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Conversations with the Inspiring Sarah Watts

Today we’d like to introduce you to Sarah Watts.

Thanks for sharing your story with us Sarah. So, let’s start at the beginning and we can move on from there.
I have had the fortune of growing up right here in the East Valley! I’m a graduate of Chandler High School and received an academic scholarship to attend Arizona State University with a degree in Journalism with an emphasis on Public Relations and a minor in Communication. I explored different career options after college and knew early on that I enjoyed the challenge and ingenuity of the non-profit sector. In 2008, I was asked to help the Gilbert Chamber design a new administrative and communications position. Together, we established the duties and job description and, somewhere along the way, determined that I was the right fit for the job. I accepted and haven’t looked back! Since 2008, I have taken on several different roles and responsibilities within the organization – including marketing, special events, and bookkeeping, and committee management.

Now, 11 years later, I serve as the Vice President of Workforce & Community Partnerships. In this position, I oversee a majority of the Gilbert Chamber Foundation programming. I serve as the staff liaison to our community’s Gilbert Leadership Program, I coordinate several philanthropic efforts throughout the year, and I spend a lot of my energy working with our community partners to identify the needs of and establish programs to strengthen the talent pipeline for our local employers.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
The days are long but the years are short. I’m human and, just like most working women, each day presents its own set of challenges. Some days, I feel like I can conquer the world, and other days I see nothing but hurdles in front of me. I love my career. I also love my family, my husband, my kids, my girlfriends, my alone time, my reality television, my yoga practice, and my fantasy football. And they all fight for my attention!

As I’ve built a career, I have had to let go of the idea that there is a perfect balance – and that’s been hard. I grew up believing that, to have a career, I would have to put everything else in rank order below my professional ambitions. Time and experience have proven this to be far from the truth. In fact, taking part in the people and activities that I value actually give my professional work the meaning it deserves. I would argue it makes me a better, more efficient professional.

If I could encourage young professionals to do one thing, it would be to silence the world and listen to your intuition. Most often, I can feel whether or not I’m going in the right direction. That’s not to say that ease is right and the challenge is wrong. Often, those things that are challenging are the most rewarding. But, your instinct can be a great ally.

what should we know about Gilbert Chamber of Commerce Foundation? What do you guys do best? What sets you apart from the competition?
Over the past four decades, the Gilbert Chamber has represented our community by advocating for businesses, planning for our community’s future, giving back through our non-profits, and partnering to make this an amazing town to do business, raise families, shop, dine, and play. In June, we marked a milestone of 800 members – our highest membership ever!

We recognize and celebrate the accomplishments of our advocacy efforts, the support of many outstanding businesses and professionals who help serve our programs, and the many local community leaders who support and participate in our efforts.

In 2016, the Gilbert Chamber of Commerce established The Gilbert Chamber Foundation and has dedicated its programming to advancing the quality of life in Gilbert through education, leadership, and community enhancement. Foundation programs include:

Chamber For Good – We know our business community is generous – always looking for opportunities to help meet the needs of our residents and local non-profits. As part of the Gilbert Chamber Foundation, the Chamber For Good initiative identifies ways in which businesses can become involved.

Gilbert Leadership – Founded in 1991, Gilbert Leadership brings together individuals with diverse backgrounds and experiences to develop their leadership potential and to expose participants to the issues impacting our community. The program includes more than 650 graduates and will kick-off its twenty-eight year in August.

Partners In Progress serves to champion a stronger Gilbert through collaborative partnerships between the business, government, and education communities. Together, we foster a pro-business environment with a specific focus on the growth, expansion, and retention of businesses in the Town of Gilbert. This includes our efforts to support a strong workforce and talent pipeline for the success and sustainability of our local businesses.

In 2019, the Gilbert Chamber of Commerce was honored by the Western Association of Chamber Executives by receiving the ‘Outstanding Program’ award for the Foundation’s Manufacturing Month Student Bus Tours and came in second place to the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce for the Best Website award.

There is something very special about the town of Gilbert and the business community which makes up this Chamber of Commerce.

Who do you look up to? How have they inspired you?
Very honestly, this is a difficult question. I think I am more inspired by moments than lifetimes and more by characteristics than personalities.

I have been inspired by the advice that sometimes it’s best to jump before you look or you may not ever jump (Jenn), that an apology cannot erase the damage caused by hurtful words (Kathy), the very simple but significant lesson that it’s not what you say, it’s how you say it (Mom), or that snuggling with someone you love can put the world back into perspective (Molly).

I have been inspired by simple acts of kindness, such as colleague who brought me a thoughtful gift on my birthday when I had to work into the evening (Lauren), a Chamber member who took the time to draw a Christmas card by hand (Dani), and the museum executive who never fails to ask about and dote upon my children (Kayla).

I have been inspired by the strength of others – a coworker who exuded grace, patience, and humor as she and her beautiful daughters watched her husband lose his battle to cancer (Alma), my friend who serves as a hospice social worker and who wakes up each day to console families through their darkest days (Maria), my many friends who have become moms through adoption and who advocate for foster care and adoption (Adrianne, Jaime, Katy, Annette, Debbie), and the local theatre teacher who recently lost her eyesight but not her drive to serve youth (Tracie).

I have the opportunity to meet and receive inspiration from so many wonderfully confident and thoughtful women. I can think of so many more who have provided me with moments of inspiration and character. I really hope to take the good I see in others and reflect it back into the world. I believe everyone has a story to tell and lessons to share and I’m grateful that they take the time to include me in their journeys.

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