When Sharon Styffe was earning her MBA at DeSales University in Pennsylvania, she had to craft an ideal career plan for herself, and she has lived by it ever since.
It was years ago that Styffe penned the plan -- she won't say how many -- but it has since taken her from the banking industry to entrepreneurship to college administration. The dean of Workforce and Professional Development at Holyoke Community College, Styffe said it makes sense to be organized and know what you want out of life.
Styffe came on board at the college in October after finding Holyoke Community College while researching online; the job and challenge fit right into her plan.
She has hit the ground running, getting involved in many initiatives that benefit the region's business community and founding a networking group for women in business, called the Network of Women Entrepreneurs.
Dianne Fuller Doherty, the regional director for the Western Massachusetts Regional Office of the Massachusetts Small Business Development Center, is impressed. "Sharon is focusing on women entrepreneurs at the Kittredge Center at Holyoke Community College, and that focus is consistent with the founding mission of the center -- to benefit small business and workforce development," Fuller Doherty said. "It capitalizes on a newer and faster-growing segment of our small business community.
"Kudos to Sharon Styffe, HCC and the Kittredge Center for supporting women in their growing contribution to our economy," she added.
Styffe has a number of initiatives she wants to get started on but she said her main goal is to build an identity that speaks uniquely to what HCC offers the surrounding community so the community and the college can work together in better collaboration.
"We sell ourselves short sometimes - both the college and the community at large," she said. "We're a resource for the community, and they should be using us as much as possible. And they should have a say and be able to offer us feedback in terms of ‘That's what I think you should be doing.'"
Key in Syffe's mind is helping local businesses to be successful. The network for women is a perfect model of what businesspeople in the community need, and it is an initiative that Styffe has had success with in the past.
It's also a network that would have been useful to her when her two children were young and she was transitioning from the banking industry to entrepreneurship.
"There were days when the hours were so long, and I know women today go through the same thing," she said. "You can't put being a mother on hold."
Her children are grown now; her son is president and general manager of a company in Pennsylvania that is an intermediary in the drug processing world, and her daughter is an attorney in North Carolina.
Styffe earned her bachelor's degree in business administration at Cedar Crest College in Allentown, Penn., and her master's in business administration at DeSales.
Her career began in banking and finance, specifically mortgage banking, in Pennslyvania, and she began to be counted on as a consultant of sorts who could improve the mortgage process. She was called to meet with branch managers and bank personnel across the country.
While in the MBA program, Styffe created the career plan, which called for a next step as an entrepreneur, and in 1999, she started an IT business that specialized in database management. Called Performance Management of Pennsylvania, it still exists but is on hiatus.
After 12 years as an entrepreneur, Styffe transitioned to teaching. She taught at community colleges all over Pennsylvania and New Jersey and then moved into the final stage of her career plan: college administration.
She has worked at Montgomery Community College in Maryland and Cuyahoga Community College, the largest community college in Ohio with 55,000 students and three campuses.
At one point, she was doing research and found Holyoke Community College and the position she now holds, and again, it fit right into her plan.
"I had that wonderful goal of giving back," she said.
-- Janice Beetle
Photo: Sharon Styffe