This month, we are excited to introduce our readers to Stephanie Lett, Vice President of Finance and Human Resources at NW Works, Inc. With CEO Debera Taylor stepping down on September 2, 2022, Stephanie will be leading the company while the Board of Directors selects a new executive.
Stephanie joined NW Works in September of 2019, initially as our controller. She was later promoted to vice president and currently oversees the finance, human resources, and information technology departments.
Born and raised in Staunton, Virginia, Stephanie has lived and worked all over the Commonwealth. Her first job was at McDonalds and although it wasn’t the right fit for her, Stephanie says she learned a great deal during her time with the company.
“I learned all facets of it. I did the cash register, the cooking, the maintenance. They actually wanted me to go to Hamburger University,” she said with a laugh, referring to McDonald’s corporate training facility. But Stephanie had other plans for her life.
Her then-husband’s career required the family to move frequently, making it difficult for Stephanie to maintain steady employment. She chose to be a stay at home mom until her daughter entered Kindergarten, but upon returning to the workforce, Stephanie faced the grim reality many mothers experience.
“It was hard because nobody wanted to hire me,” she explained. “I went on like, 25 interviews. I wasn’t getting any hits because I was out of the workforce for 5 years.”
Eventually, Stephanie became an accountant for a dentist who owned both a dental practice and a construction company. Stephanie wound up handling finance for both companies and found a niche in the construction industry. She would go on to work in the industry for nearly two decades, spending 13 years with Miller Brothers Inc., first as a controller and then as a vice president.
“I loved being in construction. I loved being able to drive around and say ‘we built this, we built that.’ Construction was great, but it’s always feast or famine.” Seeking more stability, Stephanie joined a national tax agency for several years, before making a jump into the tech startup world. She was with Synoptos, a global media monitoring and analytics company for another five years, before it was sold.
Stephanie then took some time to consider what she wanted the rest of her career to look like. At this point in her life, she had survived breast cancer and was running support groups for newly diagnosed women. She says the experience, while difficult, was life-changing.
“Personally, for me, it definitely made me a more compassionate person. I know what it is to suffer. It makes you realize what’s most important. It’s not your job, it’s the people,” Stephanie said. “I wanted to do something different, I wanted to do something meaningful. I didn’t just want another job.”
Although Stephanie did not have much experience with the disability population, the employment discrimination adults with disabilities face wasn’t entirely different than her experience trying to re-enter the workforce as a mother.
“People don’t want to take a risk. It’s depressing getting turned down all those times,” she said. “A lot of our folks are just awesome in their own ways and have such talent. I think that awareness in the business community would be huge.”
Although she no longer facilitates cancer support groups, Stephanie currently serves as a consumer reviewer for the Congressionally Directed Medical Research Programs’ Breast Cancer panel, a branch of the Department of Defense. She also volunteers with the American Cancer Society’s Reach to Recovery Program and is a member of the American Cancer Society’s Cancer Action Network, and previously facilitated a cancer support group. Outside of her role at NW Works and her volunteer work, Stephanie loves to spend time with her husband and adult children. She is an avid traveler and she encourages everyone to travel if possible.
“People say ‘oh I’ll wait till I retire.’ Don’t wait,” she advises. “Physically, things can happen to you that make it more challenging. You just don’t know what tomorrow brings.”