All posts tagged young professionals group

FLEX Looks Forward to a New Year

When FLEX, the young professionals group of the Venango Chamber, started in 2007, no one could have predicted the growth we would see. Thirteen years later, we have 128 members, and we continue to add and improve our programs and events.

Rather than look back at 2019, we are excited to look forward to 2020 and begin creating a vision for what the year will look like and make a plan to make those things happen.

“What excites me heading into 2020 is the blend of seasoned leadership and experienced professionals,” said Rachel Stiller, outgoing FLEX President. “Everyone on leadership has had involvement with FLEX and are passionate about the mission of the organization, which will benefit us as we move forward with those projects we started in 2019.”

Rachel also added: “We are all equipped to maintain our current level of energy as a young professional group and I anticipate we’ll continue to see FLEX make leaps and bounds this year through the hard work and dedication of our incoming leadership.”

Kat Thompson, incoming FLEX president, added: “Serving as VP this past year under Rachel’s presidency has been an amazing learning experience. Seeing up close her passion and knowledge has inspired me in my involvement with FLEX and in my own professional development.”

“As the incoming president, I look forward to continuing the trajectory of growth and development established by 2019 leadership under her guidance and with the support of the Chamber,” Kat said. “I, along with our seasoned chairs, am excited to welcome two new faces to the leadership team. With continued involvement in our communities, I hope to see FLEX become a household name across Venango County, and be an accessible and valuable resource for young professionals.”

We invite you to get involved with FLEX in a new way this year! Whether it’s coming to an event, joining one of our committees, or volunteering, we hope to see you as we continue to grow.

Meet the 2020 FLEX Officers

President – Kat Thompson
VP/Secretary – Saxon Daugherty
Membership Chair – Laura Ordaz
Marketing & Community Partnerships Chair – Tessa Byham
Events & Fundraising Co-Chair – Ashley Smith
Events & Fundraising Co-Chair – Rachel Stiller

This article was published in the Future Leaders & Entrepreneurs Exchange’s (FLEX) January 2020 edition of the FLEX Your Ideas (FYI) Newsletter.

Want to be Happy? Be Grateful

We hope you’ve had a great holiday season! During this time of year, it’s especially important to recognize what we have and to be grateful. Our last TED Talk recommendation is all about the connection of gratefulness to happiness, and speaker David Steindl-Rast tells us: “It’s not happiness that makes us grateful, it’s gratefulness that makes us happy.”

It’s not just about grateful experiences, but grateful living. How do you do that? “By experiencing, by becoming aware that every moment is a given moment, as we say. It’s a gift. You haven’t earned it. You haven’t brought it about in any way. You have no way of assuring that there will be another moment given to you, and yet, that’s the most valuable thing that can ever be given to us, this moment, with all the opportunity that it contains,” he said.

We can’t be grateful for everything, but we can aim to be grateful in every given moment for opportunities we are given. Listen to Steindl-Rast’s TED Talk at

2020 Tip of the Month: Professional Development

We hope you enjoyed our TED Talk recommendations this year! In 2020, we plan to share monthly “Professional Development Tips” in each newsletter, on various topics including personal branding, networking, work and life balance, and mentorship.

We want to share these tips FROM young professionals. If you have a tip or advice you’d like to share, please email Tessa at

This article was published in the Future Leaders & Entrepreneurs Exchange’s (FLEX) December 2019 edition of the FLEX Your Ideas (FYI) Newsletter.

December 2019 Young Professional Profiles: Ryan O’Neill & Valerie Perry

Ryan O’Neill is originally from Titusville and now works as an Account Executive at Forever Media. He attended Edinboro University where he earned a bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice.

Ryan is also an Army Combat Veteran and served in Iraq from 2003 to 2005.

He is excited to be back in our area and has hope for the future here. “I like how personable, approachable, and helpful people are. You get a real sense of community and genuine caring,” he said. “The area is growing and evolving to meet the needs of a changing world and you can see this through the expansion of our industries, cultural centers, and retail establishments.”

At his job with Forever Media, Ryan gets to be a part of this growth and work with local businesses, which he describes as a “humbling and exhilarating experience and one that I truly enjoy doing day in and day out.”

