Nov 2, 2021

By Susanne Seitinger

Susanne Seitinger
Susanne Seitinger, IES President (2021-2022)

All of us at the Illuminating Engineering Society—volunteers, staff members, Section and regional leadership, and allied organizations—are Sherpas. We are here to guide the Society and what it stands for through good and bad times. Certainly, the last 18 months have taken us across more challenging terrain, personally and professionally, than we could have ever anticipated. While navigating the new normal, the Board of Directors embarked on selecting our next Executive Director (ED)—not an anticipated activity, but thanks to former presidents Jennifer Jaques and Antonio Garza, the IES had a succession-planning document in place to guide us.

In a non-profit organization like ours, the role of the Executive Director is crucial in ensuring participation, transparency, good governance and growth. We are at a key moment in the evolution of the Society making the selection of our next ED more important than ever. To implement the Strategic Advocacy Plan, we need to identify an individual who shares the passion and commitment to lighting and the growth of the Society that binds us together as volunteers. What can each one of you do to contribute to this process and be a Sherpa in your own right?

BEAR WITH ME AS I UNPACK the steps we’re taking to support a transparent search process, since it will help illuminate some of the ways everyone can contribute to the best possible outcome. The members of the Search Committee were selected based on our policies and procedures in a succession-planning guide established by the Board. Key Board leaders—past president, president, VP and treasurer—are joined by the chair of the Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Respect (DEIR) Committee, another past president and a leading HR professional in our industry.

Once formed, the first task was to ensure the stability of the organization which led us to select an interim ED. Alongside our incredible directors and staff team, the interim ED, Dan Salinas, is responsible for day-to-day operations. With key challenges such as reopening the Wall Street offices in New York and sustaining staff engagement, we felt it important to have a leader in place during the search process.

Following the selection of our interim ED, the committee deliberated over updated job requirements and RFP solicitation to identify an appropriate search firm. Though economic times are challenging as we reemerge from the pandemic, hiring in the U.S. has been on the rise and there is undoubtedly a shortage of leading professionals. We saw the need for an innovative and experienced search firm. After issuing an RFP and evaluating three varying proposals, the committee retained Koya Partners to guide us through this process.

We selected Koya Partners for several reasons including:

  • They show an ability to go behind the scenes and understand the IES and its members. What makes us tick? What are our priorities? Who will make for an outstanding ED? The team has a process for gathering more than technical requirements. Their genuine interest and ability to translate our strategic objectives into actionable search priorities is impressive.
  • They have a proven track record on diversity and inclusion. The Strategic Advocacy Plan calls for inclusive programs that strengthen our organization.
  • Their far-reaching approach to identifying candidates is impressive. They have worked with organizations across the mission-driven field, specifically with associations and membership organizations, sustainability and conservation, education, philanthropy, arts and beyond. As the IES grows, we will need an extraordinarily capable individual at the helm. Someone who can manage change, who can be dynamic in the face of ever-shifting circumstances. We also need to identify someone who can drive the growth we aspire to in our Strategic Advocacy Plan. One of the most important elements of this effort will include creating more value for our members—driving growth by providing value.

OVER THE COMING WEEKS and months, all members of the Society are invited to share their thoughts and ideas with the committee, myself and Koya Partners. We need to cast a wide net and consider all potential candidates. There is no preconceived notion about who the right ED is, but one thing is clear: For our organization to navigate the challenges that lie ahead, we need to sustain a transparent and inclusive process that leads to the best possible selection.