Going back to school can be challenging — and stressful. Here’s what worked for me.

From the desk of Tameika Edwards, assistant director of economic opportunity and partnership development, New York State Homes and Community Renewal

Going back to school isn’t easy. Especially for working women — we have to balance our careers, studies, and, for some of us, parenting responsibilities.

After years of thinking about it, I finally started pursuing a master’s degree in management and leadership in July 2020. It was the pandemic that got me contemplating my future and the professional challenges that I wanted to take control of.

Fast-forward to December 2021. I’m finishing my program and about to receive an M.S. degree from Western Governors University. It wasn’t easy. But it was worth it.

Here are six things that I learned along the way:

1. Build your support system.

I wanted to go back to school to learn leadership skills — the tools that will help me get the best out of myself and my team. But I had a real case of imposter syndrome. Luckily, I had a supervisor at work who encouraged me to make the leap. And WGU provides all students with a faculty mentor whose job is to ensure they’re on track and fully supported. My mentor has coached me through those bouts with self-confidence. Our talks have been invaluable.

Look within your network for the people you can count on. And then talk to your target schools about their student-support processes. Create a safety net so that you can jump right in — without fear.

2. Take inventory of your progress — and share your successes with others.

The best part of going back to school has been tracking my own progress. It reminds me that I can do this, that I’m already reaping personal and professional benefits, and that I’m that much closer to my goal. And every time I complete a course, I send a note to my cousins. Their responses give me a boost, which I use to propel me to the next milestone. Sometimes we just need a reminder that we’ve got this!

3. Schedule everything. The calendar is your friend!

So many people think about going back to school and talk themselves out of it. “How can I find the time?” For me, the answer was to put everything on the calendar. Everything! It’s very specific, down to watering the plants. (Which is on my calendar for Friday.) That way, I don’t have to use mental energy to remember tasks. I know that all my responsibilities — from work to school assignments to household chores — will get done with my full attention at the right time and place.

4. Take health and stress management seriously.

I am a person with a disability, which has to be managed with regular treatments. Of course, I have those on the schedule (remember, the calendar is your friend), and my faculty mentor at WGU has helped me carve out extra time around those appointments for recovery. Creating a system to manage my health while going back to school has been key.

Then there’s mental health — studying and working (and for you moms out there, being a parent) is stressful! I have regular meditation sessions, and I schedule a time to decompress and prepare for the next big project before jumping in.

5. Family and friends on your back? Show them your cards.

Sometimes it’s hard for family or friends to understand what you’re doing — or just how hard it is for a professional woman to pursue a degree. There have been times when someone in my life has asked me to do something, or attend some function, that I just don’t have time for.

Here’s my trick: I’ll show them what I’m working on and ask for their help. I’ll introduce them to the things I’m reading or the topics that I have to write about; usually, they’ll say, “Wow, good luck with that.” And then they’ll leave me alone. It works!

6. Pace yourself.

WGU is a competency-based university, which means I can accelerate through the program once I have mastered certain skills. This kind of self-paced education has been awesome, but it also brought up the question: What is the best pace for me?

Simply put, I found my pace through trial and error. At one point, I went a little bit faster than felt comfortable, and my WGU faculty mentor helped me pull back. You must be realistic with yourself — talk with your support system (Tip 1), take stock of the responsibilities on your calendar (Tip 3), and make an educated determination about what you can handle. That’s your starting point. Adjust as needed.

I hope these tips help as you tackle your next professional challenge. I thought about going back to school for 10 years, at least. Now that I’m almost done, I wonder why I waited so long.

If I can do it, so can you.

You’ve got this!

Five reasons men could benefit from attending a WBC event

From the desk of Karen Lomardo

Happy New Year! As we begin 2022, might I suggest that we commit to trying something new, going somewhere we have never before, and perhaps totally leaving our comfort zone?  You may be thinking, Karen, what are you suggesting?

Ladies, this one is for the gents of the Capital Region Chamber. The men who support the Chamber, attend Chamber events, and advocate for our community and its members. So, gentlemen, how about branching out and attending a Women’s Business Council (WBC) event.

