Carol Wells 2015 STAR speech from the HBA Woman of the Year event

Thank you all for sharing this award with me.

I know many of you in this room, and I am well aware of the countless volunteer hours you all devote inside and outside of the Healthcare Businesswomen’s Association. I am extremely humbled to be the one up on stage representing you!

A heartfelt thank you to the HBA San Francisco chapter board, who touched me deeply with their nomination. And I am so grateful to be working with an organization like Genentech that is so committed to supporting organizations like HBA.

I certainly did not get here on my own. So many people in my life support me and make it possible for me to be involved in HBA…. First and foremost, my family – my daughters Caitlin, sitting next to me today, and Olivia, and Phil – my one and only true love and husband; my colleagues at Genentech, including Maureen George, who keeps me on the straight and narrow!; and my boss, Len Kanavy, who, like Ian, are both past HBA Honorable Mentor honorees and encourage all of us at Genentech to get involved in organizations like HBA.

Receiving this award touches a very personal chord for me. When I think about my upbringing, I was pretty much destined to be a person who volunteered. I was fortunate to have grown up with parents who raised a family where volunteering was in our fabric…my Mom and Dad were always volunteering – from the Vietnam Veterans association, to church, to our local Home Committee that helped those in need with their bills…service was natural and always done without fanfare.

To this day, I can still hear my Mom and Dad saying…”Never miss church, work or a chance to give to others…the rest of the time is up to you!” At my parents core was truly a spirit of making an impact by helping others. As I got older, I came to appreciate, more and more, that my parents had very busy lives when I was little.

In addition to raising my sister and me, my dad, a Boston Firefighter, always had multiple side jobs – as most firefighters do, and my Mom was CEO of our home, often managing it all as my Dad worked so many hours. Yet, they always seemed to have time to volunteer.

When I went off to college and got involved in organizations, and then continued to volunteer as I progressed in my career I would sometimes say, or hear myself think: “I dont know if I have the time to do this or “This isnt going to work with my schedule, or “I am not sure I can commit to one more thing…”

But then I would think: My parents never said that. They always had time to volunteer. How is that?

With time, I sorted out the answer. While they did volunteer with countless organizations, what I learned was that, to them, volunteering was simpler than that. To them, volunteering – at its essence – was about treating every interaction as an opportunity to volunteer.

I can remember a paraplegic in our town who worked as a dispatcher in the volunteer fire station. Every day that my Dad wasn’t working, he would drop by the fire station to say ‘hi’ to Fred.  One day, Fred, who was typically so positive in spite of his life’s circumstances, said to my dad, ”Sometimes I wonder why I’m here on earth”… Without skipping a beat, my Dad said, “For the joy you bring to me each time I see you”.

That was the kind of volunteering that they modeled day in and day out.…a two way human exchange of kindness. In short, they reframed volunteering so it could be a part of anyone’s day.

We all have opportunities to:

  • Intentionally lift someone’s spirits during a short interaction
  • To truly listen (not multi-task with our technology!) when someone is speaking with us
  • Or maybe even provide the critical feedback that can help someone get past an obstacle they don’t see.

What my parents taught me was that when we are intentional and thoughtful about how we make others feel, every interaction becomes is an opportunity to volunteer.And the possibilities created are beyond measure.

When we view our interactions as opportunities to volunteer…

  • We can influence a young professional to try something they didn’t think was possible
  • We can make that one simple introduction that provides the missing piece to someone’s important puzzle.
  • Or, we can make a colleague’s tough day not seem so tough

When we view our interactions as opportunities to volunteer, we ultimately create kindness. A collective kindness that multiplies our ability to influence and create even greater possibilities.

Volunteering can seem daunting – there may be times in our lives when we can’t be on that board, join that committee or lead that Mentoring grCarol Wells 2015 HBA STARoup – but it doesn’t mean we can’t be volunteering.

I encourage all of us to think about our interactions – perhaps re-frame what volunteering looks like – and then seek out opportunities to be intentional about how we make others feel – in the hallways, at the coffee pot, in the grocery store, on the street.

And of course, at the Healthcare Businesswomen’s Association. People join HBA to offer and gain experience…to help each other in the healthcare business world to be the best we can be. There couldn’t be a more receptive organization for this kind of volunteering.

I know with all of us having this spirit of volunteering, we can positively impact and influence not just our colleagues here in HBA, but those at work, at home, in our families and in the spheres of society we move in.

My dad always said – “Tomorrow is promised to no one; make the most of today”.

I truly believe that treating every interaction as an opportunity to volunteer does just that.


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