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Karen Shchuka’s Big 5 Chair Takeaways
Rya Hazelwood

Karen Shchuka’s Big 5 Chair Takeaways

By John Salustri

Did you ever think of the behind-the-scenes insights IAMC members get by participating in the executive committee? It’s a rare view and one that, certainly in the case of last year’s chair, Karen Shchuka, resulted in a greater understanding of all that comes from being a member.

Certainly the development of contacts and the camaraderie of meetings is a foregone conclusion in any association membership. But there is so much more to see, so much more to learn, when you participate at a higher and deeper level, as Shchuka, who is vice president of Real Estate for Penske Transportation Solutions, found out. Here are her Big 5 lessons learned, so far, during her tenure on the Board of Directors:

1. Get All You Can From Local Events. "The Locals were a huge takeaway for me,” says the Reading, PA-based Shchuka. “I encourage and challenge everyone who hasn’t been to the Locals to attend,” yes, even those outside your bailiwick. She learned that, even though an event might be geographically specific, “there are still important lessons to be learned.” She cites a recent Inland Empire Local wherein the discussion focused on Ontario, CA as one of the hardest markets to get into, and provided steps for breaking the entry code. “It’s not the only difficult market to get into, and strategies are often transferable."

2. Don't Judge Prematurely. The other takeaway from the Locals was the intimacy of the gatherings. Shchuka says that the 30 or 50 people that typically attend make for much less need to “work the room,” and, in a sense, more successful relationship building. And there’s a bonus: “When I see these new acquaintances at the Forums, we recognize each other instantly. The bonds are already there.” So, when it comes to the Locals, “Don’t judge books by their covers."

3. Broaden Your Scope. Readers of Site Selection will recall Karen’s series on expanding your corporation’s strategic reach. In a sense, this begins at the IAMC Forums, particularly the breakout sessions. So, when scanning the program to determine the topics that strike your fancy, don’t take the familiar or easy path. “Try some of the programs you aren’t drawn to naturally,” she advises. “They could bring enlightenment to do things you hadn’t done before or to do things differently. Expand your horizons.”

4. Appreciate Behind-the-Scenes Work. Until Shchuka got involved in the board, she was unaware of the massive amounts of work that went on unseen by IAMC staff. “This isn’t to toot their horns,” she says, “but we attend these events without ever really thinking of the work that goes into them, or the dedication of the staff to ensure a quality event.” She cites the scrambling she witnessed to replace last-minute speaker dropouts, tapping into the topics that will be both rewarding and entertaining and even to planning the entertainment and the meals. “It was amazing to consider how much work goes into getting these conferences right. It made me appreciate the effort that goes into providing the high quality of programming membership has become accustomed to.”

5. There’s Involvement . . . and Then There’s INVOLVEMENT. One learns quickly as a board member who the leaders of the pack are, the people you can go to for advice and insights on the direction of the association and how to achieve its goals. It doesn’t really matter how members get involved. It could be through the membership committee, content delivery or professional development. At the end of the day, says Shchuka, “There’s a simple fact of life when it comes to volunteering, no matter the venue: The more you put into it, the more you’ll get out of it.”

Her advice, then, to members considering greater involvement, is to “put your heart, your soul and your sleeves–rolled up and ready to work–into your commitment.”

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