Five reasons men could benefit from attending a WBC event

I have been a part of the WBC for four years, and it never ceases to amaze me how much I learn from the speakers and events sponsored by the WBC. Please do not mistake me; some men attend these events, but the numbers are small, and we would like to see more. I am not sure I have five reasons, just three compelling thoughts to share:

  1. Support your business community. Diverse attendance brings varied points of view, engagement, and support to the WBC or any organization and event. After the event, feel free to post your thoughts on the WBC LinkedIn page and share your experience. You may meet someone who needs your services or a business you have never visited that offers precisely what you are looking for as a service or for a special gift.
  2. Encourage one of your employees to come with you. So often, members do not realize that all employees are eligible to attend Chamber events. Invite a few employees with you to our WBC luncheon and share what you have learned with your organization. Employee engagement creates a more robust culture within the organization.
  3. Build a strong company culture. Attending a WBC meeting with your employees creates a bond between you and your team supporting the Chamber and its members. It also imparts the value of community and support, especially when we could all use the strength of community belonging.

Hmm, you don’t know when the next WBC event is? No worries. We can help!

Women’s Business Council: How to Thrive in a Hybrid Work Environment

TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 15, 2022 (11:30 AM – 1:00 PM) (EST)

For many people, a hybrid work environment is the new norm. And just like working exclusively from home required certain skills to succeed, so does working in a hybrid environment. Schedules will now vary between companies, and organizations are trying to find the best common practices between remote and commuting lifestyles.

Join the WBC in-person on February 15 to hear from our panelists on what’s making their organizations thrive and be successful. You’ll learn how to effectively work in hybrid communities, adopt and embrace change, and make the most of your workday, whether in or out of the office.

Register hereThank you, and welcome to the WBC!

Women in Business Spotlight: Tiffany Soricelli

Tiffany Soricelli founded Virtuoso Asset Management (VAM), the nation’s first Registered Investment Advisory firm exclusively dedicated to Artists and Supporters of the Arts, in order to better support the unique needs of her clients. As a classically trained singer, Tiffany approaches financial planning with an artist’s passion.

Tiffany is hyper-conscious about always doing what’s right for her clients. As a fee-only fiduciary, she built a firm with no proprietary or commission-based products, and thus, no conflict of interest, allowing her to always put her clients’ needs first. She is also passionate about helping her clients align their personal values with their investment objectives through the use of ESG or Socially Responsible Investment options. 

Prior to a career in finance, Tiffany spent a decade as a passionate fundraising professional and she carries some of those “nonprofit roots” to her business today by publishing an Annual Impact Report of the firm, shedding light on an often opaque business model, and by creating a “1% for the Arts” give back initiative by which she donates 1% of the gross revenue of both her companies to an arts nonprofit institution nominated and selected by her clients, whom she affectionally terms the “VAM Fam.”

What is the best advice you have ever received?

Jacqueline Sheffer, who was my mentor through the Chamber Mentorship program, was a great sounding board when I was at a crossroads in my career. She gave me life-changing advice. She said to me, “What’s the worst that could happen? Try new things. If it doesn’t work out, you can always try something new.” 

That inspired me to take a risk and change careers and I am so glad I did.

What would you most like to tell your 13 year-old self?

That 90% of things in life are not a big deal. When I was 13, I was a type-A kid, trying to do it all and putting immense pressure on myself. I figured out that I didn’t need to be the best at everything when I went to college, but I would have saved myself a lot of angst of I had figured it out earlier. 

What do you love most about what you do?

I love my clients, and I love helping them make their dreams come true. I love learning what deeply matters to them and then using my resources, network, and expertise to support them. I feel very lucky!

When you have 30 minutes of free time, how do you pass the time?

Two businesses and two babies…what’s free time? (Laughs) I’m doing the things that didn’t fit in anywhere else!

What do you get out of your Chamber membership?

The Chamber has been a wonderful place to make new connections. I’ve been a member for years now but only as the owner of my own business in 2021. Kristen and her staff organized an incredible Ribbon Cutting for my new firm, Virtuoso Asset Management, and the opening of our new office space in Burnt Hills. Not only did everyone share thoughtful and supportive remarks about my work, but I was touched at how many fellow chamber members came by to celebrate the event as well! It never ceases to amaze me how hard the Chamber works to meet its members’ needs. I feel genuinely supported and excited to be a part of such an amazing network. 

