Louise: Tell us about yourself.
Stephanie: I am a civil defense attorney at the firm of Galloway, Johnson, Tompkins, Burr & Smith. I’m originally from San Antonio, Texas; but have lived in New Orleans since 2003, when I started law school at Loyola.
Louise: When did you become a member of NAPW?
Stephanie: Over 3 years ago, I received a mailer at my office from the National Association of Professional Women and thought it was a great idea for an organization. So, I was immediately interested in becoming a member and called the number on the mailer. I received a call right back; and it’s been a fantastic experience ever since.
Louise: What made you decide to invest in yourself this way?
Stephanie: I loved the fact that the organization focuses on professional women in business. It seems that this is a demographic often overlooked that goes untapped when it comes to networking organizations. Joining NAPW created the opportunity for me to meet other professional women, locally and nationally. It’s given me the chance to build my reputation within my local community to improve and increase my professional aspirations, while affording me the best benefit of all – to gain new clients.
Louise: How long after becoming a member did you become Chapter President, and why did you decide to take the leap from member to Chapter President?
Stephanie: After only being a member for one month, I became Chapter President. I immediately liked the Chapter and meeting all the members in person, and then was asked to be Chapter President. The opportunity to grow the Chapter from the ground up was a challenge I really wanted, offering me the chance to make a difference in the lives of the Local Chapter members. Yes, I was nervous at first. But, seeing how many members wanted to attend meetings and connect with other members, really inspired me. The unique opportunity to have a positive influence on NAPW, the NOLA Chapter members and my local community was too good to pass up. I’m so glad I became Chapter President because in return, I’m equally influenced and inspired by our members, other Chapter Presidents and the professional women I meet at the annual National Networking Conference.
NAPW Local Chapter NOLA Meeting in January 2014
Louise: How has this impacted you professionally and personally?
Stephanie: It’s definitely helped me realize the importance of networking. Before joining NAPW, I knew something about the importance of networking and professional development, but getting involved with NAPW really showed me how to make the most of networking, personally and professionally, to build lasting relationships where I have the chance to help other professional women, who, in turn, are always willing to help me. I also have learned an amazing amount of information through attending the National Networking Conference. And, due to being Local Chapter President, I’ve learned to reach out and meet other women at the conference, or locally, in the grocery store, where I can promote NAPW and invite these professional women to attend a Chapter meeting. NAPW has also improved my confidence and public speaking ability along with gaining valuable new skills such as event planning and marketing. In my position as attorney, my company has others who handle these duties. Being able to gain new skills has given me an understanding of how to market and create impactful events. These new skills also help in working with the NAPW Foundation’s philanthropic partners, Dress For Success and the American Heart Association, to build new relationships in the community and contribute to the success of my Local Chapter while working with these organizations. Being Chapter President also allows me to facilitate meaningful relationships between members so they can improve their businesses. For example, there have been several instances where members have been able to meet other women at our meetings and events and have formed partnerships to grow their businesses.
NAPW Spokesperson Star Jones and NOLA Local Chapter President Stephanie Dovalina at an event for the American Heart Association
Louise: On a Local Chapter level, what have been some of the challenges and rewards of being a Chapter President?
Stephanie: The biggest challenge has been time. It’s helped a lot that the NAPW Foundation’s monthly themes are provided as a starting point for creating networking events that also make a positive difference in women’s lives. The greatest reward is working with an amazing group of professional women, creating important programs that provide meaningful benefits and value in order to increase membership and improve meeting attendance. For example, one meeting event focused on tax information. We had a local tax attorney and IRS tax attorney educate our members about tax issues on a federal level as well as a local level and how these areas impact small businesses. Additionally, whenever possible, our members will speak at meetings on an eclectic array of subject matters in their fields of expertise.
Louise: How do you feel the New Orleans Chapter has impacted the community of professional women especially after Hurricane Katrina?
Stephanie: We’ve definitely helped. After Katrina, many people left the city. Recently, there’s been a huge influx of people into town. Apparently, the movie industry is using New Orleans more than any other location, so that’s also brought a lot of additional professionals into the area. New connections are being made all the time because of this. Our community now consists of those born in New Orleans and those newly arrived, which enhances our Chapter even more as we reach out to new professional women all the time to become part of our Chapter and they, in turn, appreciate the opportunity to network as they are new to the area.
Louise: What are your goals for the Chapter in 2014?
Stephanie: Growth is our number one goal. We want to see more new members at events and Local Chapter meetings. And, we want to let our community know we are here to stay and that we help to improve the lives of those in our community and in our Chapter, while helping with philanthropic initiatives.
Louise: The launch of the NAPW Foundation is a big step forward for NAPW. On a Local level, how do you feel this will impact your Chapter?
Stephanie: The NAPW Foundation will help improve our ability to make a positive difference in the lives of women and girls, locally and throughout the world. Through volunteering and fundraising efforts, we have the power to help our community chapters of the American Heart Association and Dress For Success, both of which are NAPW Foundation partners. We have a plan of action to work with these organizations and foster relationships within the community because of the NAPW Foundation.
Louise: Finally, Stephanie, thank you for your efforts and passion working towards NAPW’s mission as a member and Chapter President. What would be one “giveaway” you have for other Chapter Presidents and members across the country about NAPW and why is this platform important and valuable to all women?
Stephanie: Keep working at it. As a Local Chapter President it can be tough trying to accomplish everything you want to do. Stay focused and determined and you will achieve. Your membership will increase, your event and meeting attendance will improve and beneficial networking connections will be created. It simply takes time. And, in time, you and your Chapter members will reap the outstanding benefits of new professional relationships, friendships and business connections.