Member Connections Newsletter, Member Spotlight

NAPW January Member Spotlight

Meet NAPW members in Member Spotlight, a monthly column that lets members highlight their careers and businesses. This month, we feature 12 accomplished women, so be sure to check out each of their profiles. VIP, Elite & Preferred Members: To be featured in an upcoming issue of the newsletter, contact us at


Vanessa Allen

Company: Urban League of
Northwest Indiana
Title: President and CEO
Location: Garry, IN


NAPW: What makes this company a good fit for you?

Allen: The Urban League of Northwest Indiana is a good fit for me because my passion to serve the community and improve the quality of life in the areas of education, financial stability and health are aligned with the mission of the organization.


NAPW: What do you find most challenging about your job?

Allen: The most challenging part of my job is not having enough financial resources to assist those who have the most needs.


NAPW: What do you find most rewarding about your job?

Allen:  The most rewarding part of my job is the ability to serve the community and provide the awareness of information through services that help those who need educational, professional and work-related opportunities that would provide a better quality of life.


NAPW: What is your proudest accomplishment?

Allen: I can identify many proud moments in my life but you wouldn’t have enough space to record them. However, the one that I will highlight is my recent accomplishment in achieving my doctorate in educational leadership on November 17th, 2013.


NAPW: How do you find balance in your life?

Allen: I balance my life with a relationship with God, family and a group of special friends.


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Cathy A. Kurtz

Company: Healing Hart Publishing
Title: Author
Location: Rocklin, CA


NAPW: Describe two or three major trends in your industry or profession today.

Kurtz: (1) There are more indie books being published (non-traditional publishing moving to self-publishing).  (2) More e-books are available.


NAPW: Describe a situation in which you did “all the right things” and were still unsuccessful. What did you learn from the experience?

Kurtz: Two managers who worked for me became victims of workplace violence. Since I have zero tolerance for workplace violence, I did all the right things to protect my managers and limit the state’s liability by hiring security guards and terminating the employee. My boss wanted to minimize the situation and didn’t support my actions and, therefore, terminated me since I was in an appointed position. I learned that doing the right thing isn’t always rewarded, but I would follow my instincts again in a heartbeat as people’s lives were at stake.


NAPW: Discuss the committees on which you have served and the impact of these committees on the organization where you currently work.

Kurtz: I have served on various strategic planning, legislation, regulation and policy development governmental committees. It has brought about positive change to the departments I’ve worked in and has also allowed for more sharing of ideas.


NAPW: What new skills have you learned over the past year?

Kurtz: I am learning to write as an author and learning to self-promote and market a book.


NAPW: Think about an instance when you were given an assignment you thought you would not be able to complete. How did you accomplish the assignment?

Kurtz: By reminding myself that time management is critical, staying organized is a must and keeping people on task is imperative.


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Debbie A. Smith

Company: Two Trails, Inc. –
Green Building Consulting
Building and Construction
Title: CEO
Location: Sarasota, FL


NAPW: When the going gets tough, where do you go?

Smith: To the vineyard! Well, it is trying to be a vineyard. It is very relaxing to trim and weed the vines. Being out in nature centers me and puts life back into perspective. I live minutes from the Gulf of Mexico so walking along the beach searching for that special shell or shark’s tooth is also very relaxing. If I had to pick my favorite spot in the entire world, it would be where I visit my family in Switzerland. I love looking at how the sun and weather plays off the mountains changing the colors. My ultimate relaxation comes by sitting on the mountain side with the fresh, sweet smell of mountain flowers blooming, listening to the cow bells ring around the grazing animals’ necks and watching clouds below in the valley from my vantage point far above… magical.


NAPW: What do you do to maintain a healthy lifestyle?

Smith: Considering the business I am in is Green Building Consulting, which means making residential and commercial projects energy efficient and healthy, I try to live a healthy lifestyle. I try to minimize the amount of chemicals in my life from foods to household cleaners. I have used the techniques I’ve learned in building science to make my own home a healthier place to live. For example, the paints I have chosen have no VOCs and the furniture, carpets and pads are all green label. Most of my food is farm fresh and grown within a few miles of my home. My neighbor raises chickens so I haven’t bought eggs in years. I like being outdoors walking, hiking, horseback riding, biking and boating. I am at ease in just about any outdoor setting. One of my life goals is to go rafting along the Colorado River.


NAPW: Do you think it’s important to avoid letting success define who you are? How do you avoid letting success define you?