5 Things to Remember This Holiday Season

Here we sit, just a few short days from Thanksgiving. Our minds and bank accounts are reeling from things we need to do and purchases for family, friends, and celebrations. It can also be a time to think about what we need to remember this holiday season.

Number One: Be kind. The world is a stressful place and has been since COVID began. You don’t know what someone is going through or the condition of their life. Be patient. Honk less. Please pay it forward, and smile a little more. Everyone is challenged- let’s find solutions.

Number Two: Budget and stick to it. For some, our incomes are on shaky ground, and job security is uncertain. We’ve all been sequestered and cruising the internet for deals for things we need and maybe for the things we (actually) don’t. Holiday spending can escalate quickly, and buyer remorse comes soon in January when you get your bank and credit card statements. Buy thoughtfully. I bet you didn’t realize that a homemade gift of infused olive oil or specialty soaps would mean so much more to the person receiving it.

Number Three: Remember to have some fun. You do not need to spend a lot of money to have fun. You can go ice skating on a local pond. There are nature walks provided by local businesses in the Capital Region that includes hot chocolate and moonlight snowshoeing adventure. Take a drive through your neighborhood in your PJ’s and bathrobe. Bring hot chocolate and witness the snowfall and glow of holiday lights. (Ask your Chamber of Commerce for information, wink-wink.)

Number Four: Take care of yourself. As working women, we often burn that proverbial candle at both ends. We work, plan, and balance parties, menus, school events, and family commitments. Get a mani-pedi. Download a book and find a coffee shop to sit and sip coffee and read. Do something that soothes your mind and soul. It is okay to have a little me time.

Number Five: Have a wonderful holiday. It all comes and goes so fast. Slow it down on Thanksgiving and space out the day with mini-meals and snacks before the main event. No matter how you celebrate this holiday season, please do not lose the true meaning, and appreciate that life is precious. Savor it.

We wish you joy and love this holiday season. Take the time just to be and honor yourself and those that you love. You and your family will be happier for it.

Happy holidays!

Karen Lombardo

Women In Business Spotlight : Chelsea Heilmann

Chelsea is the owner and chef at the Take Two Café in Schenectady, aptly named as she opened the café after she closed the Square One café earlier this year.  The Take Two Café, opened in May 2021 follows Chelsea’s commitment to a plant-based diet and her passion for positively impacting the environment.  Chelsea has been 100% vegan for 6 years and has been in the hospitality industry for over 15 years.  Chelsea is well-traveled; she credits living in New Zealand to changing her diet to plant based.  Chelsea loves creating her culinary offerings for her customers. She is inspired by the challenge of developing recipes that replicate a favorite meat or dairy based dish using plant-based ingredients, for example her philly cheese steak, made with mushrooms and other vegan ingredients.  

If you have 30 minutes of free time, how do you pass the time?

Chelsea said she would spend her free time hiking and enjoying nature.  She feels grounded and clear headed when she is out enjoying all Upstate New York has to offer in the way of trails, paths and green spaces.

What do you love most about what you do?

Chelsea loves when customers get excited about her food and they realize that it is 100% vegan.  She works really hard to make sure her menu offerings are well rounded in both flavor, texture and variety.  With a passion for a vegan lifestyle Chelsea is motivated when her customers, especially those who do not plant based for every meal, are repeat customers and truly enjoy their meal.

What would you most like to tell yourself at age 13?

Chelsea said the wisdom she would offer her 13 younger self would be to not worry about so many things, she would tell 13-year-old Chelsea that life will work itself out and overthinking is wasted time.

What have you gained from being a member of the Capital Region Chamber?

The resources and the support. The Chamber is an amazing partner.  Chelsea appreciates all the referrals to other professionals who have helped her with the Café.

 Exciting Volunteer Opportunities with the Food Pantries

If you’re unable to donate your time but are still looking for a way to support The Food Pantries and the work that they do, they encourage you to consider conducting a virtual food drive. This involves inviting folks in your network, your friends, and your family, to donate money toward your virtual food drive. Monetary contributions are used to purchase shelf-stable food for our member pantries that is distributed to feed our neighbors in need. You and all those around you can be a part of alleviating hunger in the Capital Region. Call 518-458-1167 to learn more.

