Leaders reflect on their first jobs in advance of our Regional Leadership Conference

By: Corinne Lumens Posted: 09/01/2017

Find out how their first jobs prepared them for where they are now

This year’s Regional Leadership Conference (RLC) – taking place October 18-20 at the Suncadia Resort in Cle Elum – will focus on our ongoing talent shortage and how we can come together as a community to address this challenge.

With our region continuing to experience dramatic job growth—740,000 job openings in Washington state in the next five years—across a broad spectrum of industries, we need to ensure we’re growing the local talent needed to fill these jobs in our region today and into the future.

As we prepare to talk about all things talent at the conference, local business leaders have been reflecting on their first jobs and how they prepared them for their career goals and where they are now:

Maud Daudon
  "My first job was as a summer waitress at the Island Inn on Monhegan Island, Maine. Of distinction, I had to wear a powder blue pants suit with nurses shoes. I guess all of this prepared me to seek out places with better clothing options and make the most out of every experience, no matter how little it might relate to any future career ambitions. My goal was to befriend the hermit who lived on a nearby island and through perseverance, I succeeded!" - Maud Daudon, President & CEO, Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce

Gardner, Jaebadiah
  "At 14 years old I started a lawn mowing company. I would print out flyers and post them in the local supermarkets in Burien, WA. It was my summer gig. When I would get calls I would schedule the lawns for the weeks ahead and my dad would put the lawn mower in the back of the trunk and we would drive around mowing lawns all throughout Burien. It was my back to school shopping money! It was my first jump into entrepreneurship. Learned tons at an early age. Marketing, scheduling, timeliness! Man, I haven't thought that in a long time." - Jaebadiah Gardner, Founder & CEO, GardnerGlobal, Inc.

Katherine Cheng
  "My first job was as a folder installer. You know those dental and medical folders that have each person's initials, and all of their medical records in them? I would install the metal prongs that would hold the paper, the plastic that would hold the x-rays, the letters and numbers on the sides and any additional folders. I got paid by the piece and learned that I had to be really efficient and fast, but also had to be careful or I could mess up the whole folder. A good lesson for future jobs!" - Katherine Cheng, Head of Global Corporate Citizenship, Expedia, Inc.

Heather Redman RLC
  "My first job was at age 14 at Taco Bell in a rural coastal town in Oregon. Because I was young, I could only work a limited number of shifts but one of them was the opening shift on weekends. So while my friends and parents were sleeping in on Saturdays, I was walking to Taco Bell in my lovely brown polyester uniform with too short pants. I learned that special ordering is what separates the wolves from the sheep, never cry about work unless you are cutting onions and pretty much every job is a lot of fun if you are busy, get paid enough to meet your needs and work with people who make you laugh!" - Heather Redman, Co-Founder and Managing Partner, Flying Fish Partners

Bob Donegan RLC
  My first ‘paid job’ was picking night crawlers. Night crawlers are big worms used as bait for fishing. We could sell them a dozen for 50 cents. We’d collect them at night (worms stay below ground during the day) when they come out of mate. I learned from it how important research was to success: It was best to hunt in the rain, a sprinkled lawn would do the same. If the lawn owner fertilized or treated his lawn with weed killer, that killed the worms. This was before headlamps, so you needed a flashlight.  Therefore, it was best to hunt in teams—one holding the light and collecting bag, the other hunting. You had to keep your eyes open as you walked or rode your bike around the neighborhood to see what others were charging: Worm Price Wars!" - Bob Donegan, President, Ivar’s

Rebecca RLC
  My mom was the production manager for a small clothing designer/producer in our neighborhood, Capitol Hill. After school, I went by the studio and did piece-work: cut out applique for 15 cents apiece. Though I wasn’t destined for greatness in that industry, it did help me become more disciplined and productive in my remaining time during the week, dividing it between homework, practicing flute, and of course my best friend: the library." - Rebecca Lovell, Deputy Director, Office of Economic Development, City of Seattle

Jon Webster RLC
  My first job was as a caddy at Morris County Country Club, which was a few towns away from where I grew up in Morris Plains, New Jersey. This was my summer job for two years, starting after my 7th grade year & ending once the demands of high school summer sports required me to find a different work schedule. I took a 15 minute train ride & then short walk to the course each summer day. As a caddy, I learned that hard work & great customer service had direct impacts on my take home pay and that a few good putting tips for the new members didn’t hurt either! It was during those years that I learned the etiquette of, rules of & how to play the game of golf, which have all been valuable lessons that have helped me advance personally & professionally. I will be forever grateful for the member that gave me my first set of clubs." - Jonathan Webster, Vice President, Swire Coca-Cola

Marcia Garrett RLC
  My first job was working part-time in my father’s gift store, especially during the holiday season. I was in junior high, and it laid the groundwork for being comfortable dealing with the public, for interacting with a wide variety of people, and for being pleasant and using my edit function when I was sorely inclined not to. All great skills for someone in government relations!" - Marcia Garrett, Director of Regional Relations, Washington State University

Sally RLC
  First job was in high school doing office cleaning. A friend’s dad hired us to vacuum, empty waste baskets, and clean bathrooms. Can’t recall, but probably under the table. Lasted the summer. Then spent two summers running the snack bar at Portland’s Racquet Club. Too many spinning hot dogs..." - Sally Clark, Director, Office of Regional & Community Relations, University of Washington

Share your own story using #myfirstjob on Twitter or Facebook.