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From Mom to Career Woman: Reflections on One Year at ASG

by Debbie Alexander, Program Services Coordinator

As I celebrate one year here at ASG, one thought comes to mind – This is the job I never knew I always wanted.

I am first and foremost a MOM. That is how I have always described myself. I am somewhat of a perfectionist, a detail-oriented, over-the-top living example of OCD. I have an accounting degree and a MBA, and up until a few years ago had never held a full-time job. I was a stay-at-home mom who volunteered in any and every thing my three kids were involved in. And I mean EVERYTHING. I was Cub Scout leader, PTA President, treasurer of the tennis team, and the Room Mom who planned every party down to the last detail. I ran Spring Flings at the elementary school complete with rides, crafts, and thousands of attendees, all the while staying within a budget and earning a profit. Halloween at our house involved a haunted house and a full menu of gory themed treats, and it took a month to plan with detailed maps and diagrams. Birthdays were themed and never at Chuckie Cheese.

I thrived on the details and that feeling of complete exhaustion after a successful event. I never thought of it as a job – it was just me being a mom. But that doesn’t really translate into a jam-up resume when your kids are all grown and you are looking to get back into the workforce. I began my working career as a substitute teacher, a logical path for someone as invested and involved in the school system as I was. I moved into a variety of positions within the school system and landed in the Department of Finance, doing payroll for nearly 6000 employees. The numbers and order in this job appealed to me, but something was missing. It didn’t feel “right.” I wanted something different – something a little more challenging.

I happened upon a job listing for a Program Coordinator at Association Services Group, working with nonprofit organizations. I was intrigued, but – did I have the necessary skills? The more I read, the more it clicked – this job was meant for someone like me. PTA and Cub Scouts were non-profit – I had experience there as an officer. Budgeting and reports – experience there, too. Event planning – are you kidding? As it turns out, I couldn’t have written a job description that fit my skills any better.

  • The job is challenging – you have to constantly adapt to whatever comes up. You may have the “same” conference every year, but it won’t be the same. You will have different attendees, with different situations and circumstances to deal with. You can have years of previous data to plan with, but you have to be flexible and roll with whatever comes your way.
  • My opinions and life experiences matter, and we all work as a team. If I see a different – possibly better – way of doing something, I am free to make suggestions. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. ASG is truly a family environment. There is no rivalry, no contest. Everyone is busy with their own clients and projects, but genuinely interested in offering a helping hand (or an editing eye) when needed. It’s refreshing to be able to get a different perspective without leaving the building.
  • This business requires organization and structure, and a detailed plan – which is where I excel. When you start a project, it is easy to become overwhelmed looking at everything that needs to be done. I am a list maker, breaking tasks down into logical groups and steps that ultimately see results. The same approach works whether it’s planning a spring carnival for an elementary school or planning an annual conference for agritourism operators, you have to have a plan. You have to be able to break it down in sections, prioritize by due dates, and your mountain of a project becomes a series of manageable tasks.
  • It’s still about numbers! From budgeting countless trips to Disney World to sending my kids off to college with a detailed budget, I have always been on top of fiscal concerns. Working for an association is no different. While you may not have direct control of all finances within your association, you are still financially responsible to your Board. You have to always keep the bottom line in mind – even a nonprofit association requires funds to operate.
  • You have to stick with it! Even when distractions pop up. Whether it’s nonstop emails and phone calls when you are nearing your deadline, a food and beverage supplier who suddenly has an unexpected conflict with your menu, or that sneaky little kid putting a frog in your tent while you’re trying to earn that Cub Scout camping badge– remember the goal and stick to it! (And proudly wear that Camping badge at the next meeting!)
  • The devil is in the details, or God – you decide. Things fall apart or soar based on the details. Don’t forget the importance of all the “what ifs”, and have a contingency plan. (What do we do with the dunk tank at the carnival if it rains? What if we have extra people show up for the Conference dinner – what is the over/under?) Plan for every possible scenario.

Association Management – and ASG in particular – is my ideal job. It uses my strengths, from being an over-the-top planner, to the financial accountability and rigidity of my educational background, and wraps it up in one job that is ever changing, ever challenging, and completely satisfying. It makes me try harder every day, and pushes me to be more creative and to never settle for ok. ASG is where I belong. It feels right. I have found my job “home”, and this is where I see myself for years to come.


Debbie Alexander is an Auburn University graduate and mom of three. She is an avid runner and proud grandma to Noah. Debbie works with the Georgia Agritourism Association, Georgia Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association, and AAEA: The Agricultural Communicators Network.