15 Questions with Women Lead Change: Diane Ramsey
Women Lead Change (WLC): What is your name and title?
Diane: “Diane Ramsey and I am the Legacy Campaign Chair for Women Lead Change.”
WLC: What did your journey look like to get to where you are today?
Diane: “I have had an interesting journey. I started out with attending graduate school in business. My early career was in advertising and marketing. I moved to Iowa, worked for an advertising agency and then was with Alliant Energy for 15+ years in a number of different capacities but mostly communications and external affairs. I got involved in IWLC as an initial sponsor company participant. I volunteered at the first conference and took over as the chair for the upcoming events for a couple of years and we continued to grow. After that, I became the first, at the time, Executive Director for IWLC, its first paid CEO, retired in 2017 and now I am back helping to support the 15th Anniversary fundraising campaign.”
WLC: Is this what you thought your life would look like when you first started your career?
Diane: “Absolutely not. As an undergrad, I was a sociology major. What I did find interesting, throughout my life I have been very active as a volunteer. I was very much drawn to the arts so I volunteered for some boards for Theatre Cedar Rapids and some other organizations. But I also have always had a real connection with women’s and children’s issues. Now I’m on the board of Girls Inc. of Santa Fe. One of the things that came back to me is that as a young child I saw that based upon my mom’s life that women needed choices. One of the things with our approach to women’s leadership and helping women develop their leadership skills and potential is that we give women in all areas of life opportunities to pursue their own personal development and their own personal goals. It came back to me a few years ago that I was fulfilling my destiny. As a young girl in the 50s, my mom had very limited opportunities and that provided her few choices. I wanted to make sure that women and girls had choices and opportunities and avenues open to them. From that standpoint, even though I’ve had a very interesting career and developed different skills and they very much prepared me for where I am today, I never imagined that would be the route that I take.”
WLC: What does your morning routine look like?
Diane: “I get up every morning, go out and grab our paper. Feed my dog, read the paper, and then go for a 5-6 mile walk with my dog. Then depending upon what I have going on, I may be doing a Zoom meeting with a mentee, I may be out and about running errands or over at Girls Inc. for some kind of meetings or volunteering.”
WLC: What is something you do everyday that makes you successful?
Diane: “My reading is something that helps me. I do a lot of reading for my pursuits of volunteerism or I’m still very much interested in leadership development. I also make sure that I spend time reading for pleasure, so every night before I go to bed I read. It’s usually a novel or mystery and it’s all for relaxation and professional development but I always read and I think that’s important and it makes me feel more whole as a person. I think that it also helps me to continue to learn and to develop better skills.”
WLC: Who is your role model?
Diane: “Over the years I have had lots of role models. In the workplace I had a couple of women who are leaders in the organization that I work for. They were at Alliant and they were very committed to helping me advance and were honest. They told me what they thought I was good at and also helped me in the years that I needed to improve and were frank about it and that was very helpful to me.”
WLC: What is the biggest challenge you have faced in your career?
Diane: “Deciding to leave Alliant Energy when I did. I had a very comfortable position and had worked for the company for more than 15 years. I reached a point where I decided that maybe it was time for me to try something else. It took courage to leave the comfort of a company that you have been with and the comfort of a good income to do something else. For a few months I was on my own and then I got involved from just being a volunteer to being paid to do the work for Iowa Women Lead Change.”
WLC: What would you tell your 22-year-old self?
Diane: “Continue to take risks. Don’t be afraid and when someone provides you an opportunity, take advantage of it.”
WLC: What gets you out of bed everyday?
Diane: “The possibilities of the day ahead. I absolutely love what I do, I love where I live. I wake up every morning and know that something good is going to happen.”
WLC: What has been the most rewarding part of your career?
Diane: “Without a doubt, my work with IWLC and Women Lead Change has been the most gratifying part of my career. Everyday I got up and knew that we were going to make a difference and that the impact we were going to have would impact my daughter, my granddaughters, my friend’s daughters, granddaughters and that we were creating opportunities for so many people who would follow us. To me that was the most gratifying part of my career and I always felt like I had the best job in the world.”
WLC: What is one thing that you did in your career that you believe got you to where you are today?
Diane: “I would overcome my initial hesitancy. I would just go forward and do it. I would reach out and find out who I should call or who I should talk to. If there was a job that I thought I might want, I’d go after it. I figured out a way to make things happen. Even if I was nervous or afraid, I figured out how to summon up the courage to do what it took to get me the next position or get me the opportunity and learned not to take no for an answer.”
WLC: How do you measure success?
Diane: “That whenever I’m gone, people will remember me as the kind of person I wanted to be. Kind, generous, engaged and that who I want to be and what people think of me are the same.”
WLC: What was your biggest failure?
Diane: “My biggest failure was relatively early in my career. I was working at Budget Car Rental Corporation in Chicago. I had this national promotion to work on. It was an incentive program and I had to negotiate contracts with the vendors and I had to plan the luggage and advertising. The luggage was supposed to be coming from Hong Kong and things did not arrive on time. The President, Chairman of the Board and CEO for the company came into my office and was saying “What’s going on? I’m getting complaints from our affiliates all over the country.” I learned at that time that there are certain issues around project management that are just not my thing. It was a painful lesson to learn but it was also one where I realized that understanding the components and putting the pieces together and having the right team in place to make it happen is absolutely critical. That helped me as I got further along in my career and made sure that as I did get involved in programs, I had the right team around me to make sure that we were successful.”
WLC: What has been your biggest success?
Diane: “For me the biggest success has been Women Lead Change. It wasn’t all me, but in the role that I was in I had to have the vision of where we would be going and attract the right board and team members and make sure that as we envisioned ourselves and we wanted to grow and go forward that we would in fact be successful. That I could communicate that vision and that I could energize people and get people to follow along with me. From my perspective that’s been my biggest success and accomplishment.”
WLC: What is your most important piece of advice to a young professional that aspires to be like you someday?
Diane: “Be open to the possibilities.”
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