My Best Advice: Paula Penebaker

Paula Penebaker
Paula Penebaker Credit: Jake Hill

Paula Penebaker
President and chief executive officer
YWCA Southeast Wisconsin
Industry: Nonprofit
ywcasew.org
Employees: 32

“The best advice I received was twofold: Bloom where you’re planted and be honest. There will be times when you may not be exactly where you think you should be, but work as hard as you can in that place and do your best. While the rewards may not come as soon as you’d like, you will be recognized for your efforts at just the right time.

“That advice is often not appreciated today in this time of instant gratification. Baby boomer philosophy is viewed as passé and not helpful. It has, however, worked for me throughout my career.

“The ‘be honest’ bit of the advice is often easier said than done. However, blaming others for your shortcomings or, worse, lying about mistakes will diminish your credibility, something that is very difficult to reestablish. Fall on the sword. Admit when you’re wrong. Fix it and move on. That is the best you can do.”

Age: 65

Professional experience: Penebaker worked for The Procter & Gamble Company in Cincinnati for 13 years in the management systems division before moving to Milwaukee in 1991. She began her career in Milwaukee the following year at First Wisconsin Bank as a member of the human resources department’s training and development staff and later became vice president and diversity manager. Penebaker joined YWCA Southeast Wisconsin in 1999 as chief human resources and facilities officer. She was named executive director in May 2005 and, shortly after, president and CEO.

In the news: Penebaker will retire at the end of 2019 after 20 years with YWCA. During her tenure, the organization extended its service area beyond metro Milwaukee into the broader southeastern Wisconsin region. YWCA SEW currently serves about 12,000 people annually.

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Lauren Anderson
Lauren Anderson covers health care, nonprofits, education and insurance for BizTimes. Lauren previously reported on education for the Waukesha Freeman. She graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where she studied journalism, history and African studies. In her free time, Lauren enjoys spending time with family and friends and seeing live music wherever she can.