Lead(h)er Board Q&A: Emily Shenk-DeMay

One of the things we love most about having Emily on our board is her laughter --it's contagious! Her passion is  too --read on! 

1.  When you were new to your career what was something you struggled with, or worried about, thinking it was unique to you, but later discovered is very common?

I remember worrying about what the older and more experienced professionals in my office thought about me, and if they thought I was incapable, too “green”, or if they would take me seriously. I think these are common thoughts for young professionals, and some may even have negative experiences in the work place with older professionals doubting their success and abilities. I was fortunate enough early on in my career to have mentors that quickly came along side and believed in me, and saw potential in me that I doubted, from the very beginning. This made all the difference in the development of my career and brought growth opportunities within the company that I currently work in.

2.  As a young professional, in a role without much authority, what should you focus on to develop as a leader?

The three foundational biggies for me are:

  1. Authenticity. Be yourself and don’t try to fit in to a mold that you think exists.
  2. Establish your moral compass. What are my truths and what do I value most.
  3. Priorities. What am I willing to sacrifice and what can’t I live without.

3.  Why is a mentor relationship important for growth?

I spoke to this a little before, but the mentoring relationship is huge when it comes to confidence building. Mentoring is also a great relationship for checks and balances, someone to bounce ideas off of and can certainly be valuable for networking as well.

4.  What are the biggest challenges women face in the workplace?

One that comes to mind right away for me, since I’m currently living this chapter of my life, is work-life balance, or imbalance as it has also been described. I feel this continues to be a struggle for women, especially when kiddos are in the equation, to have to make the choice of sacrificing time with one or the other. I do believe that many companies are coming around in their view on having that balance, but I also think there is still this more is better mentality, this expectation that for women to get ahead, you have to be willing to give more and more of yourself and say yes to everything that comes across your plate. I learned a very valuable lesson from a quote that stopped me in my tracks when I was faced with the opportunity to take on a leadership position: “Whenever you say yes to something, there is less of you for something else. Make sure your yes is worth the less.”-Louie Giglio. I have this quote on my desk as a daily reminder to keep me on track of what’s important and what is worth my time and focus.

5.  What are the biggest challenges young professionals face in the workplace?

Others doubting your credibility or your knowledge because you are younger. This ties back to my answer from question 1, as I did have this experience with an older peer that questioned my work ethic. As noted previously, I was thankful for those mentors that came alongside me and encouraged me to help negate that opinion. Another challenge I believe is the lack of formal mentoring programs for young professionals, which is why organizations such as Lead(H)er are so important.

6.  How can you make a difference in the community?  Why is that important to you?

I’m a huge advocate of volunteering and giving back to your community. I think a lot of young professionals feel if they don’t have a lot of money to give, they are not making a difference, but volunteering your time and energy is one of the easiest and most impactful ways to give back, from volunteering at the local food bank, reading to children, serving on a board of a local non-profit, etc. Volunteering also brings about professional experience, growth and learning opportunities that can spark new interests and passions and sometimes even lead to a change in career paths.

7.  Why are you passionate about Lead(H)er and its mission?

I love that Lead(H)er has relationships as the cornerstone, to match young women with experienced business leaders that can help mold and shape a new generation of leaders. Having that established relationship will encourage engagement and involvement in the local community as well as empower and inspire leadership qualities in the young women being matched.

8.  Why is Lead(H)er uniquely positioned to make an impact in the Quad Cities?

This organization is focusing on young women at a critical point in their careers and at a time when they are looking where to plant their feet. Lead(H)er is positioned to help solidify that decision to keep young female professionals here in the QC and cultivate future leaders of this community.