By Denman Wall
Executive DirectorDeep Foundations Institute
Being able to interview non-profit and association executives through this feature column has been quite enjoyable and has allowed many in our community to get to know some of our members just a little better.
This month, our interviewee is none other than Theresa Engler, Executive Director of the Deep Foundations Institute, where she leads a team of professionals who serve the deep foundations and excavations sector – a critical topic of concern in our region given the vast construction in the area. In addition, Theresa was the recipient of this year’s Outstanding Association Executive Award.
Without further ado, meet Theresa Engler.
Denman Wall: Hi Theresa, thanks for your contributions to the association and non-profit community! Would you tell our readers what your career path to leadership in the association profession involved?
Theresa Engler: Quite honestly this was not my original career path. I studied nursing in college and then started a family. I was working part-time as an administrative assistant for a small non-profit that advocated for timber piling for construction and marine foundations while raising my three sons. It was then I was introduced to the Deep Foundations Institute (DFI) where my then professional engineer supervisor was a volunteer committee chair. I joined as an admin and worked my up to operations manager, assistant director and then director in 2006.
Denman: That's quite a story, from humble beginnings to leadership! Tell us a little bit about what the Deep Foundations Institute does for the community it serves.
Theresa: We are what is known in the association world as a hybrid organization – we are both a trade association and a professional society with corporate and individual members. The specialty and general contractor companies, design and consulting engineering firms and equipment/material manufacturing businesses join for the networking and forums for the exchange of best business practices while the individual engineers, professors, students and government agency employees get involved to obtain educational technical resources as well as contribute as authors. DFI is the forum for them all to collaborate and create consensus on issues to advance the deep foundations industry.
Denman: Awesome… I’d say foundations are a large part of our area given the amount of construction in and around New York. Can you share a little bit about a current project or initiative that DFI is working on that our readers should know about?
Theresa: There are two initiatives I’m proud to have begun under my leadership. One is the Women in Deep Foundations Program and Committee that is funded through generous donations by our members and others to provide professional development grants to women entering or already employed in our industry so they can build mentoring relationships and enlarge their professional network. The committee is comprised of both men and women who advocate retaining women in the industry. The other is our Committee Project Fund which provides grants to research projects endorsed by our 26 technical committees that will make a broad impact on the industry. The project deliverables are valuable resources for our members.
Denman: Providing those great services for people is so important. What is the best part about working in the association and non-profit profession?
Theresa: What I’ve enjoyed for 25 plus years is the varied responsibilities and learning opportunities provided through working for a non-profit association. With the tight budgets of non-profits, I’ve been able to wear many hats during my career while serving alongside and in support of professionals who are giving their personal time and knowledge to achieve our mission. It is rewarding and provides continuous growth of my management skills.
Denman: The non-profit community is certainly filled with incredible leaders and mentors. Do you have some mentors you'd like to acknowledge?
Theresa: Being in one association and one industry for the majority of my career, I have been fortunate to work alongside past presidents of DFI who each bring a new perspective to the organization’s activities and to leadership in general. Working with people who are running large corporations as well as others who are sole proprietors means I am seeing different management styles and leadership qualities that I’m able to emulate in my role. Also collaborating with other industry associations, I’ve had some great experiences with the executive directors of those groups that shine a light on different ways to deal with the challenges of association management.
Denman: As an organization that supports associations and non-profit executives, what can NYSAE do to ensure their day-to-day success?
Theresa: NYSAE and ASAE overall are so important to people employed by associations as they keep us apprised of the latest association trends and provide avenues for sharing knowledge and learning from the successes and failures of others who are working in similar positions. NYSAE fulfills its mission and should continue to do so through its newsletter, shared interest groups, and events which I find very useful as a member.
Thanks, Theresa, for your contribution to InView and to the association community!
Denman W. Wall is the Sr. Director, Interactive Services at Dolci Interactive and Editor of InView.