The Backstory: Andrew Plumley, Senior Program Manager, Equity in the Center

 

We believe in the power of people. Any nonprofit organization — including ours — is made stronger by the constellation of individuals with unique perspectives, interests, and dreams. You know our title, and you know what we do to help achieve ProInspire’s mission. But who are we as individuals, and what do we do and think about in the spaces between work?

The Backstory is an occasional blog series to help you learn more about our staff. Here, we profile Andrew Plumley, ProInspire’s Senior Program Manager for Equity in the Center.

Backgrounder
Hometown: Burlington, VT

Meyers Briggs Type Indicator: ENTP

What three traits most define you?

1. Empathy. I am a connector of people. I can understand numerous sides and positions and work with all parties.
2. Humility. I remember where I came from, and always try to remember that someone else is happier with much less than I have.
3. Passion. I’m super passionate about whatever I’m involved in, whether it’s a pickup basketball game, influencing the sector, or doing racial equity work. I also work hard to stay positive about whatever I do.

Pre-ProInspire: Before joining ProInspire in August 2017, I was a business strategy consultant with Interface, a company that manufactures sustainable commercial carpet tile using materials and processes that take less from the environment. I worked with their Chief Sustainability Officer on a project called Factories as Forests, the goal of which was to push Interface’s global manufacturing to a new level of sustainability by implementing Biomimetic practices that would not only cut costs, but would also be truly restorative for the ecosystems in which manufacturing facilities were located. Interface is a leader in the environmental sustainability space, and this was a super cool project.

Why social sector?  My role at ProInspire marks a return to the social sector for me. Before Interface, I worked at Let’s Get Ready, which offers free SAT preparation courses for Pell-eligible students of color, as well as in the Office of Diversity and Inclusion at Champlain College in Vermont. I was ready to make another career move but didn’t make my decision to return to the sector until after Charlottesville. After watching what took place, I knew that coming back to the social sector to work on racial equity was exactly what I wanted to do, and the true work that needs to be done. Once you get into this line of work, it’s always with you. This is where my heart and soul lives. There’s no better way to engage in this important work than to come back to the social sector!

What does your typical day look like? I get into the office around 9am, and the first thing I usually do is write down my list of three things I want to accomplish that day. The first item is always the one I don’t want to do, so I do that one first. I then check emails, and typically the rest of day is filled with meetings, calls, and follow ups. Right now, the Equity in the Center Summit takes up a lot of my time. Once I’m on the other side of the Summit in late October, I hope to do more strategy and planning for Equity in the Center and identify how we can influence the sector to make a bigger impact on advancing racial equity.

Deep Thoughts
What leadership development experience has had a profound impact on you?  As Access and Success Manager at Champlain College, my responsibility was to make sure Pell-eligible students of color had the opportunity to come to our school, and once they were there, had support systems around them to survive and thrive at a PWI (primarily white institution). My boss there was Ame Lambert. She was the first manager who believed in me, who knew what I was capable of, and who taught me I was capable of a lot more than I thought I was — both inside the organization and as a person. Through this experience I gained autonomy and confidence. It was a big leap in my professional development.

What is the greatest challenge facing social sector leaders? Racial equity. At the end of the day, the social sector is focused on serving the underserved, and that population is mostly made up of  people of color and people of lower socioeconomic status. We haven’t yet achieved racial equity in our organizations, which means we’ve yet to realize the true potential of our organization’s impact on the world. The real issue is that racial equity is driving the theory of change behind most of our (economic, educational, environmental, healthcare sub-sectors) policies that our sector fights for. Without a deep level of understanding, engagement, and dedication to dismantle white supremacy and systemic racism, we won’t be able to fully realize what we seek to achieve. So, in the end, any one person or organization who isn’t trying to address these issues on some level simply aren’t prepared to make the type of changes needed to realize the sector’s potential.  

What leader do you admire? Tristan Walker, the founder of Walker & Company and Code2040. As one of the only African American students at most of the learning institutions he attended as a kid, he understood the code switching skills needed by young people of color in top academic institutions in order to survive. He used that skill, as well as his coding and entrepreneurship skills to break into Silicon Valley. Tristan then took his knowledge and what he does well to start his own company that exists to make health and beauty simple for people of color. Overall, he’s been creating opportunities for people of color throughout his life and what’s more, he’s not afraid to speak truth to power.

Lightning Round
When I’m not working to fulfill ProInspire’s mission, you can find me…at any foodie restaurant in the city, playing pickup basketball, or playing tennis with my girlfriend. She’s just picking up the game and I’m having fun playing with her.

Something you wouldn’t know about me from reading my resume…I’m adopted. I was born in San Antonio, Texas and moved to Vermont when I was really young. I am an only child in my adoptive family, but I have four brothers and one sister from my birth parents.

Morning drink of choice: Water with lemon. It boosts energy.

Daily must-reads: A sports blog called The Undefeated. It explores the intersectionality of sports and race. I also check The New York Times for columns from David Brooks and Thomas Friedman. I’m a political junkie.

First concert: Blink 182, 6th grade, Champlain Valley Fair.

First job: I worked at a hardware store in my hometown.

Next on my playlist: Paco de Lucia. He’s a flamenco artist.

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