On October, 2, 2017, Stefani Pashman succeeded Dennis Yablonsky, as Chief Executive Officer of the Allegheny Conference.
“We are pleased to have Stefani as the next leader of the Allegheny Conference. The search committee, chaired by Bill Demchak, did an outstanding job evaluating an impressive list of exceptionally experienced and well-qualified candidates to lead the Conference into the future,” said current Allegheny Conference Chair Richard J. Harshman, Chairman, President and CEO of Allegheny Technologies Incorporated. “We look forward to working with and supporting Stefani as she leads the Conference’s continuing efforts to grow our region’s economy and improve the quality of life for our citizens.”
Since early 2010, Pashman has been CEO of Partner4Work, the workforce development system for Pittsburgh and Allegheny County. Working with city and county government leaders, Pashman led the transformation of this organization from a fragmented mix of government-run programs to a comprehensive workforce system aligned in a single non-profit agency.
Under Pashman’s leadership, the organization evolved from a policy-making think-tank to a more efficient, effective, action-oriented, demand-focused organization. She led the development and implementation of community engagement strategies that led to the creation of Pittsburgh Works, a 3-year old nationally recognized public-private partnership model of 80 organizations collaborating to more efficiently match available talent with employers. Partner4Work received the Pennsylvania statewide award for the top workforce board in 2013, and was chosen as first pilot partner for McKinsey’s international five-country youth workforce pilot program.
Prior to being named CEO of Partner4Work, Pashman was Director of Policy and Special Assistant to the Secretary in Pennsylvania’s Department of Human Services from 2003 to 2010. Previously, she worked in several consulting/policy analyst roles for the Executive Office of the President, Office of Management and Budget (Washington, D.C.) and for several healthcare consulting firms.
As the Conference just announced its new 2018-2020 Agenda, TEQ was excited to learn more about how the region’s technology community fits into the agenda and how diversity and inclusion will play a driving role. TEQ Associate Publisher and TechVibe Radio Co-Host Jonathan Kersting sat down with Pashman to get more insights.
Jonathan Kersting: So, let’s get this thing kicked off. First off – thanks for taking the time to talk to us, always appreciated. I know our readers are really excited to just ultimately learn a little more about you and especially with the new agenda. Tell our readers a little bit about yourself. What is your background? What is it that gave you the interest to head up the Allegheny Conference?
Stefani Pashman: I adopted Pittsburgh as my home 13 years ago. I think of myself as a committed, proud Pittsburgher; I cheer for the Steelers now instead of my hometown teams in Philadelphia.
We came to Pittsburgh because my husband and I both wanted a place where we could really feel like we can get involved and connect with the community. When we moved here, I was in the healthcare field. I spent 15 years doing health care-related business and policy, and that kind of transitioned into running the workforce system. I wanted to do something that I felt like was making a difference in Pittsburgh. So, having the chance to run the Allegheny Conference – knowing that my goal was to be civically engaged and working to improve, strengthen and be a true part of the community – the Allegheny Conference opportunity was a dream come true. This is exactly the opportunity I was looking for.
We want our agenda to be driven by the board, by our committees, by the community. The agenda’s tagline says it all: “Creating a Next-Generation Economy for All.”
The Conference has always been good at leading and driving change. I want to really focus, in my role, on how the Conference can do this even better and, in the process, bring along more people who can lead change.
Kersting: So, that runs right into the Conference’s new agenda.
Pashman: We want our agenda to be driven by the board, by our committees, by the community. The agenda’s tagline says it all: “Creating a Next-Generation Economy for All.”
Kersting: You just said “for all.” I love that.
Pashman: That was really intentional because for an economy to truly be for all, it has to be strong and rich in assets that allow us to do things that will benefit everyone who lives here.
At the centerpiece of everything we do is making sure the economy is strong, not just for today, but for the next generation. As we think about our economy, “next generation” encompasses the changes that are happening in our region, particularly in terms of the innovation economy. We are really focused on what’s happening in our workforce pipeline – not just with regard to workers today, but to the workers of the future. A lot of elements embedded in our agenda are about the future. And the “for all” is so critical and not an afterthought. We are making a statement that everyone needs to be uplifted and succeed and find their place in our workforce, in their quality of life and in their communities so that this entire region can truly thrive. That will define the projects that the Conference is going to be working on over the coming months and years.
Kersting: And at the end of the day, it comes down to the people, right? And your experience at the Workforce Investment Board gives you an edge. You understand people having the right skills at the right time, and without that, tech companies can’t move forward. Tell me more about some of the ways that we can get more people engaged. How can we make sure that people have the right skills to be part of this economy that’s moving Pittsburgh forward?
