Dress for Success: Jessica West-Walker

Dress for Success Auckland are holding their annual Designer Fashion Sale on 30 March 2017 in the Sapphire Room at Ponsonby Central. It is one of the most hotly anticipated fundraising events run by this not-for-profit (NFP) which works to empower women into employment. In Australia there has been lots of talk recently about the value of volunteering so I sat down with board member, Jessica West-Walker, to get an understanding of what it looks like to be a professional by-day and NFP board member outside-of-hours.

Jessica West-Walker, Project Manager by day, NFP board member outside of hours.

1. What is your day job, industry?

Project Manager for commercial construction projects.

2. What is your role with Dress for Success Auckland? What does it mean to be a board member?I have two roles with Dress for Success. I am a Volunteer Dresser and Board Member on the Board of Directors.

Our Board is an ‘operational board’ so we are involved in all aspects of the organisation. This includes securing funding, maintaining budgets, marketing, running events, liaising with  Dress for Success NZ affiliates, DFS World Wide and coordinating with the volunteers and staff who run our centre.

3. How did you hear about the organization and what made you want to be a board member? How did you go about becoming a board member? Were there any skills and qualifications you needed to get or highlight?

I first heard of Dress for Success probably a decade ago through a friend.
I was raised by a hard working single mother and I remember the challenges she faced to work and raise us four children. Since then I’ve been looking for an opportunity to give back the support my mother gave me. So I loved the idea of Dress for Success and tucked it away in my mind as something I should look into. Then when I moved to Auckland a couple years ago I heard a speech from a DFSA Volunteer  at a function and was inspired to get involved.
I started as a Volunteer Dresser and the opportunity to join the Board of Directors came toward the end of last year.   To join the Board of Directors I had to apply which meant submitting my CV, experience, financial and police records. and be elected in by the members of DFSA.

4. What have you learnt or hope to develop from being a board member? Are there transferrable skills between your day job and your role as a board member? Or how does being a board member make you feel?

The learnings so far have been significant.  This has been a new experience working with so many women for a start! Normally it’s me and ‘the boys’ on-site. It’s been great working along side some very talented, intelligent and driven women.
I’ve also been learning about working with a Volunteer base to arrange many of our activities and sales. The people involved are all ages and backgrounds. The diversity is great for getting a well rounded perspective. I look forward to developing this skill further in my time on the Board.
There are thankfully transferable skills from my career – which has included more than just project management. I served on a NFP committee a few years back – and that was a valuable foundation for my work with DFSA now. The main skills are general business finance, governance, budgeting and forecasting, sponsor engagement, planning,  marketing, database and membership engagement.
Ultimately, a lot comes down to hard work and leaning on each other for support. And I can’t say enough how committed the other board members and volunteers are to the cause of supporting women.
In many ways I feel that I am able to draw on all my work and life experience in this role. As an Operational Board – it is similar to running a small business. So we have exposure to all the daily details and larger strategic goals. It’s a balancing act I love.

5. The Designer Fashion Sale is just around the corner. What can attendees expect? What are you hoping to achieve from the sale?

Yes it is! Our goal is to raise funds to ensure our doors stay open and we continue to serve the women of Auckland. We are very proud to drive this cause and want to provide the opportunity to be part of this legacy to our shoppers at the Designer Fashion Sale.
This evening is a great chance for women to come together in support of one another and to have a great time shopping guilt free! We invite guests to shop, mix, mingle and enjoy an evening out with their friends.
Guests can expect to enjoy the beautiful Sapphire Room aloft the energy of Ponsonby Central. There will be drinks provided by Lion and delicious canapés made and served by the very talented Yael Shochat of Ima Cuisine. And of course designer clothing and shoes  to be snapped up at great prices!
There are also goodie bags to the first 50 shoppers, silent auctions and a wishing tree raffle.
Hope to see you there!

Jessica West-Walker, Project Manager by day, NFP board member outside of hours.

The Designer Fashion Sale is on this Thursday 30 March 2017 in the Sapphire Room at Ponsonby Central.

Find your local Dress for Success chapter here. To learn more about Dress for Success Auckland, to donate or get involved click here: https://auckland.dressforsuccess.org/

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