When Jessica Daugherty joined our Western Region team as the new Business Development Manager, I knew the region had found the right person for the job. Jessica came with a strong resume as the previous Assistant Director at Placer Land Trust where she served for 11 years, taking the organization from a startup nonprofit to one of the premier land trusts in the Sacramento region. There was one other accolade on her resume that caught my eye – in 2014, Jessica earned the Sacramento Business Journal’s “Top 40 Under 40” award. As an avid reader of the journal, I was impressed. This award was no fluff. Every year, the Sacramento Business Journal honors the “40 Under 40” – a group of young Sacramento professionals who are making their mark on the region. “These young professionals, through their hard work, talent and leadership, are helping drive Sacramento’s economy forward. Moreover, they’re making the region a better place to live by supporting worthy causes,” the Business Journal writes. “By way of example, they’re leading the way for future generations of business leaders.”
It was six months into Jessica’s time at WES, when she told me she was nominating me for the “40 Under 40” Award. The process was straightforward – anyone can nominate you and you can even nominate yourself! Jessica was certain I would be a good candidate. My own inner critic held me back. Who did she think I was? I’m no award winner – I’m the high school dropout. I’m the underdog that got her degree after the age of 25. I got here by the skin of my teeth, hard work, and a fair amount of sheer luck. Nevertheless, I filled out all the questionnaires and wrote an essay anyway, thinking all the while “no way”.
There are a couple of things to know about what the journal is looking for, just from my perspective. The questions focus on what you have accomplished in your professional career as well as your philanthropic contributions to your community. They want to see a leader; someone who is making a difference in whatever business they are pursuing while still having a community-driven mindset. Working at WES, we are inspired by the landscapes and species we conserve. At WES, we are asked –nay; required, every day to bring our very best to the office, whether that is out on the vernal pools or in front of the computer screen. We are encouraged to donate our time to causes and organizations that serve the same ecological objectives. WES fosters a culture of community activism with self-awareness. It is this culture that allows me to flourish both personally and professionally.
I was notified a few months later that I was one of the 40 award winners. The awards ceremony was harder for me to accept than I imagined it would be. The “who does she think she is” thoughts came flooding back to me. I honestly did not even want any WES staff to come to the awards ceremony because I was worried they all might be thinking the same thoughts I was.
That’s the funny thing about success. From the outside, it might look one way, but you never know what is going on internally. Earlier in the year our Vice President and General Manager, Greg Sutter, won the Environmental Law Institute’s National Wetland Awards for Business Leadership. He was so humbled by the award. I remember him saying that he felt that he needed to do more, and vowed to do so before he was finished with his career. This is a man who has single-handedly contributed to more conservation and restoration across California and the nation than possibly anyone else. And his response to his award was that there was more he needed to do.
Being a part of the Westervelt team has inspired and pushed me to think more of myself than I would have ever imagined. The work is tough and fast-paced and my teammates are high-quality professionals that demand I bring my A-game day after day. We push each other and call each other out and we humble each other. The “40 Under 40” Award is a testament to Westervelt’s belief in me, to my colleagues’ belief in me, and to my beliefs about myself. As we embark upon a new decade, I am excited to see what other award winners WES has within its ranks. I promise to carry the torch of nominating others who may not see themselves as award winners.