It was a sunny afternoon in May of 2020, and I was running a staff meeting on Zoom with my team. I had just become CEO in January, and all of my plans were scrambled. Between the pandemic, supply chain breakdowns and preparing to move our largest in-person event to an all-new virtual format, it seemed we had finally reached a threshold I had never envisioned I would touch in the first five months of my tenure. I distinctly recall saying out loud, “What else could happen?” Near the conclusion of that meeting, a news alert popped up on my computer for a New York Times article headlined, “‘Murder Hornets’ in the U.S.: The Rush to Stop the Asian Giant Hornet.” I never challenged the universe again.
As uncomical as murder hornets are, I still chuckle over that memory. Few people realize that I only worked in the AME office for about a month before the world shut down. That left very little time to bond as a new team. When we switched to remote work, we found creative ways to maintain our connection and work ethic. Every Monday, we spend an hour in Team Time, playing virtual Pictionary, establishing vision boards, challenging ourselves in trivia and getting to know each other on a much more personal level. I have such great respect for Darlene, Desiree, Denise and Sara and our partners Meghna, Amy and Taylor. They make coming to work every day such a joy. I still look forward to the connections on Mondays.
This week marks my third year as CEO, and it is as much a celebration for me as it is of my team, our incredible board and you—without whom this letter might never have reached inboxes.
I owe a large debt of gratitude to two of the most people-centric leaders I know, Bill Fierle and Wayne Pitchford, who guided and supported me during my first two years as CEO. No one could have predicted we would face such incredible challenges. From the moment I crossed the starting line, there were difficult decisions to make, and I owe much to their continued support and mentorship and to our incredible board of directors during these ever-changing times.
I recently reread my first interview as CEO, published on January 29, 2020. In it, I spoke about “honoring the past, celebrating the present and embracing the future.” I had no idea at the time how relevant this would be. It is important as we set AME up for future success that all our generations work collaboratively. Our membership is more diverse than ever, something I am immensely proud of. Witnessing the unity of the regional board members, hearing their enthusiasm and watching them embrace new members is a constant inspiration.
I’ve also had the privilege to witness AME transforming inside a new virtual universe. Who would have imagined years ago that people could work virtually full-time, that over 1,000 people would attend virtual conferences and that long-lasting relationships would be made and nurtured organically online? What was seen as a potentially crippling threat has made our AME Emerging Leaders, AME Consortia and AME Champions Club networking programs stronger than ever before.
At the end of my first letter, I invited you to reach out to me at any time to share your ideas on how we can serve you better. I would like to extend that invitation again. Authentic communication is important to me, and I always have and will welcome your feedback. I will never take this position for granted and am honored to continue to serve as your CEO. I am grateful to each and every one of you, and I look forward to what’s ahead.
As always, please stay safe and keep looking out for one another.