By Jeff Rathmann | BN360 Spotlight Professional, September 2019
The Buffalo Niagara Partnership is pleased to present the 2019 BN360 Spotlight Professionals, sponsored by Alpine Films. Each year, BN360 highlights 12 up-and-coming young professionals who strive for professional growth and development, care for their community, and are passionate about the future of the Buffalo Niagara region. Meet Jeff Rathmann, the Spotlight Professional for September 2019.
The Buffalo Niagara Partnership is pleased to introduce the newest facilitator in our Leader Exchange program – Pamela Szalay, president and founder of the consulting firm Imagine & headquartered in Buffalo.
The Buffalo Niagara Partnership and BN360, the Partnership’s Young Professionals program, conducted a survey over the summer of the region’s young professionals aimed at better understanding how they view the region and future career opportunities. The survey focused on what the business community and public sector can do to strengthen our region as a place where young professionals want to work and live.
My 18 year-old-self probably would not recognize my 35 year-old-self – and that is a great thing. My 18 year-old-self had aspirations of leaving Western New York for the greener pastures of New York City, Boston or Washington, D.C. But, if you can push aside your stereotypes and preconceived notions and remain open to discovery, life will take you places you never imagined you would end up.
“Opportunity”… Hmm, this is a word I often use to entice others or make a tedious task sound somewhat great. “Check out this opportunity to get some community service hours!”—a statement I frequently use when needing to transport large furniture to a family. “Dear, this opportunity may not ever come again,” a statement I may, on occasion, state to my husband when thinking of purchasing something on the larger scale. It really does have a nice ring to it. While I may use it to shine light onto thoughts or suggestions, the reality is opportunity is everywhere, depending on how you choose to see the world.
Soon after I started my career, my uncle gave me some advice: “Keep doing the homework.” This is the last thing I, or any recent college grad wanted to hear. Soon after starting my new job this advice began to make more sense. While college taught me the basics to prepare for my career, there was still a steep learning curve I needed to overcome. What my uncle was really telling me was to invest time into continued learning so I could position myself for future growth.
Everyone speaks on the importance of building your professional network for career advancement and success. But, I believe the value in these connections come from building and establishing meaningful relationships.
I’ve made mistakes. I’m not ashamed. In fact, mistakes are good things. Just so long as you learn from them. I can honestly say that I have learned more from my biggest failures than I have from my greatest successes. In fact, my successes are a direct result of my previous failures. I was fortunate enough to start a business at a very young age. It made it possible for me to make mistakes and take on more risk because I honestly didn’t have much to lose. My biggest mistakes during that first venture were a direct result of me trying to do so much myself. I was too young to realize what my true strengths were. I didn’t have great council and my peers were either just getting out of school or still in school, so my network was limited. It wasn’t until Greg and I started FIFTEEN that I had a network of the best legal council, accountants and business professionals to help guide my strategies. These people are essential to any business and are just as important as your internal staff.
Both my professional and volunteer life has afforded me the opportunity to promote and execute the work of a number of promising nonprofit agencies across Western New York. Of these encounters, my most beloved volunteer experience continues to this day: dancing with my Danceability partner, “B”. At Danceability, volunteers work one-on-one with dancers who may have a disability. This partnership is key to helping the dancer’s build up their confidence as they learn and eventually showcase a dance routine for the May recital.