Smith: The sheer meaning of success is that you have strived to obtain a level of completion. If you don’t have defined goals to reach, how do you know that you are a success? I have had many successes in life. I am a multi-faceted individual with goals I can only hope to achieve within this one short life. A very smart lady once told me that she was a little bit of everyone she has ever met. If this is a true statement, then we are constantly evolving and becoming more than our pre-conceived goals for ourselves. For me, the journey is more about who I can influence and for them to see their successes.


NAPW: When starting out, how important was networking to the success of your business today?

Smith: I have worn many different hats in my career life, but it has always been the people I have met that have made my chosen path successful. People do business with other people. They do not do business with a computer, though that may be a means of getting to know the person through video conferencing, emails, texts and chats. The bigger your net, the more people you will meet, but choosing those that can directly influence your potential growth is the key to staying on track with growing your business. I learned this the hard way and had to learn to say “no.” I was so thrilled that people thought enough of me to ask me to join their group, sit on a board and mentor upcoming students that I lost focus on my business. Networking is important, however it is also important to carefully choose where you are going to focus your time and energy.


NAPW: What tips can you share to maintain motivated employees?

Smith: Oh, this is a jaded answer… hire better employees. I am not their mother, their sister, their friend or their foe. I am their employer. Now, I have a responsibility to the team that I hire. When you hire an individual, you take on the responsibility for that person to fill a specific position and are accountable for the lifestyle they would like to achieve. As an employer, it is my responsibility to provide the stability they require to achieve their successes. Their work environment needs to have all the tools they need in order to perform their assigned duties. I provide continuing education so that they are always at the top of their professions. That also means that hiring an individual is a group activity since everybody that position touches needs to feel comfortable in depending on that person to fulfill their duties to the best of their ability. If you have a successful team, the motivation comes from within each individual. I strive to be the best employer I can by leading and empowering my team to make decisions. Leaders can only earn the respect of their followers… they cannot demand it.


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Amanda Clarke-Peterson

Company: Mandakyn’s
Title: Owner
Location: Gaffney, SC


NAPW: Describe a time when setting aside personal time from work was the healthiest choice for you.

Clarke-Peterson: I am a full-time working mother so finding that time is often difficult. However, I believe it is important to take time each day to relax and do something I truly enjoy.


NAPW: Do you believe in mixing business with pleasure?

Clarke-Peterson: Yes. I enjoy my work immensely and, therefore, my business is almost always mixed with pleasure. I love to do custom designs for people and make their ideas come to life.


NAPW: Do you believe our society glorifies “the busy woman?” Do you ever feel pressured by this stereotype?

Clarke-Peterson: Yes. Isn’t that the definition of “professional?” I’m only joking. Over time, stereotypes have changed while women have always been especially busy – at home or in the workforce. I insist on cooking often and this and other do-it-yourself projects keep me on the go in my spare time. My daughter accompanies and assists me in her own process of creativity and learning.


NAPW: In spite of your work schedule, which recreational activities do you always participate in?

Clarke-Peterson: My interests are varied and cover a veritable plethora of fields of knowledge. I often spend time archiving books, reading, writing, studying, watching documentaries and researching. Other than my required school education, I am completely self-taught. I am a huge fan of do-it-yourself projects and educating myself in order to learn anything I so desire. I create lovely items with my hands to bring the inception of an idea to fruition and into reality. I rather enjoy innovating new concepts and inspiring others to achieve their dreams.


NAPW: Any other information you would like to include?


Remember to check out what I am currently doing on Mandakyns.comFacebook, Google+, YouTube, Pinterest, Twitter, Instagram, WordPress, LinkedIn and the NAPW website, where I will be discussing a variety of topics including natural health and beauty, design, fashion, style and other fascinating subjects. If you desire a custom design, please contact me at or by phone or text at 1-704-605-8836, anytime between 8am-8pm EDT, Monday through Friday, and 10am-8pm on weekends. Also, be sure to check out my natural soaps and oils made by Mandakyns with Young Living Essential Oils. Please include my distributor ID# 1479676 and sponsor ID# 1479676 with your order by going to


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Karen K. Butler

Company: MAXIMUS, Inc.
Business Management/
Title: Director
Location: Austin, TX


NAPW: How does your company differ from its competitors?

Butler: The company prides itself on being transparent to their clients. Clients are welcome to work side by side with staff to ensure their goals are reached.


NAPW: How does your company encourage professional development?

