Trading in Luck for Intentionality

debi matese, MPA manager of performance improvement and safety

Debi Matese, MPA
YWCA Greater Cleveland Manager of Performance Improvement and Safety

By Debi Matese, YWCA Manager of Performance Improvement and Safety – I got to the YWCA via a series of fortunate events, not through intentionality. One day I woke up and was working in the field of data collection, analysis, reporting and safety and risk management. Not literally, of course, but close enough. That is both good and bad. Good because I love working at the YW; bad because imagine where else I could have gone before the YW if I had done some intentional career planning.

I came from the nonprofit field, having worked in Behavioral Health my entire career. I was not a terrible clinician. What I was very good at was documentation, policy development, and organizational compliance. Those are….interesting qualities for a clinician. When the opportunity presented itself for me to switch careers, I hesitated. I had been a clinician since I was 23 years old. What if this change is hard? What would I do without my clients? What if I *gasp* failed?

I accepted the position of Quality Improvement Manager at a local Alcohol and Drug Treatment facility. I failed. I accepted another position at a different organization. I did well and continued to learn. By the time I got to the YWCA I expected that I had gained enough experience that I could do the job. If I knew then what I know now, I may have thought a little more about taking the position. I failed mightily. I succeeded in incredible ways. I learned more about myself than I had since I was 19 and on my own at school in Northwest Ohio, regarding both how to fail and how to succeed, among many other things.

I succeeded, mainly, because of relationships. I know how to make them and keep them. I know how to work around difficult ones. I know how to connect, how to apologize, and how to walk away. Yes, I have an eye for data, trends, and risk management. But the key to my success has always been my soft skills.

ywca women's leadership reception

ywca women’s leadership reception

I’ve been lucky enough since I started at the YW to gain an employee, who made it here accidentally as well. There are not enough of us in Cleveland – data minds that are also, inexplicably, relational. We do important work at the YWCA, work that affects programs and more importantly, people. I am very grateful for the work I have in my life, and for the YWCA. I’m grateful for the opportunity to develop my staff, just as I was allowed to develop. And I am anxious to see where I can go now that I have some intentional career plans.

How did you land in your seat? Were you intentional? Where could you be now if you had been intentional? Helping women create intentional career goals to further their careers. Developing professionals into data and performance management experts. It’s YWeAct. Learn more about women’s leadership and career development opportunities at If you are one of the rare people who want to work in the field of data and safety management, contact me directly at

This entry was posted in Nonprofit Management, YWCA Greater Cleveland and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s