Economic Development Assistant, North Country Chamber of Commerce
When Danielle Johnson agreed to work with the Shine On program at SUNY Plattsburgh she knew her efforts would help young girls learn self-confidence and resilience. Little did she know the experience would help shape her life as well. “The program put me in touch with strong women and taught me the character traits I needed to be a successful person,” she said. “It helped me to understand who I wanted to be as an adult.” Those seven character skills – grit, zest, social interaction, willpower, curiosity, optimism and gratitude — have paid off for Danielle. “I use them every day,” she emphasized.
Hometown: Malone, NY Age: 23
Education: B.A. Public Relations & Marketing (SUNY Plattsburgh), currently pursuing my M.A. Community & Economic Development and Workforce Development Graduate Certicate through SUNY Empire State College.
What’s your biggest professional success?
The great thing about my job is that so many great things happen as a result of our hard work. Seeing a SCORE counseled small business reach an important milestone is a success. Meeting with an On-the-Job-Training employee and hearing the excitement in their voice as they describe their new position and hear their trainer rave about their progress is a success to me. Seeing a company we helped to start-up or expand into the area hire local talent is a success. Helping to get the community excited about Small Business Saturday and hear from local businesses that they had record traffic on that day is a success.
What’s your dream job?
Something that I am passionate about, provides opportunities to travel, makes a positive difference in my community, where no two days are exactly alike and has flexibility so that I am able to maintain that work/life balance and spend time with family. I’m fortunate that these are all things I have in my current job!
How do you maintain a work/life balance?
By having set priorities and goals in all areas, and not denying time in one for the sake of the other, and not letting one consume me. For example, I wouldn’t skip a birthday party for one of my nieces or nephews to write a paper for grad school, but I will have to make sure that it’s done on time and to the standards of myself and my professor, and doesn’t cut into time meant for my career (showing up late because I was up all hours working on homework, etc.) It can be difficult trying to maintain a full time job, 2-3 graduate level courses, and family and social obligations, but I feel most confident when I have things to focus on with different tangible results. Plus having hobbies that involve being able to turn off my phone are essential! It’s much easier to take a break where there’s no cell service, whether it’s hiking, fishing, or just spending time around a campfire with friends and family.
What important lessons have you learned in your career?
How to prioritize and manage time. Especially in my position with a hodgepodge of duties, projects, events and deadlines all floating around, it’s really important to learn how to organize everything. Thankfully there are some great Google apps that have been lifesavers, but sometimes nothing beats a sticky note on the wall!
What’s most exciting trend happening in the community right now?
I think it’s just exciting to be in a place with other likeminded people who are passionate about the North Country. Growing up here, everyone’s phrase was always “I can’t wait to get out of here” and until my senior year in college I was the same way. I have come to realize that your success is not dictated by the number of miles you moved from your hometown, but rather your efforts to make a difference in the community you’re in, while building your career. Right now there is so much positive energy in the North Country. There are so many people willing to step up to make a difference and share some optimism for the future.
What would make the North Country a more enjoyable place to live and work?
I think the North Country is already such a fantastic place to live and work. So many people work so hard to make sure it is that way. I think if more people were willing to see past the assumed norm of years past, and realize the potential and wonderful things happening here that would be great! Negativity is a combatant to progress and there are still nay-sayers out there. We’re headed in the right direction though! Just look at last year’s fDi magazine ratings, Plattsburgh was named # 2 Micro American city of the future, #1 for Foreign Direct Investment Strategy and #1 for Human Capital and Lifestyle (fDiIntelligence, April/May 2015)! Then in the same year, made Niche.com’s ranking of “Top Ten Best Towns in New York to Live for Millennials.” It’s hard not to be optimistic about the future of the North Country.
Describe your personal brand in three words.
“Authenticity sustains focus”
Who is your mentor and what have you learned from him/her?
My mentor in my career is definitely my boss here at the Chamber, Sue Matton. It was intimidating coming into a position that was a little out of the realm of what I expected to be doing after college and I have had great opportunities to learn from her. She has accomplished so much in her career and is always eager to share her knowledge and experiences. Seeing the impact she has had on this region is inspiring and I am very lucky to have someone who is always willing to teach as my boss.
How do contribute to the culture of your company?
I joined the chamber as one of three millennials in an office where longevity is the norm. So I am able to provide a different perspective and ideas that are unique to my generation. Also, being able to integrate advancing technology and social media strategies into what I do. For example, when I became Chapter Chair of the SCORE Chapter, they didn’t even have a Facebook and the website was edging on outdated. I was able to use the tools from the National office and create a consistent brand to help in our recruitment efforts.
What’s the biggest risk you’ve ever taken?
After graduation from SUNY Plattsburgh, I took a part time job at the Chamber as an office assistant. I figured this would give me an opportunity to network with area businesses and eventually find myself in a public relations or event planning position. Then there was an opening at the Chamber for an Economic Development Assistant, and I was fortunate enough to accept a full time position. This position however, was COMPLETELY out of the comfort zone crafted by my undergraduate work and internships in public relations. It was a total career redirection and that was intimidating and scary. However, it has paid off in ways I never expected. I have found my passion in this career, to the point of pursuing a master’s degree. I never planned on graduate school in my career plan, but I am learning so much now and can hopefully use these new skills to become better at what I do and better support the North Country.
What is something that no one would guess about you?
I’m pretty good with a compound bow! I spend a lot of my weekends target shooting.
Write a note to your younger self…
Don’t take things so seriously, there is so much beyond high school drama. Listen more! Great advice comes from unexpected places. Also, maybe rethink the metallic pink taffeta prom dress…