Aaron Stiner

From comic books to collective impact: The importance of ongoing professional development

postedby Aaron Stiner,
Host Chair
YNPN Leaders Conference

I have been fortunate to practice a professional craft in many careers, ever since junior high school when my first job was selling comic books and trading cards. After I graduated from college, I served as a sales rep for a veterinary pharmaceutical company, before transitioning into a 10-year career in the nonprofit sector. My most recent career is as a full-time stay-at-home dad (or chief life-quality officer, as my wife likes to say!).

While my list of professions is quite varied, in each one I have made it a point to seek out and participate in professional development and networking to help improve my practice. Early in my career it was pretty informal. Working in the comic book store, I would make sure to talk to the sales reps who sold us products, along with visiting trade shows where I would talk to as many vendors and other shop workers as I could. Working in pharmaceutical sales, I was fortunate to receive extensive in-company training, yet I continued to seek out external workshops, along with networking with both in-company and out-of-company peers. And, while at Valley of the Sun United Way, where I also received excellent in-house training, I was able to successfully self-advocate to attend two different national conferences and several local conferences.

Fear not, nonprofit professionals!

posted by Aaron Stiner,
Senior Program Manager,
Paths of HOPE, Catholic Charities

I am at one of the most intense, rewarding, and sometimes frightening times in my nonprofit career. And I don't think I'm alone.

As Senior Program Manager of Paths of HOPE at Catholic Charities, I am preparing to lead my team and a group of cross-functional, internal stakeholders, along with our CEO and Senior Management, through a two-day program planning session. With our CEO's support, this is my team's best opportunity to gain commitment from stakeholders on resourcing and supporting our program's priorities.

I'm a new leader, managing a young program with high expectations. It's fantastic work – very intense and rewarding. But it can be scary at times – looking at a mountain of work, thinking there has to be a better way to manage – because if we don't, we can't improve lives. No pressure there, ha!

As Board President of YNPN Phoenix, I often hear from other emerging nonprofit leaders – including our board – a shared desire to perform with high standards in the face of huge workloads, while at the same time wanting life/work balance. We love our commitments, but it can sometimes be a challenge to hold it all together!

But fear not, nonprofit professionals! There are ways to work through even the toughest times that don't always need to include escaping to an undisclosed tropical location and leaving your smart phone at home with your cat.

Facing a challenging situation at work? Access resources! The ASU Lodestar Center, the Alliance of Arizona Nonprofits, YNPN Phoenix, my fellow MNpS graduates, my coworkers, boss, friends, and professional mentors are all resources I access to get me unstuck on my quest to improve the common good.