The Food Pantries for the Capital District offers a variety of exciting volunteer opportunities throughout the year through our 65+ member pantries. The ways of being involved can range from assisting with special events, helping in a pantry, unloading delivery trucks, delivering packed pantry bags to customers, and office work. Opportunities change based on our member pantries’ needs; however, we are always in need of help and we’re eager to find a volunteer opportunity that is a good fit for you. A full list of current volunteer opportunities can be seen on The Food Pantries website at thefoodpantries.org.

The 10th Annual Harvest Evening Celebration Was a Success!

The 10th Annual Harvest Evening Celebration to benefit The Food Pantries for the Capital District is an annual fundraising gala that featured an in-person VIP Reception as well as a Virtual Event this year. The Virtual Event included a wine tasting hosted by Dr. Krysta Dennis and a bread baking demonstration by Christina Zullo of Mazzone Hospitality, while the in-person reception took place at Franklin Plaza in Troy for honorary level ticket holders and sponsors. This year’s title sponsor of the Harvest Evening Celebration is CDPHP.

With your participation this year, Harvest Evening Celebration was able to raise $90,000! This allows The Food Pantries for the Capital District to further our mission in alleviating hunger in the Capital Region by helping to provide additional support to our 65+ member pantries as well as to help make possible the wide variety of programs we have to address hunger in our communities.

To get learn more about the Food Pantries, go to : thefoodpantries.org 

Domestic Violence Awareness Month

From the desk of Julie Keegan, Unity House Clinical Program Director

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. In the United States, on average, 20 people per minute are abused by an intimate partner. There is an average of 20,000 calls to domestic violence hotlines nationwide daily.

Join domestic violence advocates nationwide on October 21 by wearing purple to honor survivors and victims and begin a conversation about why ending domestic violence is important to you.

What Constitutes Domestic Violence?

Domestic violence or intimate partner violence is a pattern of abusive and coercive behavior. This is a part of a systematic pattern of power and control perpetrated by one partner against another. This can include physical violence, sexual violence, psychological or emotional abuse, stalking, strangulation, financial abuse or manipulation, isolation, and intimidation. Domestic violence is an issue that impacts all individuals regardless of age, gender, race, religion, sexual orientation, and socioeconomic status. With Domestic being so prevalent, one can begin to wonder why this is the case. It is not always easy to determine at the beginning of a relationship if someone will become abusive. The abusive behaviors often begin in ways that can be easily dismissed. At the start of the relationship, abusive partners may appear as the ideal partner, with the controlling and abusive behaviors intensifying as the relationship grows. Below are some of the common types of abuse.

Isolation: The beginning stages of an abusive relationship often start with isolating behaviors. Isolating behaviors can look like controlling who you see and when you see them, this can often look like they like/love you so much they want you to spend all your time with them. This can also be restricting phone access or going through your phone/social media, disliking or discouraging friend/family relationships, wanting to move in quickly, taking or restricting money or access to money, and preventing you from working or attending school.

Intimidation, Coercion, Threats: This manipulation can come in many forms but is often used to garner control over their partner. In one survivor’s story, she disclosed her partner would never physically harm her but created an environment in which she always wondered if she would be harmed and, in turn, always attempted to please him to avoid being harmed. On one occasion, she expressed that she had returned late from work and her phone had died, so she could not notify her partner. Upon arrival home, her partner was sitting at the dining room table with a gun on the table. He never used it against her, but the threat and intimidation were present and enough to manipulate her future behavior with him.

Physical/Sexual Violence: Physical and sexual violence are common types of domestic violence. Some common types of physical and sexual abuse include hitting, shaking, pushing, burning/branding, assault with a weapon, withholding physical needs (food, water, shelter), forcible restraint, forcible sexual contact, rape, and exploiting their partner/selling their partner to another for sexual contact. Another common type of sexual abuse is to force unprotected sexual contact to impregnate their partner. This is used as a tool to control their partner not to leave the abusive individual. Physical and sexual abuse often only escalate in severity upon their partner becoming pregnant. The most lethal times in a domestic violence relationship are when partners are getting married, when a partner becomes pregnant, and the abused partner prepares to leave the relationship.

