How did you get to where you are today?
When we’re talking about careers, we are often encouraged to view success at the top of a ladder — always aiming higher in what is essentially a straight line. But a few years ago, during a business gathering, instead of a ladder, someone used the example of scaffolding to illustrate the way some career trajectories play out. That image resonated with me because, when it comes to my career, I have twisted and turned, stood still at times, and then gone backwards to move forward.
Even when it was uncomfortable — sometimes brutally! — I’ve never been afraid to step into the unknown and take a position that I might not feel fully qualified for or study for another degree or work to acquire a new skill or make a phone call to network with someone I’d like to know.
Honestly, what is the worst thing that can happen if you step out in support of yourself and your passions? Failure? Rejection? Yes! And that’s what often stops us from following a path we really want to explore. No one WANTS to fail, but for the record, I have failed many, many (many!) times. I can assure you that most of my biggest and (and most public) failures have taught me great lessons and made me even better — personally and professionally.
In some cases, they’ve even landed me some awesome gigs that I never would have landed if I hadn’t taken a chance on something that gave me a new skill or challenge.
What makes your story unique?
I have never held a position where I stepped into someone else’s former role. In other words, I have essentially created or designed every job I’ve ever had from journalism to corporate America. From developing, producing and hosting a television morning show to starting my own television production company to becoming the first vice president of audience for a large media company to building the Corporate Communications division at Zaxby’s, I have written my own job descriptions and developed my own criteria for success.
The key is to take your expertise and identify the gaps. What areas are underserved? How will your idea change the organization or the community and make it better? Where are the areas for potential expansion and what is that return on investment (and it doesn’t always have to be financial)?
Answering all of those questions, doing my research, building my case, and collaborating with my various networks have led to some incredible experiences, relationships, and career opportunities. Don’t be afraid to create the “story” of where the organization can go and then advocate for yourself as the right person to lead the charge.
What is the most rewarding part of your work?
Currently, I serve as vice president of culture, communications, and citizenship at the corporate office of Zaxby’s which is a support center for our franchisee community and 900-plus stores.
Since I work directly for Zach McLeroy, who is a founder and CEO, I am exposed to the inner workings of a high growth company that is driven not only by financials but by the rewards that come from fostering a culture of service that enriches lives across the brand footprint. Zach is and always has been focused on people, and I love that about him. He’s surrounded himself with people who are driven by being part of a big vision that impacts so many lives.
Beyond the C-suite, working with world class talent in areas of culture, technology, operations, development, financial planning, strategy, legal, and communications is personally and professionally rewarding … no doubt.
What is your favorite part of working with Trestle Collective?
Speaking of world class talent, the Trestle Collective is made up of professionals who are multi-faceted in their expertise, abilities and vision. They meet their deadlines, they have excellent ideas, and they get excited about their work and its impact.
Joe and Johnathan worked with my Corporate Communications team to break out stories for an upcoming project dedicated to Zaxby’s first 30 years. During this project they really became one of the team! They are also super cool people, which I appreciate so much.
What’s your favorite lunch spot?
If I’m downtown for a casual lunch, I stay on the Prince Avenue side and frequent The Grit, Taziki’s and Taqueria del Sol.
If it’s a business meeting where I need a little space and some privacy, I’m all about the “power lunch” at Hilltop Grille on W. Broad St.