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Dawn M. Konrady, EdD, LSW, MBA, MA, Director of Stockton University Child Welfare Education Institute

Dr. Konrady manages three NJ statewide grant funded Title IV-E child welfare training and education programs–the Baccalaureate Child Welfare Education Program (BCWEP), Masters Child Welfare Education Program (MCWEP), and New Jersey Child Welfare Training Partnership-Southern Region (NJCWTP-SR). She is a member of the NJ Child Placement Review Board and sits on the university Committee for the Protection of Minors. She is also an adjunct instructor of Leadership, Strategy, and Change courses. Her areas of interest are child welfare, organizational and leadership development, and child migration and immigration policy.

Number of years in management: 7

Tell us about your path to management:
You could technically say I’ve been a manager from the moment I became a big sister, so almost 32 years in the business. Those first born tendencies ran strong for me and I continued to evolve through various leadership and management positions from the playground to student council, to the classroom (as an instructor). It didn’t come as a surprise to anyone when I chose to major in business management as an undergraduate. However, I still wanted to include my geek side and love of communicating with others, so I combined that with an information systems minor and Spanish major.

After that, I temped for a solid year as an accountant for a local utilities company while continuing to search for a full time job. It was during that time that I landed at Stockton in another temporary position and then found a position with one of the programs I’m now connected to. As time went on, our programs expanded, we hired another person, added a third program and our institute was born. In five short years, I went from program assistant to director. During that time I completed a Masters in Bilingual Bicultural Studies in Spanish, a certificate in translation, and Masters in Business Administration. While the programs I was a part of were social work oriented, all my education continued to skirt around that. They certainly supported my ability to do the work, but weren’t directly social work programs. After that I took the leap to start a doctoral program and chose to do an EdD in Educational Leadership and Management with a higher education emphasis. Managing all that schooling while working full time is no easy feat but I somehow manage to keep doing it. However, 18 months later, I felt the classroom calling to me, and this time I knew it had to be an MSW. I had worked with our programs for over 10 years and felt as though I was a social worker through osmosis. Because all of our programs are connected to child welfare, I wanted to make sure I got the full experience and made sure my internship was in a local child protection office so I could learn from the inside and share that knowledge with our team and program participants. Because of those decisions, I am seen as someone who sees those who are going through our programs, I am able to bring a higher level of understanding which they can appreciate.

Now, with all this new and reaffirmed knowledge, I’m looking forward to what the future has in store as I continue to develop as a manager, because we never stop learning.

What leadership qualities do you find to be the most effective in reaching your organizational or career goals? 
Transparency, openness, willing to listen, and always questioning are some of the best ways I have been able to accomplish what I’ve aspired to do. When you meet me, or work with me, you always know exactly where you stand, there’s no guessing. You quickly learn what I’m capable of doing. As noted by the constant stints in the classroom, I love to learn, so I am not afraid to ask questions or share if there’s something that I don’t know. I also appreciate direct communication. Communication is so important that I am constantly pushing our students to get out from behind their screens and have direct communication with their field instructors, and learn how to have those difficult conversations. Willingness to collaborate with and listen to others, will take you far, because we need to remember that we can’t do everything.

How do you motivate your team members?  
As a manager or leader, your team is going to look to you to set the tone. One of the ways in which I think I motivate my team is to let them see my excitement and happiness to be working with them and doing the work that we do. We do some pretty awesome things for children and families and the people who work with them, and I’m proud of that work. I always make sure to introduce them when we are at larger meetings or conferences where they may not already be known. I also make sure to let them know how awesome they are through their evaluation letters. Everyone gets to experience the joys of being evaluated, and so I like to make sure my team realizes how valuable they are to us. I also organize annual outings where we get to experience something fun together and also share a meal, because food is awesome. Lastly, I try to make sure to remind them of all the good they are doing and how much I appreciate them being a part of the team because we wouldn’t be nearly as successful if we weren’t all together.

Is there a leader or mentor who has inspired or assisted you along your professional journey?
I have been fortunate to have several leaders and mentors in my life who continue to inspire and assist me. Having female mentors has been especially important in the early stages of my career because it is not always easy navigating the field as both young and female. At one point I was the youngest director on campus which came with extra hurdles of educating others on multiple ways of technology use, as well as clothing choices. It was helpful to be able to talk through those things with my mentors.