Butler: The company offers many in-house training courses and has a tuition reimbursement program.  Additionally, the company has a corporate-sponsored leadership development program.


NAPW: What types of change are occurring in your profession?

Butler: We are expanding internationally and this year, we have won several new contracts related to the Affordable Care Act.


NAPW: If your job progresses as you like, what would be the next step in your career?

Butler: I am currently working on a project in Albany, NY. I am planning to return to Austin, TX, this month and hope to find a position which allows me to pursue the top two things I’ve enjoyed most in my career: helping people and mentoring others in their career development.


NAPW: If your work were suddenly eliminated, what kind of work do you feel prepared to do?

Butler: Operations management, career development, staff forecasting and/or policy research.


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Katherine A. Kimes

Company: ABI Education Services, LLC
Special Education
Brain Injury
Education Specialist/Owner
Location: Pittsburgh, PA


NAPW: What is the best career advice you ever received?

Kimes: You can reach your goals by taking small steps. It is important to keep focused on the big picture because with time and determination, success is within reach.


NAPW: What advice can you offer a growing business?

Kimes: Network, network, network and use social media to help promote your business. Take the initial step and reach out to those individuals who may be in need of your services. Don’t wait around for them to find you!


NAPW: How do you keep your ideas fresh?

Kimes: By constantly thinking outside of the box. Every person is different and therefore, every person’s needs are different so it is important to approach each new case with fresh eyes. Individualization is key.


NAPW: What do you like to do on your free time?

Kimes: I work out and write.


NAPW: How do you get more clients/customers for your business?

Kimes: Through networking events and by using social media and the internet to promote my consulting business, ABI Education Services, LLC.


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Laurie S. Cohn

Company: SI Restoration
Title: Communications Director
Location: Laurel, MD


NAPW: Describe a career setback that you have learned the most from.

Cohn: I was raised in an environment where quitting was unacceptable behavior. I learned that if you give something your all and in your heart you know it is not right, then changing paths is the best decision you can make. I learned that after I left the fragrance and cosmetic industry to develop a new career path.


NAPW: Share your job search tips with fellow members.

Cohn: It is always more beneficial, whenever possible, to search for a new position while maintaining your current position. You will be viewed as a more “attractive” candidate. Since that is not always an option, be sure to maintain positive relationships with prior bosses and associates. Good references are very important!


NAPW: What is the top resource NAPW provides that has most benefitted your career?

Cohn: I truly appreciate all of the wonderful networking opportunities NAPW provides, and with so many like-minded professionals.


NAPW: In what ways has working internationally enhanced you professionally and personally?

Cohn: Working internationally has broadened my perspective on people and their belief systems. I have learned first-hand never to judge a whole group, but to simply look at each individual.


NAPW: How do you handle misperceptions by others about yourself?

Cohn: I will always do my best to make a good impression and be the best “Laurie” I can be, however, I learned long ago that I will never be able to please everyone or be liked by everyone. Of course, if I feel there has been a misconception or miscommunication, I will do everything in my power to “clear the air,” so to speak.


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Norma J. Salazar

Company: Security Service
Federal Credit Union
Information Technology –
Title: AVP of Quality and
Delivery Management
Location: San Antonio, TX


NAPW: What makes this company a good fit for you?

Salazar: NAPW is a good fit because it provides resources and support networks that are important to my continued growth as a professional woman.


NAPW: What do you find most challenging about your job?

Salazar: As part of management information systems, we are responsible for the uptime of all software applications and hardware. The quality and delivery management department plays a key role in ensuring that our members and users are not impacted when changes occur to the systems we support. This is challenging as I spend a lot of time on project delivery and implementations which occur in the early morning hours after midnight. We are on call 24/7.


NAPW: What do you find most rewarding about your job?

Salazar: What I find most rewarding about my job is the people that I work with. It is amazing to work with individuals with different skills and talents and see their contribution to the success of the organization.


NAPW: What is your proudest accomplishment?

Salazar: My proudest accomplishment is having created and established the quality and delivery management team at Security Service Federal Credit Union.


NAPW: How do you find balance in your life?

Salazar: The work/life balance is an area I continue to work on. I set boundaries that have helped in this area by spending time with family without taking a peek at my work phone or emails. I dedicate my weekends to rest and relaxation when I am not scheduled to work.


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Renee Albera

Title: President & Founder
Location: Menlo Park, CA


NAPW: Whose company/brand/website would you love to redesign?

