Sr. Director at The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society
As a mother of two, Barbara Gallagher is very familiar with leaving the workforce to take care of her family. But she knew she wanted to reconnect with her professional self at some point, and used volunteer opportunities to make it back into the working world. Now she has a senior position at The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, plus a flexible schedule that allows her to still spend time with her kids. Read on for the rest of her story.
Tell me about your decision to stay home once you had kids:
My kids were born in Sept. 1998 and Jan. 2001. Initially I was out on maternity leave, but then I resigned from my job as an advertising/PR coordinator in order to be with my kids full-time. I figured I would go back at some point, but I wasn’t in a mad rush. I planned on getting involved in the community and with my kids’ schools.
Did you do any volunteer work during this time?
After I decided to stay home full-time, my mom encouraged me to join the Junior League because it would help keep me active and meet people. You meet all these women, high-powered women, who are active volunteers in the community. You meet people you wouldn’t meet otherwise. I also served as the PR Chair for my children’s school in a volunteer role. These roles were really helpful to me—they helped me figure out my skillset and eventually utilize my PR background to get paid work.
How did this experience evolve into a paid opportunity?
I was the PR Chair, and then the Communications VP for the League. I wrote press releases, then managed communication and served on the board. Eventually, one of the people on my Communications Council asked if I was interested in doing PR for a local triathlon in a paid, freelance role. That led to building relationships with local editors as well as several staff members from The Lymphoma and Leukemia Society, a beneficiary of the event. I could write and make calls during the day, and they had meetings at night so I was able to juggle it between the kids schedule. The LLS staff I worked with on the triathlon then hired me to do some additional paid PR projects for them. In April 2008, they offered me a full-time fundraising position in their White Plains office.
What was the most difficult part about getting involved with LLS?
I knew the LLS team already from previous work, so it was a comfortable transition for me. The most stressful part was updating my resume. I didn’t know how to incorporate all the volunteer work and freelance work. I had to start from scratch. Now I’ve been at LLS for eight years, but I have had to update my resume and interview for promotions along the way.
What does your job entail now at LLS?
I am now Sr. Director of the NYC Light The Night campaign and manage a team of nine. We run the largest Light The Night campaign ($4 million) in the country. I had previously run a $1 million Light The Night program for the Westchester/Hudson Valley Chapter. A lot of my job entails managing my staff as well as working externally with teams, volunteers and sponsors. My job includes: strategic planning, securing sponsorships, recruiting and managing high caliber corporate teams like Goldman Sachs, working with high level volunteer leaders, and managing staff. We have a lot of meetings within and outside the chapter about all different aspects of the campaign—collaboration and teamwork are essential with a campaign this size.
How did you make the full-time schedule work for you?
When I was offered the NYC position last summer, I told my boss that I needed flexibility if I was going to start commuting to Manhattan from Westchester. She has been very accommodating and this is in line with the overall corporate culture at LLS. When I need to work from home and/or adjust my hours to attend a school event or pick up my kids, I am able to do so. I can log on to our network from home when I need to and I have access to my work emails on my iPhone. I’m always reachable, whether working in the office or remotely.
What advice do you have for women looking to jumpstart their careers after an extended break?
You have to stay active and volunteer in your community and at school. That’s how you meet people. As the kids get older, you spend a lot of time at sporting events chatting with parents. For me, that’s how it really started.