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Blog May 2, 2019

Staff Spotlight: Vanessa Matibag

Vanessa Matibag joined Turnaround for Children in 2006 as Executive Assistant to the CEO and was promoted to Office Manager just a few months later. Today, Vanessa serves as Director, Office and People Services, in charge of facilities, payroll, benefits administration and compliance, to name just a few of her responsibilities. 

THE 180: You’ve been with Turnaround for 13 years! How would you say the organization has evolved since your start?

VANESSA MATIBAG: Oh, I have seen a lot. I think I am the longest-tenured employee here, next to Pam, of course! I joined Turnaround in 2006. At that time, we didn’t even have our own office; we were renting a space from one of our board members. We were just about seven employees, but we were already in several schools in the Bronx and Washington Heights. From then, it grew to where we are now, where we have 47 people.

Through the years, people have come and gone, through it all the common denominator has always been service. We have always been making sure that children have the opportunity to build better lives. One good way to describe the organization with all of its history is tenacious. I’m very lucky to have grown with the organization, seen where it came from and hopefully see where it is going in a few more years.

THE 180: What does a typical day look like for you?

VANESSA MATIBAG: It’s everything that touches our employees here. So, anything from facilities to employee benefits, to questions about vacation, time sheets, etc. It is mostly looking at emails from staff, answering phone calls, and staff coming by my cubicle. Then I schedule some work time for myself and I try to do some reading to catch up on HR and labor relations news so that I am up-to-date.

THE 180:  A fun fact about you, Vanessa, is that you are a competitive ballroom dancer. You’ve even led classes for Turnaround staff. What inspired you to start ballroom dancing?

VANESSA MATIBAG:  About two years ago, when my husband was celebrating a milestone birthday and I was throwing him a big party. I said to him, “You know what, let’s take a few lessons so that we won’t make fools of ourselves on the dance floor.” So, the plan was just to take a few lessons until his party, but after those lessons I got hooked! Especially when I entered my first competition. I am very competitive, but at the same time I am shy, so entering competitions sort of answers those two things.

THE 180: How would you describe Turnaround’s office culture?

VANESSA MATIBAG: It’s a fun place to work. We all believe in the mission in bringing what we can to the schools and that is a shared value. We try to live by our core values. We still have a long way to go, but our culture is such that we really believe in our core values, and we are trying to live by them.

THE 180: You mentioned that our core values ground us to the work that we do and the bigger mission. What does Turnaround’s mission mean to you?

VANESSA MATIBAG: There are a lot of fancy words in the mission, but deep down I think it is the service and desire to help. We all believe in education; we all believe that every child should have the opportunity to thrive and to live the life they choose. That is why, in my own little way, I try to support our mission even though I don’t work directly with the schools. My way of supporting that is by making sure the staff who do support our schools directly have good benefits, they are paid on time and any issues they have with the organization are resolved easily.

THE 180: You are on the Relational Trust team. Why is it important to have relational trust in the office?

VANESSA MATIBAG: I think it is very important for everybody to trust each other to make working here easier, to make it much more comfortable, and to be able to solve problems better. Each of us rely on each other in one form or another for our work to be done. I think this desire also came from the trusting relationships that we are trying to instill in our partner schools. Before we can bring that out in schools it must be practiced among ourselves.

THE 180: What do you think it takes for children to succeed?

VANESSA MATIBAG: I think the kids need to know that there is somebody, an adult in the room that they can trust, that there will be somebody there who will be listening to them. My mother is a teacher and was teaching until she was in her eighties. She started as a high school teacher, and now some of her students whom she taught years ago still remember her and keep in touch, which shows her dedication and how she touched their lives. So just having someone like her in a school setting is very important for students.

THE 180: What would you say is one of the most valuable lessons you’ve learned from a colleague here at Turnaround?

VANESSA MATIBAG: The person I have learned a lot from is Pam. I mean she has so much passion for the work, which is very infectious. Thanks to Pam, I still carry the same passion that I had from thirteen years ago. So that is my biggest lesson; if you are passionate and you believe in what you are doing, continue to make the most of it and be better at it. Our new CEO, Brigid Ahern, shares the same passion for the work, the mission and the service.