Meet Joe Pindelski
Why is The Fund’s mission important?
It’s important because it affects the future of Chicago. In my family, education is highly valued. For most people, it is something very near and dear to them. We are an organization that funds educational improvement through professional development. I think that’s a really unique way to be involved and a great way to affect the health and the growth of the city and the larger community outside of Chicago.
How have you “redefined leadership” in your own life?
For me, it’s about engaging with others, showing respect and trust. At the end of the day, there are structures of power in most things. Those in leadership positions have more responsibility but that shouldn’t affect their commitment to the people around them. From my experience working with various leaders, the best leaders, the leader I choose to be, is one who is collaborative, humble, and one that focuses on the human aspect of the work. It’s easy to become overly mission driven and lose sight of the individual. It’s important to remember that the people you work with owe you things, but you also owe them for their effort. As a leader, you also have to be vigilant of those who are not living up to their responsibilities so people who are doing a good day’s work aren’t hindered.
Was there an educator in your life who inspired you?
There are three educators I can point to. In grade school, my seventh grade science teacher. Kathleen Cochran was the first teacher who really took any kind of individual interest in me as a person, not just as a student, but as someone who was growing. Then in college, I took a graduate level course as an undergraduate. It was challenging and my professor, Dr. Gitta Honegger, saw both my struggle and my commitment to the work. The best advice I got from her was that I had to trust myself more, that I was too eager to find validation in someone with a PhD behind their name as opposed to trusting in my own experience and accumulated knowledge. Also in my undergraduate experience, I had a professor who is still a friend to this day, Caroline McGee. She always encouraged me to never live on a timeline. You don’t know what 5 years in the future holds for you. It’s important to have a goal you are working towards and to track it chronologically, but to not let time dominate or diminish your achievements and progress.
What’s one thing about your role at The Fund that might surprise people?
How expansive my role is. I’m responsible for many things, from washing dirty dishes to developing a strategy for how to purchase new computers and recruit talent for the Fund’s future. It’s been a real positive experience working here. It has stretched me in ways that I didn’t expect, and it has helped me gain more perspective for my own career trajectory.