Who is your biggest role model?
My mother. She grew up in a time when women didn’t have the freedoms and rights that women enjoy today. And yet, she found the will and the way to not be constrained by it. That’s what I always remind myself of and have taken with me throughout my life.
How did you get involved in finance?
In college, I was drawn to business, but wanted to specialize in the language of business: accounting. There’s one specific accounting course that separates who will finish their degrees from those who won’t, and I refused to back down and give up. I’ve continued to do that every step of the way in my career.
What is an interest you have outside of work?
I’m a diehard soccer fan. Growing up, I wanted to be the next Pelé or David Beckham. My national teams are Nigeria and Cameroon, and I’ve been rooting for Manchester United after my British wife insisted on it.
Advice for professionals wanting to enter the finance field?
You need to have the ability to imagine. Those who fail to do so get left behind because decisions are made within certain inhibitors and mental blocks. Imagine, and embrace change with open arms.
What does your day-to-day job involve?
It’s different every single day! I split my time between client support, staff support, and business development, so I get to identify and solve tricky problems all day long, which I love. Things are always evolving in science policy work, so you never know when politics or popular press may impact the work we’re doing. And it’s always fast-paced.
Why is science policy so important to Ripple’s business?
You could say that science policy is the heart of Ripple’s business. It’s where we started and how we grew our core capabilities into three unique, but interrelated divisions. Science policy work requires analytical skills, communication skills, and subject matter expertise, as well as exceptional project management, attention to detail, and practical, repeatable processes. These are the strengths that we bring to every client, every project, every time, and inspire our company’s core values.
What is a fun fact about you?
My husband and I met in an acapella group!
What advice do you have for those following in your footsteps?
Be open to opportunities around you. Some of the most wonderful things in my life happened because I talked with someone in an elevator or while waiting in line. Science policy is such a diverse field, that you never know who may help connect to you that next career step. If you’re willing to consider lots of possibilities, there are many paths to success.
How did you join Ripple Effect?
After my AAAS Science & Technology Policy fellowship, I was looking for my next career step. A colleague mentioned that I should talk to Amy Bielski from Ripple Effect, a company I had heard positive things about. I contacted Amy and we hit it off right away. I started off by managing an NIH contract that Ripple Effect had recently won, and after that project was over, there was always another new and exciting challenge to overcome—that satisfied my need for learning and achieving.
What do you think is your biggest strength as a leader?
When I took the CliftonStrengths assessment, I was a little surprised by the results. My top five strengths are Achiever, Relator, Responsibility, Harmony, and Learner. My husband says I have the most patience of anyone he knows and I think that comes from the Relator and Harmony strengths. I’ve learned that taking the time to understand and see situations from multiple perspectives is key to connecting with others and solving problems.
What do you do in your free time?
I don’t have a lot of free time since most of my time outside of work is spent taking care of my kids. But I make time every morning to be active—I’m an avid runner and I do yoga on the weekends.
What are you proudest of in your career?
I am proudest of what Amy and I have built at Ripple Effect. We’ve created a place that welcomes diversity and values lifelong learners who always want to find better ways to do things.
Tell us about your career path. What were you doing before Ripple Effect?
After years of studying and training to be a teacher, I realized I cared more about social science and big-picture policies that affect lives, rather than being the one teaching reading and math. So, I switched gears. Before Ripple Effect, I worked for the Army and evaluated behavioral health programs.
What’s a hobby of yours?
I am an avid reader, especially Stephen King novels. It’s hard to find the time with three kids, but getting to read on vacation or on an airplane is when I’m the happiest.
Why is Research and Evaluation so important to what Ripple Effect does?
If you aren’t willing to look at yourself and see how you can improve, you probably aren’t approaching your business in a way that has fidelity. The government hasn’t always done this well, but we do! So, we help clients measure, analyze, and better understand how to improve and learn from past mistakes.
What is a funny quirk about you that people might not know?
I’m a big germaphobe. Being a health researcher doesn’t help that.
Advice you would give a young professional?
What my father always told me: You are going to work for the vast majority of your life, so do something you can take pride in and enjoy doing.
What does it mean to be the Director of Scientific Workforce?
A lot of the work we do at Ripple Effect isn’t done at Headquarters; many contracts involve placing our people directly at client sites. So, I’m responsible for developing best practices for hiring and managing our employees at those client sites, like NIH and Fort Detrick. I also build close relationships with our clients and employees to ensure we find support that fits an agency’s culture and mission needs.
What’s the biggest challenge you face in your role?
Having limited face-to-face communication with the people I manage and support is a huge challenge. I can’t pretend to know what it’s like to be in their shoes every day. So, I listen. I understand their needs, empathize, and help problem-solve. There may be a physical divide between me and client sites, but I want my Scientific Workforce and clients to know I’m always there for them.
What are some of your hobbies?
I love to do anything active—I’m a runner and I coach my son’s sports teams. On the other hand, I love naps. On the weekend, you can find me taking a catnap to recharge for the next week.
Fun fact about you?
I was in ROTC! As a part of my program, I flew glider planes. Scary, but a big confidence booster.
Advice to young professionals?
Do some soul-searching about what’s most important to you in your career—is it the work? The people? A company mission and culture? Then, find opportunities that move you down that path. If something is truly important to you, don’t take no for an answer.
Tell us about your career path. How did you get here?
I studied at the University of Wisconsin-Madison (Go Badgers!) and got my MBA from Concordia University. I concentrated on Human Resource Management because I wanted to prove that HR professionals can be analytical, strategic, and have a seat at the business table.
What motivates you?
I’ve made it my mission to ensure that when you come to work at Ripple Effect, you bring your whole self and feel comfortable doing so. We’re all equal here, and I will always fight for that.
What are some of your hobbies?
I love to organize (and color-coordinate!) I’d be a professional organizer if I could. My favorite store is Staples—I could spend a whole paycheck there.
Advice for future professionals entering your field?
Develop your people’s leadership skills, especially junior employees. Train them and involve them. As companies grow, they need succession plans—and if you invest in your people, they will invest in the company in return.
Why is communications so important for a business’s success?
It’s becoming a lost art. In a world of 280 Twitter characters, everyone has become reactionary. The first story isn’t the whole story—research matters. Be methodical, thoughtful, and evidence-based, and that’s how you succeed.
Sports. Golf is a passion of mine, and I coach my step-daughter’s hockey team. I enjoy reading books—biographies and historical nonfiction. Traveling is a big, big hobby, and I love exploring new cultures with my family.
I soloed in an airplane before I got my driver’s license.
What are you proudest of?
I’ve worked hard to surround myself with good, like-minded coworkers, many of whom have become close friends. That we’re willing to spend time together means I’ve earned trust and respect and tried to lead by example, and I’m very proud of that.
Why did you start Ripple Effect?
When I worked at other companies, I realized they prioritized the technical sides of business over culture: HR, how employees and contractors were treated. To be successful, every element of a business matters, not just the bottom line. I wanted to create an environment that reflected that.
What is a hobby of yours?
I’m a martial arts instructor working towards my 3rd degree black belt. I appreciate how Ninjutsu isn’t about violence—it’s about how to be calm in a battle and defuse tense situations.
Before everything became digital, I’d take 14-20 paperback books with me on vacation and read them all by the end of the trip. Since I’m not a person who reads things twice, I would leave the books in a common area for other people to enjoy.
Advice to someone wanting to start their own business?
You need to have a creative vision of what you want to achieve and where you want your company to go. To get there, you need to be resilient and learn like crazy from peers who walked the path before you. If you have enough perseverance, you can learn anything.