Emotional Abuse/Gaslighting: Gaslighting is a specific type of emotional abuse in which the abusive partner attempts to make their partner question their thoughts, memory, and reality. One particular survivor’s story explained that their abusive partner would assault her in the days prior and then act as if it never happened. She would question her abusive partner’s behaviors. He would say things like “I don’t know why you are making this a big deal”, “I never would put my hands on you. Why would you think that”. Her partner questioning her on these incidents made her question her perception and believe she was making a larger deal out of the assaults even though they were severe. Emotional abuse and gaslighting are the most common types of abuse in abusive relationships and often have the most deep-rooted long-lasting effects on a survivor’s mental health. Other examples of emotional abuse are insults, taunting, purposeful embarrassment, criticizing their partner, distorting statements that create confusion, telling someone they are unstable or mentally ill, long-lasting ignoring of one’s partner, lying, and neglecting to follow through on stated intentions.

Stalking: Stalking is a common form of domestic violence and can often be different than you initially thought. 60% of stalking victims report being stalked by their current or former intimate partner. While stalking can be a stranger physically following you from location to location, it is more often than not someone you already know and taking place on the internet through social media and phones. Some common types of stalking are requiring someone to share their location services on their phone with them at all times, having and using someone’s passwords for social media to check their accounts and go through their phone, and using these services to pop up wherever their partner may be. Stalking is a common type of abuse and frequently points to dangerous and escalating behaviors that can lead to more lethal forms of abuse down the line in the relationship.

If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic violence or is looking to speak with someone about a potential domestic violence situation, please reach out to the local and state resources below.

Unity House of Troy Domestic Violence

24 Hour Hotline 518-272-2370

24 Hour Text Chat 518-720-6166

New York State Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Hotline

24 Hour Hotline 800-942-6906

24 Hour Text Chat 844-997-2121

Equinox Domestic Violence Services

24 Hour Hotline 518-432-7865

YWCA of Schenectady Domestic Violence Services

24 Hour Hotline 518-374-3386

The 10th Annual Harvest Evening Celebration

The 10th Annual Harvest Evening Celebration to benefit The Food Pantries for the Capital District is an annual fundraising gala that takes place every October.  This year, Harvest Evening Celebration will feature in-person and virtual activities that include a wine pull and online silent auction!

Save these Dates:

  • On Thursday, October 14th, 6-7 PM the virtual event will feature wine tasting, beer tasting and a cooking demonstration and hosted by WAMC’s Northeast Public Radio’s Joe Donahue.
  • On Thursday, October 21st, 5-8 PM the in-person reception will feature open bar, hor-d’oeuvres and dessert at Franklin Plaza in downtown Troy. In-person event capacity limited to 200 honorary level tickets and sponsors.

You can support The Food Pantries’ nearly 70 food pantries and the more than 65,000 neighbors in need that were helped in 2020 by participating in this year’s event. Your participation allows us to continue to provide a high-level of support to pantries and feed the hungry. 

To register, visit our website here: https://www.thefoodpantries.org/10th-annual-harvest-evening-celebration.html

If you wish to register as your organization, click the box in the top right corner of the form titled “Register as a Company.” Once you’ve chosen your ticket option and filled all required fields, click “continue” to review your event registration summary. Click “complete registration” to be sent to our payment screen then, when finished, click submit and you’re done! You should receive an email confirming all the information about the event including a reminder of the date and time and a link will be provided. 

The cost is $75 for general admission and $130 for couples. Honorary starts at $125 for single and $200 for couple. We hope you can join the virtual and/or in-person Harvest Evening Celebration this year!

World Suicide Prevention Day

World Suicide Prevention Day is September 10. It’s a time to remember those affected by suicide, raise awareness, and focus efforts on directing treatment to those who need it most. The annual awareness day is hosted by the International Association for Suicide Prevention (IASP).

Each and every suicide is devastating and has a profound impact on those around them. With increased awareness, reduced stigma and encouraging well-informed action, the number of suicides can be reduced.

World Suicide Prevention Day is an opportunity to raise awareness of suicide and “to promote action through proven means that will reduce the number of suicides and suicide attempts globally”.

Understanding the issues concerning suicide and mental health is an important way to take part in suicide prevention, help others in crisis, and change the conversation around suicide. The IASP website said: “Through action, you can make a difference to someone in their darkest moments – as a member of society, as a child, as a parent, as a friend, as a colleague or as a neighbor.

“We can all play a role in supporting those experiencing a suicidal crisis or those bereaved by suicide.”