At ESC, we are proud of our work in supporting and nurturing young leaders. Our work with DIY Girls, a nonprofit based in the San Fernando Valley, is a shining example. Their mission is to increase girls’ interest and success in technology and engineering through innovative educational experiences and mentor relationships.
Leticia Rodriguez, Executive Director at DIY Girls, is not new to the nonprofit world. Before DIY Girls, Leticia had spent years working in various roles at nonprofits in Los Angeles. Even early in her career, Leticia had envisioned herself running her own organization. Looking back, Leticia recognizes there was still so much to learn about being an Executive Director, a leader, and a relationship builder.
When Leticia first started in 2017 as Executive Director of DIY Girls, the organization was slowly scaling and evolving. When Leticia first started, DIY Girls was under a fiscal sponsorship – without its own nonprofit status – with eight board members and a $300,000 annual budget. In those early years, DIY Girls was slowly scaling and evolving. As more changes kept coming, Leticia felt she needed to grow as a leader, and in ways beyond operational management.
Leticia and DIY Girls’ board realized they needed support to bring the organization to the next level. ESC’s Executive Director Leadership Institute (EDLI) was exactly the right program for what they had in mind. It was the right opportunity at the right time, and Leticia enrolled in our 2021 EDLI program.
“When it came down to the intricacies of running an organization, I was not prepared,” she said. “While I was doing the best I could, I wish I could have done EDLI sooner.”
Through the EDLI program, Leticia deconstructed some of the challenges that she felt hindered her, and the organization’s, path to growth. EDLI offers more than just technical know-how – it also provides Executive Directors with the space to do hands-on skill development and relationship building. This meant that Leticia, with guidance from her ESC Consultant Mel Takata, was able to hone her communications skills and adapt her style to her constituents – while practicing to confidently implement these skills.
In particular, one of her primary goals was to work more effectively with her board. Mel offered the counsel she needed to work out challenges in communications and collaboration with leadership, and asked her questions to get her thinking beyond any perceived roadblocks.
Leticia deeply valued the guidance and encouragement she received from Mel. She shared that Mel’s guidance provided a constant practice to feel confident, decisively make choices, and pursue her vision for DIY Girls. “Once I improved my communication with our board leadership and worked to understand their concerns, I felt all these walls come down. I don’t think that would have ever happened if it weren’t for Mel and his coaching. It saved a lot of time, produced less frustration, and all of a sudden, we were all – board chair, treasurer, and executive director – in sync.”
Since completing EDLI, Leticia believes she has been able to communicate more effectively with her board. Board committees have also been strengthened and have been instrumental in getting board members more involved in the mission and fundraising. Delegating more work to the staff and board has also helped move the organization forward strategically – despite the challenges brought by COVID. DIY Girls now has its own nonprofit status, a current budget of $1.2 million, and, in 2022, they will celebrate their 10th anniversary with their first sit-down fundraising gala. As for her work with ESC, Leticia continues to engage in leadership coaching with Mel to keep the momentum going.
Through her experiences, Leticia has seen how her leadership strength and growth impacts the rest of the organization, from staff to students.
“At the end of the day, what’s most important is that our programs have a positive impact on our students. And my leadership growth also impacts our students. It has a ripple effect that pays it forward.”