented with the great opportunity to assist with the promotion and dissemination of Albany State University’s mission to the public, I made the decision to advance professionally while supporting an institution that maintains a 108-year educational commitment to Southwest Georgia. As director of Alumni Affairs, I’ve been afforded the privilege of collectively working with alumni, students, colleagues and community leaders who recognize the tangible and intangible benefits of an education and the impact it has on an individual as well as the greater society.
Q. Do you have a role model or mentor in your career?
A. I have two role models, Lee Iacocca and Desiree Rogers. Lee Iacocca understood the importance of recognizing and considering the short and long term impact of internal and external influences. Whether internal, external or both, they can either propel or hinder the success of an organization. His mastery of that concept contributed significantly to the success of both Ford and Chrysler. Desiree Rogers, former White House Social Secretary for the Obama Administration and now CEO of Johnson Publishing, has successfully demonstrated the value of possessing transferable skills. Only the astute are able to seamlessly transfer industries as she has done. Rogers impressively showcases her ability to effectively communicate the vision of the organization while simultaneously assessing and implementing corrective action when and where necessary.
Q. What is the biggest lesson you as a leader learned from the recent recession?
A. Always have a Plan B and C. Developing and maintaining a dependency on a one-approach method only prepares you for a state of vulnerability.
Q. If you could turn the clock back on one aspect of technology – examples e-mail, automated phone systems, cell phones, PDAs, etc. – what would you most like to see go away?
A. The cell phone would be my first choice. It has become another appendage for so many of us. We’ve convinced ourselves that without them our existence is somehow jeopardized. I dare not begin to share my disdain for those who unconsciously or in some cases consciously decide that I too must be an active listener in their conversation.
Q. What is your favorite work-related gadget?
A. My PC is by far my favorite gadget. I liken it to a second brain.
Q. What is your favorite tradition?
A. Speaking with my grandmother (Mittie Law, aka Gram) each Saturday or Sunday morning, sometimes both days. Her brilliance, wit and bountiful wisdom continues to be a guiding force in my life.
Q. What was the last book you read?
A. “Unthinkable” by Scott Rigsby. This book is a testament to the will of the human spirit. It also teaches the important lesson of not allowing conditions or circumstances to hinder your desires and life aspirations. My godmother, Barbara Woodson, shared “Desiderata” by Max Ehrmann with me during my teenage years. This timeless message reminds the reader to be mindful of their interactions with others. How we choose to respond to those interactions ultimately impacts our well being. I regularly read biographies about business titans for motivation.
Q. You are up and going by ... and what is your morning routine?
A. I’m up and going by 5:30, 6 a.m. at the very latest, giving thanks for another day, followed by a mad dash to the coffee maker.
Q. What famous person would you like to meet, and why?
A. Nelson Mandela. I’ve always admired his unique ability to discern and assess a situation always with the intent of impacting the greater good. Despite his 27 years of torturous physical imprisonment he never relinquished his mind and spirit to his oppressor. My desire to meet him increased after experiencing an address along with thousands of others in Detroit shortly after his release in 1991. It was during that message that he reminded the world that we all have the ability to defy and conquer the odds. I cannot think of another individual that embodies his level of discipline and emotional strength.
Q. Favorite hobbies or activity outside work?
A. Reading, traveling and teaching etiquette and professional development classes.
Q. Best thing about your job?
A. Showcasing the achievements and accomplishments of ASU alumni and community leaders on the television format, Realizing Potential (Mediacom’s Channel 19) tops my list of job highlights.
Q. Worst thing about your job?
A. On numerous occasions I receive calls or emails from alumni excitedly requesting my assistance with locating former classmates they’ve lost contact with over the years. I’m always saddened when I have to inform them that the search was unsuccessful or break the news that that their classmate has since passed.
Q. The most beneficial course I took in school was?
A. There were two, Speech and Business Writing.
Q. What would be your dream job if you were able to pick a position outside your current career path?
A. U.S. Secretary of State — Being the lead authority tasked with persuading, influencing and promoting the mission of the United States as it relates to foreign affairs ... does it get any better?
Q. Finish this thought; “On the first anniversary of my retirement, I see myself …
A. Cruising on the Nile.
Q. What is the one trait a strong business leader cannot afford to be without?
Q. Crystal ball time: What’s your call on when the economic recovery for our area will be in full swing?
Q. What kind of music might I find on your list of most played on your iPod?
A. All of the theme songs from the James Bond movies and lots of Jazz.
Q. What do you think is the biggest change Albany will see in the next 10 years?
A. A growth and expansion of major industries.
Q. What was the best vacation you’ve ever taken? Why?
A. Three days in Seoul, Korea. The sights, sounds and culture were magnificent. The shopping left me breathless.