Member Spotlights

NYSAE members come from all walks of life in the association community; small organizations with one-person staffs to large organizations with 100 staff members, chapter based, professional and trade associations, hospitality partners or other vendor services, 501 (c3)s, 501 (c6)s or both. Below are some spotlights of our members showing how they got involved in the field and what brings them to work everyday. You may find that everyone has a unique path that they took to get where they are today. Do you have a similar story on your adventure to NYSAE? Please email Katherine Hidchenko at with a subject line of "NYSAE Member Spotlight" to set up an interview time.


Name: Kenya Williams, MSN, RN, HSM

Title: Director of Governance and Policy              

Organization: National Student Nurses’ Association (NSNA)


Why did you choose the field of association management, and what about it keeps you going?

My journey is uniquely different from many of my colleagues as I am now employed at the very organization I once chaired as national President.  I am humbled enough to vocalize that I am not here today because I am the perfect success model; I am not here because I got everything right or because my life is a straight curve.  I initially, I went to nursing school wanting to graduate with a stable JOB.  Instead, I found my passion, my career in association management.  The funny thing is I found it in nursing school!  I saw me, or someone who looked liked me in a video and said, “I can do that” – “I need to do that!!!”--  The rest is history.  This beacon of light for me was Dr. Beverly Malone, CEO of the National League for Nursing, and seeing her allowed me the ability to see how I could help countless individuals by embracing my calling into servant leadership.  So, I joined NSNA and discovered the enormous gratification of becoming a nursing leader.  I found that both association management and nursing are not just careers, but rather, a privilege to help other people, exercise compassion, and to care. What keeps me going now is the unique ability to serve a membership that is ok advocating for change, which sometimes means going against the status quo, by going against the odds and positively influence the lives of the people.


Which aspect of your career do you consider to be your biggest struggle?

I would say my biggest challenge has been my continual drive in excelling not only in academics but also professionally.  It is rewarding to complete my doctoral degree while studying for my CAE simultaneously.  However, embracing these dual challenges have allowed me to achieve a point of view and a perspective that not only fosters my understanding of local and global healthcare issues but also aids in my continual knowledge in association management while strengthening my organization along the way.  I strongly believe that whatever we learn from our friends and industry colleagues should assist us in becoming successful association management servant leaders - sensitive to the members' needs and aware of our duties and responsibilities to society at large. Association management is a daily part of our lives; hence, we should be exhilarated by the privilege we have of helping others and positively contributing to societal wellbeing.


What advice do you have for aspiring professionals looking to pursue a career in association management?

There is no ONE formula to succeed as an association management leader; sometimes, you have to do it your way. The contemporary society is full of socio, economic, and political dynamics. What may work for another leader or individual may not work for you. It is your life and your story; find your passion in your association management career and hold on to it. Have a positive attitude and uphold positive action, and make it happen. Essentially. Our profession cannot be developed in the quiet and ease; it is only through real-life association management experiences and education that our ambitions can be inspired and souls strengthened. Therefore, take up your career and make it your life. Think about it, dream about it, and live it. Let your body, your nerves, your muscles, and your brain be full of that idea.

Secondly, in my life, I have failed over and over again, but every time, I rub off the dust and find my way up again; obstacles are necessary. Having come from a socioeconomically challenged background, the odds of success were never on my side. However, education, persistence, and mentorship modeled to me to who I am today. Despite my position, I still have mentors; individuals who act as my frame of reference and who I consult when I am faced with an exceptional challenge. Find that mentor, who motivates you and make him or her your learning model to improve your career. Education gives us knowledge, experience enriches and advances that knowledge but mentorship enables you to apply the knowledge accurately and understand how to best interact with our environment.


 If you could pick a personal anthem, what would it be?

"When you have more than you need, build a longer table...not a higher fence." There is a seat for everyone at the table!

Name: Brian O'Leary
Title: Executive Director
Organization: Book Industry Study Group


Why did you choose the field of association management and what about it keeps you going?

