Pedal to the Metal – CEO Takes Challenge at Top Speed
13 Jun 2014 by BizDESIGN in Entrepreneurs & Leaders, SUMMER 2014
By Kate Maguire Jensen –
Linda Wojtowicz, recently appointed CEO of Boys & Girls Clubs of Tucson, started thinking about a new challenge when she realized she wasn’t “driving fast to work anymore.”
Previously part of the senior leadership team at Tucson Medical Center, she believed she had accomplished what she set out to do.
When she started at TMC, the hospital was having a difficult time. “It was a wonderful opportunity for me to help with the turnaround,” she said. “You don’t get to do that very often.”
She helped change the culture of the organization and says she loves the responsibility of a leadership role.
“They say the lifespan of a healthcare executive is three to five years,” but Wojtowicz stayed with TMC for nine years – first as southeast service administrator, then chief nursing officer/VP for clinical operations and finally as COO/senior VP.
She got her start in healthcare working as a nurse in Chicago in oncology, then in critical care. Rather than move up the ranks in clinical positions, she chose to pursue a career in administration. The job that got her to Arizona was COO of Sierra Vista Regional Health Center. After two years, she was promoted to interim president/CEO, a position she held for a year and a half before moving to TMC.
This is a woman who embraces new challenges. When she moved to Arizona, she took up horseback riding – something she had never done. And now she’s all about mastering ballroom dancing. In 2012, she traded the TMC boardroom for a ballroom, stepping out as one of Tucson’s stars in “Dancing with the Stars” to raise money for the Diaper Bank of Southern Arizona.
When the Boys & Girls Clubs of Tucson position opened up, several community members encouraged her to apply. She liked the clubs’ mission and was impressed with the organization’s reputation.
“This organization is really special,” she said. “I’ve never seen a board this committed. The board members are emotionally connected to our mission and to each other. They all spend time in the clubhouses.”
The organization just celebrated its 50th anniversary of helping thousands of children and teens by providing a safe place after school and programs to teach a broad range of life skills. The clubs provide direct services to more than 6,000 at-risk kids in six clubhouses and indirectly serve 5,000 more kids through programs and activities.
This new CEO is excited about stepping into a well-established nonprofit with an outstanding board and making it better. She said the clubs are uniquely positioned to create meaningful collaborations with other nonprofits that serve kids.
“I told the search committee that if they wanted change, ‘I’m your gal.’ At this point in my career, I’m not afraid of taking risks,” she said. “It’s easier to take risks for the right reasons. I know it sounds too altruistic, but it’s really true. I want to be involved in something larger than myself.”
While she is not afraid of taking risks, Wojtowicz said she is committed to protecting the organization’s outstanding reputation and legacy, while propelling it forward.
She’s been on the job only a few months, and one of the best days she’s had at work so far was when she took several teenage girls from the clubs to dinner. It made her realize how much we take for granted, like being able to eat out at a local pizza place, something none of the girls had ever done.
What advice would she give younger women about achieving business success?
“Confidence and self-control are paramount,” she said. “Look the part, dress for success, do research, prepare yourself. Respect others’ time by being ready and looking like you did your homework. Don’t be afraid to show your passion, because that is what is best about you, but learn to temper it with facts. Remember to find your personal joy. Others don’t want to be around unhappy people. Success won’t bring you happiness – happiness will bring you success.”
What legacy does she hope to create at the Boys & Girls Clubs of Tucson?
She’s working toward enhanced sustainability and serving more kids every year.
“I hope that BGC of Tucson is seen as a collaborator with other organizations that serve kids, bringing the right people around the table so that in the end, the kids have enhanced experiences.”
One gets the sense that she’s driving fast to work again – and every place else she goes.