Jonathan Webb (Northern Virginia)
Career: Chief Executive Officer for the Association of Maternal and Child Health Programs
The Association of Maternal and Child Health Programs is a national organization that works with states and territories to support the optimal health of women and children. Our member programs collectively serve about 63 million people.
Steps towards becoming a CEO: I received a Bachelor of Science degree, then went on to get my Masters degrees in Public Health and then Business Administration. I thought the MPH would provide me with the information I needed from a content perspective, and the MBA would help me better understand business and strategic planning processes.
I also spent time thinking about how I wanted to make an impact; in what industry, what role, etc. I then spent some time researching if that position existed and if so, what types of skills did the person currently filling that role have. I tried to also critically think about what that role might need to have in the future if the industry changed and/or if there were needs/gaps I could see filling in some way.
Afterward, I started to chart an educational and career path to get the necessary experience and education that would make me marketable and differentiate me from other people who might be applying for the same role. For example, in the public health space, it’s not common to see someone with both an MPH and MBA, so I can “sell” the fact that I can bring a strong business background and focus on business principles to organizations.
Additionally, an important part of this work depends on your ability to raise money…but not many people have formal training/experience in this, so I sought out roles that were hardcore fundraising, so I would have this skill/experience and be able to “sell” that to a would-be employer. I’ve been the Chief Development Officer for the YMCA and the VP, Corporate and Foundation Partnerships and Social Enterprise for the American Diabetes Association. It’s essential to think critically about what’s needed in your desired role…and then think outside of the box for ways to fill that need, so you can market yourself in the best possible way.
1- What is a quality that makes you successful in your career?
The quality that makes me most successful is that I try to always put God first. This approach allows me to enjoy what I’m doing; even the hard stuff because I’m doing it in His service and at His direction. It also helps me to value every person, relationship, and interaction. A former pastor of mine offered a challenge that I’ll always remember. “If someone is looking for Jesus, May they find Him in you.”
2- What 3 tips would you give someone struggling to reach their goals?
Before answering this with practical tips…as a Christian, I would first pray for guidance and understanding if this is the “right” goal for me. Is this where God is directing me? Is this my purpose in Him?
Then depending on the answer, I would:
1) Look to better understand how others have achieved a similar goal, i.e., if I want to start a business, can I find a few people in my network to serve as mentors to help me understand how they got to where they are and learn from their mistakes and successes. Having good mentors and a strong network is essential. I heard someone say, “You can network or not work” a long time ago, and that phrase has stuck with me ever since.
2) Never give up. I had a southern grandma who only had a 5th-grade education, but her life experience and old school wisdom were always on time. She said, “If it ain’t no trouble, it ain’t no good.” If your goal is worth anything it will come with struggle and sacrifice…but keep at it.
3) Be creative in your approach. If you are trying to make things work unsuccessfully within the same box, step outside of your box and try a different approach. There may be more than one way to skin a cat.
3- Name the top 3 goals you achieved?
1) My first goal was to complete college and attend medical school. After getting accepted to medical school, I was encouraged to consider getting a Masters degree in Public Health (MPH) before entering a med school program.
After completing my MPH program, I fell in love with population health and adjusted my goal from medicine, which I thought would allow me to make a difference one person at a time, to public health, which would allow me to make change on a larger scale through advocacy, systems change and community capacity building. After working in local government and nonprofit work for a number of years, my goal became focused on getting a Masters in Business Administration (MBA), so I could apply some of the business skills I’d learn to public health and be able to make change happen at an even larger scale…with business and public health partnerships.
2) While working in communities, I’ve had a goal of bringing about change by changing systems, empowering communities, and improving health. While working in Evanston, IL (a suburb of Chicago), I was able to achieve this goal in a few ways:
a) I built a successful health program, called Women Out Walking, geared towards women and strengthening communities. It won national awards and has been serving the community (approximately 1000 women each year) for the past 10 years.
b) I was apart of a small team that brought Evanston its first and only federally qualified health clinic to meet the unmet medical needs of the community. We designed the center, raised the money and worked with the community to build this center, and
c) I was a part of a small group of leaders who designed and raised funds to build a digital media lab within the local YMCA to allow kids to hang out after school and learn about making music, video editing, etc. Above all, it was a place they could go to be safe…since Evanston, like other places, was seeing a rise in youth gun violence.
3) My goal was to lead a national health-focused organization and continue to bring about change on a national level. About 7 months ago, I achieved that goal when I became the CEO of the Association of Maternal and Child Health Programs. Excited to see how we can change the world and address some of the issues of inequality in our communities.
4- What inspired you to reach your goals?
1. Growing up in some rough neighborhoods and environments in Philadelphia, I saw first hand how people live and the pain and struggle they go through. I also split my time between inner-city Philadelphia and rural PA, which allowed me to see the struggles of both impoverished minorities and whites alike. Since I can remember, I have wanted to do something about that. My parents and grandparents (really my entire family), have always challenged us to leave this world in a better place than we found it. That motivates me every day.
2.Many people have sacrificed a great deal to allow me to be where I am; I want to honor their sacrifices by living a life that makes them proud, is pleasing to God, and helps others.
3. God provides where He guides and protects where He directs. I want to live a purpose-driven life, so every day, I want to be sure that my work is advancing God’s kingdom.
5- How did you overcome obstacles to reaching your goals?
It wasn’t easy, but as I mentioned before, I knew it wouldn’t be. I am also still on this journey. What’s gotten me through thus far, is my faith, my family and my friends/network.
It is really important to surround yourself with like-minded people, so they can prop you up when you are weak. They can encourage and support you in your most vulnerable moments. Expect that you’ll stumble and hit a wall, but operate knowing you’ll get over it. Your mindset shifts completely when you operate knowing you’ve already won…you just have to keep moving forward.
Also, work hard, but enjoy the journey…you need to enjoy life and be you; because only you have what it takes to walk your journey. If you don’t allow yourself to live, then parts of you will die, and you’ll deprive the world of getting the full you.
6- How do you keep your inspiration from decreasing?
As I mentioned, I am continuously praying and calling on God for strength. He has never let me down and keeps me moving when I’m weak.
I also try and keep in mind why I am doing this and how it will impact the lives of the people we serve. If I keep the people I’m serving in mind, I stay grounded and motivated to keep grinding because people are counting on me.
Another critical piece is to make sure your passion aligns with your purpose, and that you are in a position to make an impact. If your purpose and your passion are aligned, then it won’t feel like work. You will have limitless energy. If you are in a position to actually make a difference in the areas of your passion and purpose, your inspiration/energy can’t decrease.
To learn more about the organization, Jon leads the Association of Maternal and Child Health Programs please visit http://www.amchp.org
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