February Monthly All-Star: Ann Novakowski

Mar 26, 2021

Our Board of Directors met last month and nominated Ann Novakowski to be our All-Star of the month! Not only did she lead a webinar on Working From Home for our community of Young Pros, she is a leader outside of PYP’s community as President of Pensacola Children’s Business Fair. Ann is a Senior Manager in Product Strategy at the American Institute of Architects and is their only full-time remote employee. No wonder why she had such fabulous tips (hint: go check out the blog recap)! We are grateful for community members like Ann and wanted to share more about her professional journey with you!  We’d love for you to connect with Ann on LinkedIn.

How did you find or choose this profession?
It really all started with being a self-taught coder, something I had been doing since high school just for fun. In my first positions out of college, I volunteered myself for projects that would help me start building a small portfolio. I relied on those skills and an early portfolio of side-hustle projects to get my first position as a developer/designer for email. I continued to learn new skills in my spare time and intentionally sought positions internally that would help me expand them. My career path has been anything but a straight line, but every step gave me an opportunity to explore new technologies and ways of working. I went from a development role into project management then worked as a communications strategist until my current position, which is part product management and part operations support. I was incredibly privileged to have had a supervisor take a risk on me, who let me do a job when I didn’t already have the right title or experience. When someone puts their trust in you, when you know they’ve taken some leap of faith, it makes you work 10 times harder to prove them right.

What do you like most about what you do?
I appreciate the varied and frequent opportunities for growth. I’m challenged regularly to better myself, learn something new, or experiment. Plus, the people that I get to work with are gems. There’s so much I have left to learn from my colleagues. I’m one of those weirdos that look forward to weekly team meetings. I know that sounds like cheesy LinkedIn fluff, but it’s the truth.

What’s the most exciting part of your job?
The variety! I have heard my role described as something like the blank scrabble square, i.e. something that can get plugged into any scenario and is expected to make it work. My workdays are never the same from one day to the next. I find it extremely fulfilling, the evolving nature of the role. Every project demands a different set of both hard and soft skills. It’s been a wonderful opportunity for both professional and personal development because I’m continually challenged in new ways.

Where did you work before this position?
Same company, but in a different role.

What’s something you’re proud of? (can be anything related to work or life in general)
I’m incredibly proud of the children who start their first businesses with Pensapreneur Kids. Our virtual Pensacola Children’s Business Fair this past November was a challenge, but the kids rose to the occasion. I’m also proud of and grateful to the parents who were so supportive of both their children and the organization — they graciously experimented with a new virtual platform with us and navigated e-commerce, many for the first time. And the community! I was blown away by the outpouring of support we received from the community, some of whom volunteered their time as mentors to the children and gave them solid business and financial literacy advice.

If you could have a career in anything, what would it be?
I’m happiest with a mix of analytical and project management roles. I consider myself lucky to have found my “sweet spot” so early in my career. If I could have a career in anything, I would stick with pursuing more opportunities in product management and business analysis.

What are your biggest goals for the next few years? Both professional and personal.
I’d love to expand our family again – that’s a goal I guess! Succession planning and sustainability have been on my mind regarding the local nonprofits I’m involved with. My biggest goal is for Pensapreneur Kids and the Pensacola Children’s Business Fair to have the resources to expand programming to reach even more kids and make a bigger impact.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
Ideally, I’ll be working at a company that has an inclusive culture, one that values collaboration and innovation and working with colleagues who challenge and inspire me regularly.

What made you decide to get involved in PYP?
Pre-Covid, PYP was how I met some of my first friends in Pensacola and made local connections. It’s a network of young local go-getters. Who wouldn’t want to be part of that?

What brought you or your family to Pensacola? How long have you been here?
We moved to Pensacola in 2015 from Washington, DC for my husband’s job at Navy Federal CU.

How long have you been a member of PYP?
Off and on since about 2016. There was a time when I was heavily involved with another local nonprofit and I had to cut back on my participation with other organizations. Even when I had lapsed, I enjoyed keeping up with PYP and hearing about your accomplishments.

Where did you go to college?
I went to Louisiana State University (geaux tigers) for undergrad.

What hobbies do you do in your free time?
Beyond spending time with two adorable monsters (Josephine, 4, and Harris, 2), I work a lot with local nonprofit projects. Most recently, I’ve poured my heart into Pensapreneur Kids and the Pensacola Children’s Business Fair. I’ve also been pitching in to help Pensacola Positivity launch the new market on Sundays on Palafox.

Where have you traveled to?
Brazil and France

Are you an introvert or an extrovert?
Definitely an introvert.

Tell us something about you that we wouldn’t know from looking at your resume.
My passion project right now is that I’m president of the local children’s business fair where kids 7-17 get to experience entrepreneurship – some for the first time. They come up with ideas, create a handmade product, develop a promotional strategy, bring their product to market, and make their very first sales to real customers.

Tell us a fun, entertaining, or inspirational story about you! For example, you may write about the time you did a cross-country road trip and what you learned on your journey.
When I was 6 months pregnant, and while still working full-time and with a 1.5-year-old in tow, I spent 2 months starring in a musical. I sang the role of Patsy in “Always, Patsy Cline” at Swine Palace Theatre in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. It was a fantastic experience, one I’ll never forget. I was reminded of the cross-overs between performance and business analysis. I had to manage up, collaborate with the technical team, implement alternative solutions, and meet a tight deadline in a highly visible position. At the end of the day, whether on stage or off, the show must go on!

How can PYP help you amplify your voice, your brand, your impact? What can we do to help you be more successful in this season of life?
It would be fantastic to have PYP members as mentors for the kids in the Pensapreneur Kids program. PYP members have always been forces for positive change in the community. It would be a joy to get to work with fellow members to encourage and inspire our littlest entrepreneurs and future young professionals.

If you know a PYP member who has gone above and beyond in the organization and our community, please nominate them to be a PYP All-Star!

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