Pashman: I think the Allegheny Conference is a bridge-builder in many ways. I see the conference as building and reinforcing bridges that connect in many directions: bridges that connect our urban core to the region’s rural areas; bridges that better connect our mainstay, established businesses with newcomer, entrepreneurial and start-up ventures. And I’d also say that bridges have to be built that will allow people in the region who have found their places professionally and civically to better reach and interact with those here who may need some help or guidance to find their places, too. Making the latter happen is really a community effort that would include not only the Conference, but many other allied partners and organizations who can assist in the creating the necessary frameworks and getting the message out. Solely, the Conference can’t do all of that work, but we are going to help open doors and make sure that all of the partners are moving in the same direction
Kersting: These are things that don’t happen in a year or two. These are really generational goals.
Pashman: Right. And because this work will span months and years, we are going to be creating a bit of a framework to gauge how we’re doing. I don’t want to necessarily call it a scorecard; it more than measures success. I have a few of these in mind. One is around economic growth in general. How is our economy doing? Are we growing? At what rate? What is fueling net growth? Which jobs … companies … sectors? Another focuses on inclusion. Who is benefiting from progress? Are we doing a better job by the populations – particularly African American populations – many of whom have not fully benefited by economic transformation in the region. Third: how is innovation playing into economic growth? What are we doing in terms of tech company growth and increasing venture capital? Next there’s sustainability. How are we doing in cleaning our water and air and making sure that we have a sustainable economy? And finally, our workforce. Where are we going in terms of our overall unemployment rate and labor force participation? All of that must be taken into account. We want to be able to tell the region where we’re doing well and where we need to see improvement. That’s why measures of success are so critical.
And I’d also say that bridges have to be built that will allow people in the region who have found their places professionally and civically to better reach and interact with those here who may need some help or guidance to find their places, too.
Kersting: All of this seems to play into a lot of the work towards the Amazon HQ2 bid.
Pashman: Amazon really showed us new ways to do economic development. Amazon is having an atypical conversation with us about the region and its investment potential. That conversation is not just about sites, real estate or the talent pool. It’s also a conversation about quality of life here, our schools, the arts, outdoor amenities – the complete culture of our region. Companies like the Amazons of the world care about investing in places with a plan for sustainability – and with a plan to grow together as a community into the future. This approach to economic development makes it imperative for all the key players to work together. We love to talk about partnership in Pittsburgh. But to recruit a company like Amazon and other like-minded companies, we have to be able to demonstrate forged connections within the community.
Kersting: What would you say is Pittsburgh’s biggest strength and its biggest weakness?
Pashman: Our strength is this collaborative spirit that really was fueled by the Carnegies, Fricks and others in the region. I mean, this is our history. We have learned how to make change together … and how to strengthen ourselves by working together. I think our weakness is certainly around inclusion. There is no doubt in my mind when I think of our agenda that if we can move the needle on inclusion, we’ll really improve the long-term outlook for the region and remove some legacy issues that hold us back.
Kersting: How can we start addressing inclusion, then? Pashman: One of the things we’re pretty intentional about at the Conference is opening up some board seats to different people who wouldn’t be traditional Conference members and putting on our committees some individuals who are non-members, but who have a lot to offer to our work. We’re being more deliberate about considering which voices need to be at the table and how do we include these individuals. We need to consider what really motivates someone to be a member of the Conference and then to play to that strength. It’s not one size for all anymore.
I want to hear people say, “If it weren’t for the Conference, this or that wouldn’t have happened.” We have done things in this region and made it better because the Conference took a leadership role.
Kersting: If we can have this conversation five years from now, how will you know that the region is on the right track and making progress?
Pashman: I want to hear people say, “If it weren’t for the Conference, this or that wouldn’t have happened.” We have done things in this region and made it better because the Conference took a leadership role. I want people to see us as a relevant convener bringing together in partnership individuals all around the region who share common goals: a robust economy, equity, improved transportation systems and infrastructure.
Kersting: Do you have a major wish for Pittsburgh?
Pashman: A major wish for Pittsburgh … aside from landing Amazon’s HQ!? Yeah, I guess one of my wishes is that Pittsburgh doesn’t get lost and that our “Pittsburgh-ness” doesn’t fade as we grow and evolve. You know, I think there’s something really authentic about this region … about our work ethic. As we grow and change, I don’t want us to be the Silicon Valley … Portland … Brooklyn. I want us to be Pittsburgh.
Kersting: Really Pittsburgh. I love that. That’s fantastic. And my last question: Favorite thing about Pittsburgh to do with your family here?
Pashman: We spend a lot of time outdoors in the parks: Schenley, Frick, and on the trails. That’s the stuff that I like the most – being close to all of that and being able to take advantage of it.
Kersting: Amen to that.