Welcome to our new feature, “How I Got Here,” that digs into the career path and development of an animal welfare professional and member of The Association. Much appreciation to Stephanie Kendrick, Hawaiian Humane’s Director of Community Engagement, for sharing her experiences for this first post of the series.
The Association: Describe your current role as Director of Community Engagement at The Hawaiian Humane Society. What are some of your day-to-day responsibilities?
Stephanie Kendrick: I began my tenure at The Hawaiian Humane Society as our public policy advocate, our point person on government relations and legislative change. I retained that role when I transitioned to director of community engagement. That expanded scope of work gives me the opportunity to support the efforts of our communications, outreach and education teams.
My day-to-day responsibilities vary somewhat based on our state and local legislative calendars. More of my energy is focused on government relations in the first five months of the year as the state Legislature is in session, and the City is building and vetting its budget. We are a private nonprofit that holds our City and County contract for animal services.
The Association: How would you describe the trajectory of your career? How did you grow your skills?
Stephanie Kendrick: I was a print journalist for 25 years before making the leap to animal welfare and public policy advocacy. Journalism is the career I trained for, and it was enormously satisfying, allowing me to grow as a researcher, a writer, an editor and a manager. As I got older, however, the professional requirement to maintain a distance between myself and issues I care about got harder. I wanted to serve my community in a different way.
The Association: What experiences and professional development helped to shape your career path?
Stephanie Kendrick: Journalism gave me a good foundation in civics; a familiarity with the local, state and federal government processes, and a knowledge of some of the players in that process.
I came into my initial role, however, with no experience in the animal welfare field; and my policy advocacy experience dated back to testifying in front of the Board of Education in high school. It was less a learning curve than a rocket launch. I felt like an idiot for about six months.
The Association: How did you find your way to animal welfare and Hawaiian Humane?
Stephanie Kendrick: The short answer is it was a mix of desire and grace. I can’t call it divine intervention because the CEO who hired me was an atheist. When I left journalism, I was looking for a role in community advocacy, without having a clear idea of what that might mean. I have loved The Hawaiian Humane Society since I was a child and had gotten a chance to speak with the then CEO in my role as a journalist. My initial position with Hawaiian Humane was posted four days after I left the newsroom. I was objectively unqualified, and I will be forever grateful to then-CEO Pam Burns for giving me a shot.
The Association: Favorite professional development resource or tip?
Stephanie Kendrick: My answer would be to join The Association, but everyone reading this already knows that.
So, tip #2 is reach out to the experts. I have been amazed and humbled by the collegiality of people in this field, who are all so busy and who have never hesitated to take a call, answer an email, to guide a colleague looking to make positive changes.
The Association: What advice do you have for someone who wants to move up the ranks in animal welfare from within the industry? From outside the industry?
Stephanie Kendrick: Learn. There are so many free and low-fee resources in addition to The Association: Check out Justice Clearinghouse, Fear Free Shelter Program, Maddie’s, APA, NACA, ALDF, HSUS.
The Association: Last question. Name one of your professional goals for the year ahead.
Stephanie Kendrick: After 139 years of serving the entire island of Oʻahu from one campus on the East side of the island, we are opening a brand-new second campus this year on the West side, which is the fastest growing part of the island and has a higher-than-average rate of pet ownership. It will be a financial and operational stretch for our organization. My goal for the year is to support the success of that expansion of services to our community.
Who would you like to see featured in this column? Leave a comment and we’ll follow up.