When Phoenix Mecano’s Finance Director, Tammy Schaeffer, learned about Leadership Frederick County, she was all in. This annual community program has been in place for over three decades and boasts over 1200 graduates. The program features valuable insight and hands-on training opportunities presented by some of the top leaders in the community. They all work together to teach leadership skills, cast a spotlight on Frederick County, and give back to the community in exciting ways.
Tammy is a longtime Frederick County fan, growing up in the community since age 12. Although she currently resides in Littlestown PA, she has been working at Phoenix Mecano’s Frederick location for 14 years and finds herself visiting the area with her family frequently.
Tammy first started working at Phoenix Mecano as a financial analyst before becoming a finance manager and, ultimately, the finance director. Tammy holds a Bachelor of Science Degree from the University of Maryland, University College in Business and Management, with an emphasis in Accounting. While she was happy with her behind-the-scenes role at the company, Phoenix Mecano President and CEO Philip Brown saw a different career path for her; he saw leadership material.
When a peer brought the program to his attention, Philip knew he had found a great way to bring Tammy out of the shadows and into a more active leading role. She was eager to apply to the program because she wanted to develop her leadership skills while learning more about Frederick County. She also saw the program as a way to give back to the community.
Throughout this program, Tammy learned the key fundamental skills of effective leadership. She was encouraged to identify her style and compare it to the type of leader she wanted to be. It wasn’t long before Tammy saw her professional development and skills evolving. She improved her confidence and her professional interactions to become an effective leader for Phoenix Mecano.
The program encouraged personal development as well as professional development. Tammy explains, “I have grown so much personally, and appreciate Frederick in an entirely different way. In 1988, I saw the bridge on Carroll Creek being built and painted, then through Leadership Frederick, I got to meet the painter. It was inspiring. I’ve also had some great opportunities to give back and participate with Frederick County. Prior to this program, I had no interest in the Frederick Chamber of Commerce. Now, I have a new appreciation for the organization.”
Each day involved moving from location to location throughout Frederick County, giving Tammy a unique hands-on opportunity to immerse herself in different businesses and topics. Sessions were led by various community leaders and business owners, the topics ranging from public safety to history and agriculture. Tammy said, “I received exposure to businesses and locations I hadn’t even heard of before Leadership Frederick. Public safety day was especially exciting. We went on ride-alongs with police and visited a call center. I also enjoyed the agriculture day and an opportunity to visit a farm that I had never been permitted access to when I was growing up. The farm was so impressive, offering hayrides and pumpkin picking. It blew my mind.”
Part of her graduation requirements for the program involved completing a project known as Leaders on Loan. There were several projects available, but Tammy chose to work with Rotary of Carroll Creek. The issue they faced was finding new and effective ways to communicate with members.
Tammy explained, “The first thing we did was create a survey for members, and the results indicated that the members had no issues with communications. We presented these findings to the Rotary leadership, but they urged us to find alternatives anyway. After a lot of research, we narrowed it down to three choices. The first was a custom app, which would be expensive and time-consuming to create. The second was Slack. The third option, TeamSnap, is an app used for communicating within kids’ sports. It’s cost-effective and versatile for any club, including other Rotaries. Ultimately, TeamSnap was the best choice.”
Tammy sees Phoenix Mecano as a permanent home and feels that Leadership Frederick has helped her not only in the immediate future but in her long-term career with the company. She explained, “Taking this class helped me identify and improve my weaknesses. I learned to be better at setting goals and following through. Learning that I am a very analytical thinker has helped evolve my leadership skills. I now find myself more aware and focused.”
Many graduates of the program have gone on to achieve big career growth and now play a part in passing their knowledge down to current participants.
Tammy admits she was initially uneasy when joining the program. “At first I was nervous and felt intimidated. I wondered, would I fit in with these people? All my fears were laid to rest after the opening day retreat in the Catoctin Mountains. This retreat did a great job of getting people comfortable with each other, and to come to the classes with an open mind and no preconceived expectations.”
Tammy highly recommends the Leadership Frederick County experience to anyone seeking to further their careers. The program itself, in connection with Frederick’s Hood College, is looking to expand its benefits to include a chance to get college credits for the completed course. She explained, “I see that the program will be expanding, and I think that’s fantastic. I hope that it can expand, but not to a point where it detracts from the personalized experience. As for me personally, I want to stay involved with Leadership Frederick County in any way possible in the future.”
Tammy is grateful to Philip Brown for the opportunity to grow her professional skills. “It’s just another way Phoenix Mecano helps its employees to thrive and succeed at the company.”