From Typewriters to Telework: Lisa Spencer’s 28-Year Journey with Career Path Services

Spokane, WA – June 18, 2020

In today’s workforce, the average length of time at a job is somewhere around 7 years. It seems uncommon to accept a job offer and think, “This is the company I’ll retire from.” It’s even rarer to maintain a positive attitude as a lifelong student of technology helping a company and its employees achieve success.

Lisa Spencer, our IT Manager, has the perfect blend of the uncommon and rare qualities that have allowed her to develop a 28-year* tenure with Career Path Services (we’ll get to the asterisk in a bit). Every year brought its own challenges; every “7-year” employee brought unique insights and perspective. But the constant through it all is Lisa’s passion for helping a tiny nonprofit grow into one of our state’s top service delivery providers in workforce development and human services.

“My family was in the military – we moved from Dallas to Salt Lake City and I received my first job working for Grant Thornton for 4 years as an accountant”, said Spencer. She considered a long career as a CPA, until her father’s health began to decline.

Lisa and Chris just before they got married.

Her parents made the decision to retire in Montana, but she knew there was something about the Pacific Northwest that would allow her career to evolve. “My husband and I narrowed down our relocation options to Seattle or Spokane; he would find work in computer science and I would land a job as a CPA.”

A week into the transition from Salt Lake City to Spokane, Lisa immediately landed a temporary position as an accountant with Itron. She loved the company but was looking for something permanent.

There was an interest in a specific job ad posted by a nonprofit searching for an accounting professional. She pursued the opportunity and interviewed with former CEO, Geroge Iranon, and long-time CFO, Marie Bjork, and left the interview thinking, “they’ll never hire me”.

Within that first month of her life in Spokane, Career Path Services wanted to provide her with a permanent role in the organization. But, so did Itron.

“I accepted the role with Career Path – then Itron counter-offered with a permanent role and would pay for any additional career training”, she said. The obvious choice should have been a permanent role with the company that would help develop her career.

Instead, Lisa chose to work at Career Path Services with an office set-up with only three computers shared by over 35 employees. A far contrast from the technology-focused company she had considered staying with.

Performing her daily tasks at the old office in the dairy building.

Many of her accounting tasks were performed on paper and typewriters, and she quickly learned that the nonprofit work culture meant employees had to develop a more universal skillset. She accepted and shared the additional responsibilities of database administration with another coworker.

Adapting through trial by fire due to the quick growth of technology, Lisa was responsible for incorporating Word Perfect and Novell, the organization’s first donated software. It piqued her interest in, “moving us forward”, and sparked the thought that information technology could be her major contribution to the organization.

Over the course of her time at Career Path Services, Lisa obtained three degrees: a bachelor’s degree in accounting, a master’s degree in CIS, and a second master’s degree in information security. With a blend of her education, experience, and passion for Career Path’s mission, Lisa developed a position for herself as the organization’s technology point-of-contact.

“From having no network, to being networked, then branching out to networking various remote offices, I found my calling with a company that valued the same things I did”, said Spencer. The most challenging troubleshooting she ever experienced was spending 20 consecutive hours removing the Nimda virus from the organization’s servers (beware of suspicious emails).

That is until COVID-19 arrived. Her final program year should have been her victory lap before retirement, but instead turned into a sprint to get every employee in the organization set-up to work from home. Every workforce in the world had to make this adjustment, and Lisa’s patience with the process shined through. She and her team worked tirelessly around the clock to ensure that every employee was connected and supported.

Lisa celebrating her 50th birthday.

Throughout her years at Career Path Services, Lisa was sought out by the people around her. Erin Williams, Fiscal Manager, recognized that Lisa’s background and experience would guide her to a deeper understanding of the organization’s history and synonymously made decisions that benefitted the organization from the IT and accounting perspective.

“Her expertise and longevity are an asset and I wanted to absorb as much knowledge from her as possible,” said Williams. She continued, “Lisa is one of those people that you always want in your corner because she cares so immensely for others.” Lisa and Erin built a relationship around authentic communication, honesty, and vulnerability.

“The unconditional trust (we had) led to numerous conversations, including Lisa’s personal path.”

Trina Mirabal and Reina Boell have reported directly to Lisa and both agree that she listens with an open heart and open mind.

“Lisa is always there when you need her, a true blessing to have shared so many years together as colleagues and friends”, said Mirabal. Boell adds, “Lisa encouraged and support my goals. I always feel comfortable being honest and open with her.”

Lisa received her 25 years of service award from former CEO, George Iranon.

As time winds down, Lisa looks back fondly at the 27.5 years (*28 years if you add the hours spent on COVID-19) dedicated to the purpose of supporting every co-worker, customer, and process advance through the power of technology.

Lisa will retire in Las Vegas starting July 1, 2020. But not without words of wisdom:

  • Take cybersecurity seriously. Always, always, always complete the training modules on time.
  • Be patient and flexible. Growth with the company can mean many things. But most importantly, continue leading with your hearts to carry out the mission and purpose.
  • Allow yourself to make mistakes. The organization will always have a culture to fail forward. Learn from errors and accept the grace extended by your leaders – they want you to succeed.

Lisa, we appreciate your years of service to the organization and congratulate you on all your professional, academic, and personal accomplishments. We wish you and Chris all the best in retirement.

Our organization has broken through barriers and overcome challenges because we had you guiding us from typewriters to telework.

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