Speaking of inspiring women, we couldn't help but introduce our very own Pam Welch, Stand's Chief Operating Officer. Take a few minutes to learn about Pam's upbringing, her experience as a female leader, and her unique and refreshing personality (don't believe me? Keep scrolling to check out her Halloween costume).
Tell us about your upbringing.
I grew up in Camp Sherman Oregon, and I went to a two-room schoolhouse for first and second grade. I was the only 2nd grader and one of two 1st graders in the school.
Then my family moved to Black Butte Ranch (pre-resort!) near Sisters, Oregon. My dad was a rancher and he drove a school bus for extra money. My mom was the clerk for the school district to earn some extra money. I always knew that money was a problem because I would hear my mom having to ask my dad for money and it really bothered me. But I was never deprived of anything, because my mom was just so good making a little money go a long ways for her kids. I learned to ski, for example, because my mom took a part time job at a ski resort so our family could get free lift passes.
Growing up I knew I would have to go to college, even though we didn’t have much money. I knew I would find some way. Because I saw that growing up in Central Oregon without college you were poor, and I was determined to do more.
You’ve previously worked at Nike, and at Lucy with Stand’s Oregon ED, Sue Levin. Tell us more about your career path.
After I finished college I landed a job at Nike, which was fantastic. And then I had an opportunity to get more education, my MBA, and I did that. When I received my MBA I worked for Portland General Electric. I loved getting to know the engineers and what their lives and workdays were like. Then I worked at Lucy with Sue Levin, which was also really fun and all about supporting female athletes.
Through all of this time I was on the board of the YWCA, and I served as board president for 2 terms. And in every role I was in I would always encourage my staff to take advantage of reduced tuition opportunities, to go back to school part-time, to do whatever they could to get more education. I truly believed, and it was proven throughout my life, that education gives people the tools to turn their own life around.
I was back at Nike when I heard about a job at Stand for Children. I loved my job at Nike but I really wanted to act on my desire to improve education for all kids in the U.S. And I thought “If not now, when?” I just had to take it. And I did.
What differences do you notice between businesses and non-profits (like Stand)?
In a for profit company your goals and objectives are clear: we’re trying to sell this number of shoes. It’s easy to measure success. In nonprofits many times the goals are around behavioral change and it’s hard to measure. Measuring success is more complicated and many times your work is several years in the making so you don’t have the same black and white measurement ability to say, “Yes, I’m doing a good job!”
So nonprofit work is much harder than working in a for-profit. But it’s more rewarding.
I remember distinctly having a meeting with you, then 10 minutes later you dashed off to run the Hood to Coast relay race! What else do you do for fun?
I’ve done 19 Hood to Coast Relays! My fun is outdoor or sport-related. I’m a huge college football fan. And then it would be hard for me to choose which I like best: running, skiing, or cycling. Recently I was in the Pole, Pedal, Paddle Bend Relay: I started off with a downhill ski, then I handed off to a cross country skier, who handed off to a cyclist, who passed the baton to a runner, the runner passes it off to the kayaker, and then the kayaker passes it off for a final run. I didn’t know any of the five guys on my team until that day, and it was so cool when we finished.
What advice would you give other women interested in leadership?
Find your strength and your passion, then put them to work in service of an inspiring purpose. Work hard; play hard. Never burn a bridge; relationships and connections will pay you multiple dividends. And I’m a big believer of “paying it forward”. One of my favorite quotes:
What good advice have you gotten?
One thing I return to frequently is one of Nike’s values: Do the right thing. I use that as my centering question when confronted with hard decisions and have found that regardless of the outcome, I feel confident I’ve made a good decision.
People have told me, and it’s true, that the challenging situations you face are the ones that will grow your leadership muscle. So don’t be afraid to make mistakes, just be smart and make sure you learn from them.