I think it’s very helpful to have mentors that are both internal and external to your job. What I mean is that seek someone within your department, area, but also look for someone outside your particular program who can give you a more global picture as well. Then you can go even further and connect with someone unrelated to either.

Because of the help I’ve received in the past, it has inspired me to avail myself to others so I can pay it forward. In a world with rapid changing technology and social media, I think it’s so important for beginning professionals to not lose sight of the soft skills and emotional intelligence that is so important.

How has networking impacted your career?
Networking has afforded me the opportunity to meet so many amazing people. I always carry cards and love exchanging information because I never know when I might need someone for a certain type of project or know that they know a particular industry and can help create a connection or introduction. However, I am very aware that networking is a two way street; don’t become one of those people who is always looking to take a connection but not offer anything in return. You might not be able to reciprocate right away, but when you’ve developed the capacity, be sure to share and pay it forward. I have a mental rolodex of people, ideas, industries, and when an opportunity presents itself and I think I can connect two people and help them out, I’m all for it. You never know who you’re going to encounter in a place that you least expect it, and I love that.

What are you reading and/or following now (book, blog, social media groups, etc)?
I love the Harvard Business Review. The daily emails I get are great reminders or full of helpful information that I refer to them on the regular. I also love Ted Talks and can go down that educational rabbit hole at a moment’s notice. I also scope out the NASW social media groups so I can stay connected to another facet of the social work world.

What advice do you have for those beginning their professional journey or who are already in leadership positions? 
For those just starting, welcome! You are about to embark on quite the journey. Enjoy it, have fun, don’t be afraid to ask questions, especially if there is something that you are looking for – a resource, fulfillment in the workplace, a training. The worst they can say is no, but you won’t know that unless you ask. Get out of your own head and just reach out. Also, take every opportunity to connect across programs/projects/teams. That’s how you start to build your profile within your organization and share all the great assets you have.

For those of you who have been doing this for a long time, don’t forget the feeling of what it was like when you were just starting, maybe even had dial up internet, and fax machines were the cool new office tool. When you encounter someone new, reach out, ease some of their fears, and throw them a smile to let them know that they’re going to be just fine.

Do you have an initiative or project you would like to tell our readers about?
Having just finished my fifth degree (what was I thinking??) in May, I’ve spent the summer attempting to recover and regain order in my life. I am looking forward to exploring new things and am hoping to be able to devote some time and effort to writing or presenting on topics for new leaders and managers. I love being part of the foundational process, so stay tuned!

What do you wish you had known before you started your career?
Honestly, I have no idea, and maybe that’s a good thing. I had no idea what to expect, but I was excited and that’s all that really mattered. Embrace what you don’t know and prepare for the learning experience. Also, contrary to what you might think, retirement will be creeping up on you before you know it, so regardless of whether you have a 401K or pension plan at any of your jobs, do yourself a favor and open up a ROTH account and put a little bit of money towards it every pay. Your 72 year old self will thank you for thinking about it.

Share a mistake or failure that provided the most growth in your career.
In any interview setting, or answering a question such as this, I feel it’s always hard for us to recall because we don’t want to focus on the “bad” that we may have encountered, yet it’s something that could help us grow. However, when I was reflecting on what to say here, the only thing that kept coming back to mind is the fact that sometimes I am too fast/responsive for my own good. While that is a great attribute in some situations, in others it can be a detriment. As I’ve progressed through my career, I’ve made a conscious effort to not act/react with such rapidness without first taking a moment to pause and make sure I’m reading/understanding everything correctly before jumping right into it without missing any additional clues.

Where can people reach you for questions (LinkedIn, Facebook or Twitter)?
I’d love to connect and be whatever kind of resource or support you might need. You can find me on Facebook, you’ve inspired me to dust off my LinkedIn account, email me at dawn.konrady@stockton.edu, or be old fashioned and pick up a phone and call me at (609) 513-3621.

The views expressed herein are those solely of the author and not necessarily endorsed by the Network for Social Work Management.

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