I chose to “Lean In” to a new career opportunity
I graduated from college with a Bachelors of Science degree in Zoology. My main interest was primate behavior and I wanted to become the next Jane Goodall. I continued my college education to gain more practical experience in zoological care and worked with various species of animals including primates. I leveraged an opportunity to spend a summer has a field research assistant working on migratory bird and sea turtle conservation in Cost Rica. I loved the experience I gained from working in the field with wildlife, but I didn’t know where to go next. I ended up working as a small mammal and primate keeper at an AZA accredited zoological institution for the next three years. Although the experience was very rewarding, I was not satisfied by the mark I was leaving on the world. I always knew I wanted to make a deeper impact, but I was slowly learning that this may not be in the world of zoology.
In 2006, my grandmother lost her battle to arthritis. She had spent her last few years completely crippled and relied on her husband to take care of her every need. I become a volunteer with the Arthritis Foundation in 1999 in part to learn more about this disease that was affecting my grandmother’s quality of life, but also because my best friend was living with a juvenile form of arthritis. He exposed me to a camp program that the Arthritis Foundation offers to kids affected by arthritis and other related diseases. I became a counselor and I was hooked after my first camp experience. Even while I was a zoologist living in a completely different state or country I never missed volunteering at the camp. It changed my life and I didn’t even have arthritis.
In 2006, reflecting back on all my professional and personal experiences, I knew I wanted to be part of this life-changing experience. So, I asked my mentors at the Arthritis Foundation how to join their team. I had no public health experience, no non-profit knowledge, but I knew I wanted to make an impact and this was my way. I went through a tough interview process and unfortunately, I didn’t get the Program Manager position. In the meantime, I was training for my first half-marathon in memory of my grandmother and a camper that had passed away the same year from arthritis. I was raising funds and awareness for the Arthritis Foundation through the half-marathon and the week before I left to run, the Arthritis Foundation called me back to offer me a fundraising job. I was completely nervous to take this leap of faith. I was so confident in my career as a zoologist and seriously, it was a cool job, but I knew I needed to snatch up this opportunity – and I did.
I’ve been with the Arthritis Foundation for over six years and have been promoted three times since being hired. I started off as a Development Manager w