Albera: I am not sure if I would ever find a desire to redesign someone else’s website, brand, etc. These choices are very personal and I would never be able to determine the “reasons” behind anyone’s choices or what those choices meant to them.


NAPW: What are some of the books we would find on your bookshelf?

Albera: You would find first The Inventor’s Bible by Ronald Louis Docie, Sr., which I have referred to repeatedly, and The Master Key System by Charles Haannel, which has influenced the position I am in today.


NAPW: How do you handle a chaotic work situation?

Albera: I have just started using techniques I have learned in meditation which allow me to refocus and effectively allocate what needs to be done and what can wait. Afterwards, if I feel I have been successful at the end of my day, I use wine, of course!


NAPW: Name three people/companies you regularly follow on social media?

Albera: I regularly follow Hannah Lee, the editor of Nails magazine, who provides such an enormous amount of information to everyone involved in the nail industry. Next, I follow Holly L. Schippers, aka. “FingerNailFixer,” because she has accumulated so much knowledge about gel polishes and how to apply them properly, particularly the ones by CND. Even though I am not a technician, I have used the information she shares while getting my nails done. Lastly, I follow Doug Schoon, who is admired and listened to by many in the nail industry and for good reason… he is really smart!


NAPW: What was your first-ever job and what did you learn from it?

Albera:  My very first job was working in a delicatessen in high school. I was fired from this job because a customer was rude for no reason and I let him know this. When he told my ex-boss, who then led me to the door, my ex-boss said, “You were right, he was rude. But in here, the customer is always MORE right…” Thirty years later, I always remember that.


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Tanya E. Partin Lawton

Company: Women of Faith
Women’s Ministry Guidance
and Development
Title: President, Founder
Location: Fall River, MA


NAPW: What do you want members to know about you?

Lawton: I want members to know that I come from humble surroundings and that my family was very poor. Even today, I cannot be considered middle class. I was blessed to get a computer for Christmas and my mind and heart took over from there. Now, my website, Women of Faith/A Spiritual Website, is available for any woman who needs guidance, insight and encouragement.


NAPW: What can you do for your NAPW community?

Lawton: By building Women’s Steering Ministries, I can steer women in the right direction. The right direction happens to be what your heart is set upon and not someone else’s, besides God. Women’s Steering Ministries will keep you focused, help drive your ambitions and help lead little girls in the right direction, too. When this world is getting crazier and more depraved, how are you going to give your child direction if the world is not teaching her?


NAPW: How do you use social media to promote your career or business?

Lawton: So far, I am learning what social media is. I have been advertising my website on the internet since 2011.  When I wrote Found in a Garbage Can, of course, I used a publisher and they are about to publish my second book, Fighting for the Right to be ‘Good.’ NAPW is teaching me everything else I need to know.


NAPW: Describe your typical day.

Lawton: My day starts with getting up in the late morning and checking all the sites I am on for stats and messages from all my contacts. I might work straight through until lunch, which is my favorite time of the day for creativity. I go to my website and go through the pictures, styles and fonts one page at a time just to get the right impact. I do this for hours because that’s what it takes. Commitment to your website is what will bring people to it. I see my numbers go up consistently. After dinner, I take in a movie or two and relax by getting away from the computer. My days are very normal and I like it like that.


NAPW: Did you ever face a glass ceiling with this career choice and what did you do about it?

Lawton: When I started looking for a church to attend, I came to one that seemed to be like the one I left behind when I moved from Boston to Fall River. I am used to seeing women’s ministries when I go to these places and this church had none. Soon, I was able to help develop a women’s ministry in the church and three years later, here I am making a name for myself and helping women to build their own women’s ministries. That glass ceiling may be invisible but you can still see who the opposition is — men.  Women must remain close to one another so that we don’t forget who we work for and the people we serve.


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Tina M. Szenasi

Company: Movement Mortgage
Finance: Mortgages/Loans
Title: Branch Manager
Location: Naperville, IL


NAPW: When you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?

Szenasi: A dentist.


NAPW: How do you define success?

Szenasi: I define success as inspiring others and having healthy relationships, both personal and professional.


NAPW: Where do you see yourself in five years?

Szenasi: I see the “professional me” managing an entire region of offices. I see the “personal me” continuing to focus on physical, spiritual and mental growth as well as inspiring others.


NAPW: How do you relax?

Szenasi: I practice Muay Thai and spend time with my wonderful husband.


NAPW: What advice would you give to women planning to enter your field?