In his free time, Ryan reads, lifts weights, hunts, fishes, cooks and bakes, hikes, camps, and spends time with his nieces and nephews. He also has dreams to go into business for himself someday and spends time working on business plans while also learning and volunteering to improve the community.

Some of Ryan’s favorite places to visit in our area include the hiking and biking trails and the local libraries, which he says are “a truly valuable resource.” Ryan also likes to visit the small businesses and loves to see them grow from startups to viable businesses. You can find him at local festivals and events, too, including Applefest, the Venango County Fair, and other smaller gatherings that occur frequently in our area.

Ryan looks forward to getting even more involved with FLEX, to network and have access to ideas and resources from fellow professionals and entrepreneurs. Welcome to FLEX, Ryan!

Valerie Perry grew up in Oil City and is among the first group of Cruise & Travel Directors for Holland American Line.  This company is redefining the cruise industry by changing the role of the Cruise Director and providing education and enrichment on the history and culture of destinations.

Prior to her current job, Valerie worked at National Geographic, where she was the Head of Programming and Production for National Geographic Live—a speaker series where explorers share their stories from the field.

“I got to work at National Geographic which is pretty great, but I also had the courage to walk away when I knew it wasn’t quite the right fit anymore,” she said. “It would have been easier to stay—seeing people’s jaws hit the floor when you tell them where you work never got old—but Holland America Line offered me a job to do what I really loved doing: public speaking and getting people excited to travel.”

Valerie attended Cranberry High School, where she graduated as Valedictorian in 2003. She then studied at Grove City College where she earned bachelor’s degrees in Communication and Christian Thought. She considers herself a lifelong learner and will attend a class or webinar about anything.

In the future, Valerie would love a larger platform to speak to people about travel (a television or digital series is her dream) and someday she’d like to own a travel planning company. She’d also like to start a scholarship fund to help area youth pursue their dreams, too.

Valerie’s hobbies include photography, hiking, camping, spending time with family and friends, and visiting National Parks, of which she has visited about 120. She is also a travel writer— chronicles her journeys and she wrote a guidebook to Caribbean ports called “Sea More: Caribbean.”

There are many reasons Valerie loves living in Venango County. She loves the quiet, being away from crowds and traffic, and being surrounded by nature—much different than when she lived in Washington, DC. She also likes that there is always something to do when she’s had enough quiet, like grab a beer at Trails to Ales or see friends in a show at the Barrow Civic Theatre.

Valerie does not technically work in Venango County; she works onboard Holland America Line ships for 3-5 months at a time. During her contact she works every single day, so to make up for the lack of weekends and days off, she then has 1 or 2 months off in-between contracts. This gives her months at a time to explore and enjoy this area.

We wish Valerie the best of luck as she heads back to work, and we look forward to seeing her again when she’s back in the area!

These articles were published in the Future Leaders & Entrepreneurs Exchange’s (FLEX) December 2019 edition of the FLEX Your Ideas (FYI) Newsletter.

Taking Control of Your Career Development

No matter what stage of your career you are in, there are always opportunities to learn and grow.

At the FLEX Speaker Series in November, Kat Thompson with PA CareerLink and Deb Eckelberger of the Franklin Industrial and Commercial Development Authority shared their knowledge and wisdom around career development.

Attendee ages ranged from an 18-year-old high school senior, to a President & CEO in their late 50s, and everyone was able to take away something beneficial from the presentation.

Kat touched on topics including soft and hard skills, setting goals, taking trainings and courses, and the importance of networking and getting involved in the community.

“No one starts out being perfect or knowing everything,” said Kat. “It’s essential to recognize your weaknesses, understand why it’s important to work on them, and then practice until you improve.”

Deb has worked for various organizations throughout our region and shared how she got to where she is today.

She started out planning to go to nursing school, but instead went right into the workforce. She got her Realtors license, and eventually went back to school and is now in the economic development industry.

“I always knew I wanted to work in my hometown, and now I have a job here that I absolutely love,” said Deb. “Two of the things that have contributed to my success have included networking in the community and finding great people to be my mentors.”

If you missed the Speaker Series but are looking for ways to develop in your career, you can find resources below. You can also find more photos from the Speaker Series here.


