"Since college, all of the jobs that I have had come because I was willing to take an opportunity and veer off of my set path."
Anyone who knows Nicola Wissler knows she's been a long-time advocate of work-based learning, youth entrepreneurship and leadership, and supporting businesses to access a quality workforce. We interview Nicola about her beginnings, how she defines success, her role models and all the great initiatives she leads at the Visalia Chamber of Commerce.
Here's what she had to share with us:
Please describe your involvement with ITK and career and college readiness so far. Why do you think it's important?
I have been involved with ITK almost since the beginning. As a representative of the Visalia Chamber we understand the importance of making sure that the voice of business is heard and understood by educators. For many years we have had employers approach us saying that they cannot find “qualified” employees or that employees were missing certain skills. Our role has been helping to connect employers with advisory boards and work based learning coordinators to make sure that their concerns are heard and that they have the opportunity to offer their expertise to those working in the classrooms. We see ITK as an important collaboration between business and education and know that collaboration is the key to a thriving economy in the future.
How do you define success and has it changed over the years? If so, how?
I think that when I was younger I would have said that success meant a title and certain salary. But today I would say that success on an individual level is finding a job or career that you are passionate about. Being able to go to work and knowing that you are making a difference, helping the community and interacting with people you like means that you have found success.
How did you find your way to the Visalia Chamber of Commerce? What skills do you use every day?
My path to the Chamber is pretty random. I was a stay at home mom of 2 little boys when the former President of the Chamber asked if I was ready to get back into the workforce, because he had a part time position available. He knew that I had been thinking about going back to work, so the timing was perfect. The Chamber was looking to launch the Young Entrepreneurs Academy and in my previous jobs I had worked closely with schools and high school students and because of that experience it seemed like the Chamber job was good fit. The YEA! program has giving me the chance to work with middle and high school students as they explore careers in entrepreneurship. It has been really exciting to see very shy students turn into very confident business owners, and to watch them interact with local business professionals and create a network of support here in Visalia.
Today I do much more than run the YEA! program. One of my main responsibilities is communications/marketing, so I use many forms of communication skills every day. Interpersonal skills, computer skills and critical thinking are all key to success in my job.
What is the most rewarding part of your job?
I really love to help people. From answering questions on the phone about where to find information, to connecting businesses to education and event planning, everything we do at the Chamber is really about serving our community and I think that is the aspect I enjoy the most.
Who has been a role model for you and why?
I have had quite a few role models in my life. My parents have been great role models, they have always stressed the importance of education, self-reliance and persistence. Both of my parents either have been or currently are small business owners as well as educators. They always pushed me to find something that I really loved and to pursue it. They also encouraged me to think for myself and to believe in myself.
What would you tell the high school version of yourself?
I would tell myself to be open minded, and take advantage of every opportunity to do something new. When I was in high school I was convinced that I was going to go to college, then law school and become a lawyer. I had a pretty set plan in place, but plans usually changed and mine did for sure. Since college all of the jobs that I have had come because I was willing to take an opportunity and veer off of my set path. It would have been good to know earlier that paths are fluid and not usually a straight course.
Anything else you'd like to add?
I believe that education is important. It does not matter if your education consists of a class, a certificate, or a degree. It is important to continue to learn new ideas, concepts. You are never too old to learn something new.