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March 08, 2022

Ten Questions with Traci Rossi, Executive Director of FriendsPDX

Ten Questions with Traci Rossi, Executive Director of FriendsPDX

Today, on International Women’s Day, we want to share a bit about one of the leading forces here at Friends of the Children—Portland (FriendsPDX), our Executive Director Traci Rossi. If you’re familiar with recent FriendsPDX history, you know that Traci joined us in April 2020, the same year she was named one of Portland Business Journal’s Women of Influence. Most recently, Traci was recognized for her service-before-self mentality and significant, positive impact in the Portland community as a Hometown Hero by the Portland Trail Blazers.

Traci embodies many of the FriendsPDX core assets, values, and overall ethos of mentoring. At the end of February, she participated in the PBJ’s BizWomen Mentoring Monday. Traci, along with almost thirty other female-identifying mentors, held space with 100 mentees to listen, learn, share stories, and reflect on key experiences and wisdom gained in the workplace. We got the chance to sit down with Traci and ask her ten questions about mentorship, leading Oregon's Most Admired Nonprofit, and her connection to the FriendsPDX mission.

What brought you to Mentoring Monday?

Traci Rossi (TR): This was my second year serving as a mentor for the PBJ’s Mentoring Monday series and this is just one way that I try to intentionally give back to my professional community. It is such a joy for me to connect with women who are trying to navigate the workplace. I stand on the shoulders of so many women who did that – and continue to do that - for me. We’re still in the middle of the Great Resignation, and sadly, the vast majority of workers leaving the workforce are women. Why is that? We need to dig into that and address it as a community.

Can you share more about the impact of leading during a pandemic?

TR: The Mentoring Monday event catered to three audiences: newly graduated women who are at the early phase of their professional journeys, women who want to elevate their careers, and women in the midst of what I call the ‘pandemic pivot.’ The last two years gave many of us the opportunity to reflect, learn, and grow from the challenges we have faced and that has invited great, transformative change – and a desire to prioritize our time doing what we care about and love. To bring it back to FriendsPDX, we walk alongside the youth we serve, provide opportunities, model, and encourage each one of our amazing mentees to find their spark. It’s one of the core assets we nurture — identifying that special something that fuels their internal fire.

Speaking of transformative, your favorite animal is a butterfly?

TR: Laughs, butterflies are indeed my favorite little Lepidoptera. Butterflies symbolize many things I align with. Among many attributes that I adore about them, they represent the beauty of resilience and transformation.

At the beginning of the year, you chose power as your word of the year, could you tell us more about that?

TR: Yes, this year – 2022 – is all about power, but not in a negative sense, which sadly is what often first comes to mind. It’s a word and idea meant to build. For me, power is about looking hard at obstacles and their lessons, applying that growth, and using that wisdom to usher in positive change.

Most definitely. To bring it back to our conversation earlier, would you say mentoring is a form of sharing power?

TR: Absolutely, giving back shares power, identifying your strengths, or what I call ‘your brand of activism’ shares power. Like an individual who collaborates well, that person unites people to move forward and create change. A listener can help organize people to take action and move goals and ideas forward. I am all about uplifting others as a form of collective power that can ultimately change the world. This is also known as the butterfly effect. See why I love those butterflies so much?

What is FriendsPDX’s response to the broader discussion on diversity, equity, and inclusion in the workplace and demanding equity?

TR: Demanding equity is one of the FriendsPDX values and a portion of our website extrapolates more on the topic. Additionally, we recently hired Tannya Jenkins to join our Friends Portland staff and leadership team as our phenomenal Chief People and Culture Officer. She will plan and direct all human resources policies, objectives, and initiatives. Tannya’s expertise in human resources programs, equity policies, staff training, and development, makes her the ideal leader to help us continue our commitment to fostering an inclusive culture that embraces our core values and demands equity. We’re delighted to have her on board!

Let’s wrap up our time with some “get to know you” questions!

What is your favorite color?

TR: Purple. And gold. And yellow!

Do you have kids?

TR: Yes, I have two young-adult children, Ally and Josh. They are amaze-balls and they really don’t like it when I use that word.

Any pets?

TR: Benji the Basenji!

What do you like to do outside of advocating for Portland’s highest priority youth?

TR: I love to read fiction and non-fiction, and to hike. Not too long, not too short, with waterfalls (plus cheese and salty meats at the end) whenever possible.

And what a beautiful place to be outdoors, here in the gorgeous Pacific Northwest. Thank you so much for sitting down to share more about yourself, Traci! And happy International Women’s Month to all. FriendsPDX aligns with the International Women’s Day goals of:

  • A world free of bias, stereotypes, and discrimination.
  • A world that's diverse, equitable, and inclusive.
  • A world where difference is valued and celebrated.