I joined several associations early in my career, and I always found them valuable in building my understanding of the publishing business as a whole. After I started consulting with book and magazine publishers, many of which were associations, I was fortunate to be appointed to the Board of Association Media & Publishing, based in Washington, DC. I served twice as an industry service partner representative, learning from other board members in the publishing space. When the role at BISG opened up, I was able to draw on those experiences to land the position here.

Even though BISG is a smaller association, the job is complex. That keeps me going, as we have to help the industry make sure that the supply chain for book publishing can handle the challenges and opportunities of things like consolidation, a move to online purchasing, and demand for content across many different formats, with a big nod to the growth of audiobooks. Change takes time, and we have to work hard to help the industry be ready at the right moments.

Which aspect of your career do you consider to be your biggest struggle?

If we believe Myers-Briggs, I'm an introvert, and I've never been particularly comfortable selling an idea or, now, an organization with a lot of ideas. Earlier in my career, that made me impatient when the people I worked for didn't immediately support what I wanted to do. If I could go back in time and change one thing, I'd try to be more understanding of the roles that other people have to play. If you can't convince people to move on something, a good idea is just a good idea.

What advice do you have for aspiring professionals looking to pursue a career in association management?

It's a bias of mine, but two things: try lots of different parts of the industry - membership, accounting, marketing, sponsorship, service, and events, whatever - before you settle into one discipline. The business is made up of a lot of moving parts; learn enough to appreciate each of them, if you can. And for some roles, develop industry-specific subject matter expertise. We represent the interests of the publishing industry, as an example. I can't do my job well if I don't understand it.

If you could pick a personal anthem, what would it be?

"Fortunate Son", by Creedence Clearwater Revival. Almost everything good about music, in 2:21.


Name: Katie Chambers

Title: Director of Community Engagement

Organization: NY Women in Film & Television

Why did you choose the field of association management and what about it keeps you going?

I’ve always been a storyteller and producer at heart – writing, directing and organizing productions from the time I was a little kid in my grandparents’ living room all the way through my first year out of college. After working for a while in the for-profit entertainment space as a talent agent assistant, and eventually as an agent myself, I wanted to get back to work that was more consistently creative, and more importantly, gave me an opportunity to give back to my community on a daily basis.

I was already a member of NYWIFT and familiar with its mission of equality and inclusion in film and television, one I could definitely get behind. As Community Engagement Director I get to tell NYWIFT’s story every day to a wide audience of longtime members, new members and current and future stakeholders. Our industry is changing rapidly. It’s great that the outside world has rather recently caught up with the mission we’ve been touting since NYWIFT was founded in 1977, and we’re all working together to harness that energy into positive, actionable, lasting change. I’m also responsible for Membership as well as Communications, and it’s the incredible community of NYWIFT members that keeps me going. These women work hard every day to advance their careers and build each other up, and I’m glad to help them however I can.

I’m very lucky that my job is also fun! I’ve taken on a producing role in our two big awards shows – The Muse Awards and Designing Women – over the last few years, so my producing dream is very much realized, though in a way I could never have imagined. I’ve always excelled when I’ve had to juggle several tasks simultaneously. Let’s just say at NYWIFT, I’m never bored!

Which aspect of your career do you consider to be your biggest struggle?

This sounds silly but I’m quite serious – my face gets in the way. I am admittedly a little young for a role of this size, but I look even younger. Combine that with the fact that I’m shorter than average and female, and well, I don’t exactly fit the outward stereotypical executive profile and I have to work extra hard for that respect sometimes. Getting carded in the middle of events that I’m running. Questions about how my internship is going. People congratulating me on getting such a big job so quickly and asking when I graduated. Someday, I’m sure, I’ll be grateful for the baby face. When that day comes, I’ll let you know.

What advice do you have for aspiring professionals looking to pursue a career in association management?

Get to know your members. They’re the whole reason for your organization, and they’re also your organization’s heart and soul. Find out what they need, what is frustrating them about their industry and how you might be able to give them the platform and the tools to address those concerns. I’ve found that the best way to get members engaged is to encourage them to volunteer – they get more excited about your organization’s mission when they feel a little ownership over it beyond paying their annual or monthly dues.

If you could pick a personal anthem, what would it be?

Just do it!