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Chicago Executive Director Enjoys Changing Lives In Positive Ways

Twenty-four years ago, Laurie Dougherty was a marketing manager for a sand company in the water treatment industry. Little did she know, getting involved with an non-profit would change her life. In 1992, she attended an event organized by the Illinois Section AWWA and was identified as a "younger member with great technology skills that can help to move our association forward." Dougherty would be replacing someone 30 years her senior and was offered a part-time staff position.

(Photo Courtesy of Laurie Dougherty)

Since becoming the executive director of the Illinois Section AWWA, Dougherty has completed her certified association professional designation, CAE, and has completed the nonprofit management certification by UIC Cchicago – Great Cities Institute. In addition to the technology skills that Dougherty continues to nurture, she has focused on people skills. By the end of 2015, Dougherty will be a certified professional facilitator and qualified trainer in the technology of participation (ToP) facilitation methods. Learning facilitation skills has been a turning point in her career and effectiveness with people.

What are the responsibilities of your current role?

"Our association has the responsibility of providing continuing education to those in Illinois that protect and treat our most precious resource – drinking water. Along with two and a half additional staff, we provide over 100 training events throughout the state. We use software technology such as Adobeconnect, and GoToWebinar for long distance training as well as remote speakers for in-person events. All of our training is led by volunteer subject-matter experts."

What is your favorite part of your daily duties?

"When I am able to connect two people to make a difference in their lives, I feel I have accomplished a lot. To be able to connect a young person with an opportunity to grow in their career and skills, and watch them grow is the most rewarding part of my job."

Do you feel your education prepared you for your current role?

"I will never stop learning. Each time I complete a course or learn a new technology, I am looking for the next one. I encourage people to continue to seek out new tools and technology to increase their effectiveness. Today's technology is changing so quickly that is can be challenging, but worth it! I am thankful for a staff and BOD that accepts the opportunities to explore new technology and tools."

Do you have any advice for people who desire to pursue a similar career?

"The non–profit career is challenging work, especially with a small organization. However, it does allow you to be the technology, marketing, office cleaner, lunch runner, staff support, financial consultant and all of the roles that go along with a small organization. Although it can be challenging and requires long hours at times, you have the opportunity to grow personally. Working for a non-profit, allows you the opportunity to change people's lives in positive ways."

Michelle Guilbeau is a writer, reviewer, teacher and business owner living in Chicago, Illinois. She also has experience in school administration, literacy coaching and is proud founder of and Michelle enjoys sharing her knowledge of Chicago, food, travel, education and parenting issues with her readers. Her work can be found on

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