Szenasi: I would tell any woman trying to enter my field that although it is very challenging, it can also be very rewarding. I would let her know that it is a lot of work and highly competitive. I would also let her know that it can sometimes be a thankless job but that none of those things matter when you are sitting at the closing table with a family you have just helped purchase a home — especially a family that didn’t have the easiest time getting a loan. It is a feeling I cannot put into words. You are their hero and you made a difference in their lives.


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Carol Ann Tarter Petersen

Company: CATP Enterprises, Inc.
Business Development &
Consulting Services
Title: Owner and
Independent Consultant
Location: Denver, CO


NAPW: Describe a career setback that you have learned the most from.

Petersen: I am not sure I would call them career setbacks, but I have experienced some definite speed bumps in my career. One significant speed bump came when after many years as a full-time corporate employee, I decided to leave the “safety net” of the corporate world and take on a new, bigger challenge — becoming an independent consultant in business for myself. Needless to say, this was a very scary situation knowing that I would now need to win business for myself as well as for my clients, which always seems more difficult.

Another career speed bump comes as a result of our current economic environment. The majority of my clients are really suffering because they do most of their work with the federal, public sector or international government. Due to the setback of budget allocations, government agencies are not issuing procurements as they have in the past. Those that are issued are usually much smaller projects and may even be canceled for “significant requirements changes” (i.e., lack of budget) before they are awarded. As a result, companies have much less in their business development pipelines and marketing funnels and are struggling just to keep their regular employees.

So, as a problem solver and value-added service provider for my clients, I have had to step back and remind myself that the proven processes and best practices for winning new business that I successfully employ with my clients will work just as well for me too, if I just implement them.


NAPW: Share your job search tips with fellow members.

Petersen: Obviously, there are differences in how one searches for a full-time employee position versus an independent contractor consulting position, but there are some factors that remain the same. No matter who you are, what proven experience you have or what rocket science solution you have to sell, it is not about you! It is about what your potential customer, employer or client needs and wants and what results you can deliver to them. The strategy in job searching is the same as the strategy I teach my clients in growing and optimizing their businesses:

  • Know your client, employer or customer’s needs, hot buttons and constraints and show them how you can deliver results for them.
  • Know the strengths and weaknesses of your competition and show how you are better and offer more value.
  • Know yourself and distinguish yourself from your competitors; accentuate your strengths and mitigate your weaknesses.

Remember, people want to work with people who they know, like and trust.


NAPW: In what ways has working internationally enhanced you professionally and personally?

Petersen: Besides having the wonderful experience of always learning something new, working on competitive proposals to win new business with international clients (whether government or commercial) really gives you a bigger perspective of how countries and cultures do business differently and how, as people and consumers, we are so much alike. For example, there certainly are differences in how the United Arab Emirates procures major energy infrastructure development projects for its country compared to the U.S. Department of Energy (US DOE). Even between a nuclear site cleanup project for the US DOE and one for the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority, there are significantly more differences than just the nuances of British English versus American English in the documentation. Likewise, a proposal for program management and integration of the 2012 London Olympic and Paralympic Games is crafted differently from a proposal to the State of Qatar for infrastructure development for the 2022 Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) World Cup™. However, no matter the country or the culture, it is still all about what the customer needs and wants, what results you can deliver to them and how you can help them successfully solve their problems.


NAPW: How do you handle misperceptions by others about yourself?

Petersen: All we have are our own filters and frames of reference, misperceptions are a given in communications. However, I have found that clear communication and education are keys to handling misperceptions. The biggest misperception by others that I personally and professionally face is that people frequently think I am “just a proposal and grant writer,” particularly if they are not familiar with business development and procurement processes. Many professionals today are experienced in either the strategy/marketing component of the business development process or the proposal development/production aspect of support. I have extensive experience in integrating and delivering the full life cycle of business development and marketing support elements from strategic planning and corporate positioning to market and competitive research, from marketing and corporate communications/public relations to government procurement compliance and writing, managing and delivering proposals that actually win. More than 20 years of experience in analyzing, implementing and integrating operational processes at the corporate level, as well as the day-to-day level, have resulted in a results-oriented systems approach that is an integral part of my management style. With my expertise in multiple interrelated disciplines relevant to business development support, as well as my successful experience in working with both Fortune 100 and small companies across several industries, I bring measurable bottom-line results, significant business edge and maximum return on investment to my clients.


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Megan Bozzuto


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