Monday, March 14, 2011

Interview with Tom Baker of Baker Leadership

As the upcoming keynote speaker for this year's Pittsburgh Entrepreneur Conference and Trade Show, presented by WSBA, Tom Baker was gracious enough to answer some of our questions, and to give us a preview of what he'd be speaking about during the Honoring Extraordinary Women Awards on April 8th.

Tom Baker, MA, is the Vice President of Programs for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Pittsburgh, the President of Baker Leadership, host and producer of "Get Involved! Pittsburgh" on PCTV 21, moderator of the monthly "Get Involved! Power Hour" series in Pittsburgh, host of the monthly "Pittsburgh Morning Mix" series, facilitator for the Fast Track Pittsburgh Service and Leadership program, coordinator for the Baker Leadership Speakers Bureau, and founder of the annual Get Involved! Pittsburgh Service Summit. He is also a well-known speaker and author of two books: "Get Involved! Making the Most of Your 20s and 30s" and "Get Involved! Give Our Passion".

WSBA: Tom, much of your work is with young people. Have you always preferred working with that age group and why?
TB: Both of my parents had a background in education and working with children, so that is what I was accustomed to growing up. I truly enjoy helping others and really have a great time empowering and educating young people to dream big and set goals while also providing them with the tools and resources to do so. The work that we accomplish at Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Pittsburgh enables over 1,150 children annually to have a dedicated and positive role model in their life.

WSBA: As you get older, do you see yourself focusing on other age groups? What resources are available to help people find good community organizations to get involved with, as they get older?
TB: Within Get Involved! we work with members of all backgrounds and age groups. Since 2008 I’ve spoken with about 125 groups and almost half of these presentations have been with community leaders of all ages. Our Fast Track program also consists of participants in different age brackets. Within Western PA, I am very fond of the Coro Center for Civic Leadership and Leadership Pittsburgh, Inc. and am a proud graduate of both programs. My wife and I are both on the Coro Pittsburgh Alumni Council and I train a 12 week Running for Public Office: Emerging Leaders in Public Service at Coro in the fall.  

WSBA: Is there something about Pittsburgh that you particularly enjoy working around? What's special about this city?
TB: There is so much that is special about this city. I find a new way to fall in love with our city every day. I enjoy our rich culture and the pride that Pittsburgh’ers showcase about our food, our sports, our communities, and our beautiful city view. Where else can you eat fries in your salad and wash it down with a pop?

WSBA: What are some of your favorite organizations in Pittsburgh to work with?
TB: There are many terrific organizations that my wife, Erin, and I have enjoyed working with in Pittsburgh. I am the Past President of the Board of the Pittsburgh Urban Magnet Project and Erin now is on the board. PUMP is a big piece of why we never considered moving from Pittsburgh after graduate school because it enabled us to get so entrenched in the community and play on dozens of Pittsburgh Sports League teams. I am also very proud of how the first annual Special Olympics Polar Plunge turned out last fall. I am the chairman of the Young Professionals Board for SOPA and we played a small, but meaningful role in raising $120,000 for all of the Special Olympics athletes.

WSBA: As I read your bio, I wonder, do you have any free time? If so, what do you like to do around the city? Are there things to do, perhaps one-day activities, that are both fun and also helpful to the community, from a volunteer perspective?
TB: I love playing sports and have been very active with the Pittsburgh Sports League since 2003. Saturday and Sunday morning 5K’s and Charity Walks are also a great way to start your morning on the weekend and I have enjoyed participating in dozens of those. Erin and I both also looking forward to running 13.1 miles on May 15 in the Pittsburgh Half Marathon. This will be my third half marathon and I am hoping to improve my time from last year. I would encourage everyone reading this to really consider joining one more organization or volunteering in additional way. I would love to talk to any of your readers about Big Brothers Big Sisters. My little brother, Preston, is 19 now and a freshman at Franklin and Marshall College. Becoming a big has been one of the best decisions in my life and Preston is like family to Erin and I. We are so proud of him and being there to witness him graduate from college last June was the best birthday gift I could have received. Our website for BBBS is if anyone is interested in learning more about the program.

WSBA: What about WSBA made you decide to do our keynote speech this year?
TB: I was touched when Sarah Mayer invited me to keynote the WSBA Conference this year. I think very highly of Sarah and was really enthusiastic about the opportunity to participate. As a big believer in small business I have been aware of the WSBA since its inception in 2007 here in Western PA. Providing women in our region with an additional network the work that WSBA does is vital in enabling members to grow their business and develop as professionals. By becoming part of a smaller community through joining organizations and associations, such as WSBA, it enables female business leaders to feel more at home and move their business efforts forward.
WSBA: Can you give us a tidbit of what you'll be touching on?
TB: We will be talking about the important correlation between service work and business. It is imperative for female business leaders to stay active in community organizations. As President of the Pittsburgh East Rotary Club I have come into contact with some of the most dedicated and committed woman business leaders in the region. While boosting your business is never why you should join an organization or serve on a board, it is undoubtedly useful. We’ll also be doing some goal setting for the remainder of 2011 and determining what organizations and volunteer opportunities are the best fit for participants. It will be a very interactive session so participants should come ready to share!

WSBA: Thanks so much for your time, and we look forward to seeing you on April 8th!
TB: Thanks Ceil. I am very much looking forward to it!

Interview questions compiled by Ceil Kessler of Polaris Marketing and Business Solutions.
The Pittsburgh Entrepreneur Conference and Trade Show presented by WSBA is sponsored by the following generous companies:

Signature Sponsor
Corporate Sponsors
Pittsburgh Business Times

Contributing Sponsors
3 Rivers Wealth Management Group
ABOARD  (Advisory Board on Autism and Related Disorders)
Baker Leadership
Beaver Valley Foot Clinic
Chatham Center for Women's Entrepreneurship
First Commonwealth Bank
Remarkable Living by Design

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