ResCare Academy: Free courses on a variety of professional topics; Must register through Kat (email Kat Thompson)

Big Interview: Free job interview training; Visit (click “Individuals,” then “Interview Practice”)

Traitify: Personality and career assessment; Visit

Occupational Research (O*NET OnLine): Database of occupational information; Visit

FLEX Leadership Development Resources (LDR): Collection of professional books, documents, videos, and more; Visit

This article was published in the Future Leaders & Entrepreneurs Exchange’s (FLEX) December 2019 edition of the FLEX Your Ideas (FYI) Newsletter.

November 2019 Young Professional Profiles: Ivy Kuberry & Emily Lewis

Ivy Kuberry has returned to our area and we’re looking forward to getting to know her and having her involved!

Originally from Pleasantville, Ivy left for college and worked in state parks throughout the state. “My goal was to eventually come back to Venango County and work at Oil Creek State Park,” she told us. So when a position opened up at the park recently, she jumped at the opportunity and got the job!

Ivy is now an Environmental Education Specialist through the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) and works in Oil Creek, a beautiful state park right in our backyard.

She earned her bachelor’s degree in Environmental Science from Edinboro University and has a number of other certifications. She is certified as an Interpretive Guide from the National Association for Interpretation Leave, No Trace Trainer, Kayaking Instructor from the American Canoe Association Red Cross, lifeguard, and more. These allow her to offer fun and safe outdoor recreation programming.

Some of Ivy’s achievements she’s most proud of are completing a conservation-focused study abroad trip in South Africa and Botswana, presenting a college research project at the Society of Toxicology annual meeting, and creating new and exciting environmental and recreational programming at Oil Creek State Park. One of her main goals is to get more people out to enjoy all the park has to offer.

It’s to no surprise that some of Ivy’s favorite activities to do in her free time include hiking, camping, swimming, and biking. She also likes reading and spending time with family and friends, and can often be found at local businesses and events, including Trails to Ales, Karma Coffee, Applefest, Movies at Cranberry, and Oil Heritage Festival. Ivy is getting married to her fiancé Eric next fall and looks forward to starting a family soon.

“Venango County is breathtakingly beautiful and has a great amount of history. There is always more to see, do, and learn,” she told us. “The people of Venango County have always had a special place in my heart. People truly care about each other here, and it creates a feeling unlike what I have experienced anywhere else. Getting to work here is truly a blessing.”

We’re so glad you’re here, Ivy!

Emily Lewis is Executive Director of the Venango County Economic Development Authority, the lead economic development organization in the county created in early 2018. The Authority’s goal is to remove barriers to growth for businesses and create an inviting place where people want to live.

Helping our area succeed is a passion of Emily’s, especially since she is a Venango County native who grew up in Jackson Township (just outside Cooperstown) and attended Rocky Grove High School.

After high school, Emily studied at Slippery Rocky University where she earned a bachelor’s degree in Environmental Studies with minors in Business Administration and Geographic Information Systems (GIS).

During college, Emily worked as a GIS intern and then a Planning intern at the County of Venango, which led to a full-time job with the Planning Commission upon graduation. Emily has always worked in Venango County, but lived in Cranberry Township near Pittsburgh for a brief time.

Professionally, one of Emily’s achievements includes heading the Cornplanter Square Building project in Oil City, which she describes as a “great building with good bones that means a lot to the community,” and she’s excited to play a part in bringing it back to life. She is also proud of the launch of eAcademy, a new program providing education and training on entrepreneurship to high school seniors, and being awarded a grant she wrote to create a sidewalk to connect Franklin and Sugarcreek.

A personal achievement of Emily’s includes climbing Mt Washburn during a recent visit to Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming. Emily and her husband Josh live in Franklin with their dog Bo, and enjoy hiking, especially at Two Mile Run County Park and spending time with family. Emily is also a huge fan of house plants and enjoys decorating, such as repurposing old furniture.

There are many reasons Emily is glad to live and work in Venango County. “The people are probably my favorite part,” she said. “I love the feeling of walking down the street and seeing everyone smiling at each other, and I feel like people are willing to try new things and take risks.”

Emily looks forward to continuing to grow the organization and seeing how she can be useful to the community. Thanks for all your hard work, Emily!

These articles were published in the Future Leaders & Entrepreneurs Exchange’s (FLEX) November 2019 edition of the FLEX Your Ideas (FYI) Newsletter.