As we move into a new year at Wild Animal Initiative, I’m happy to announce another kind of transition in our workplace: next week, January 10, I will step down from my role as Executive Director to start a new role. of director of strategy. Cameron Meyer Shorb will serve as interim executive director until we make a permanent selection, a process we plan to launch in May and conclude around August.
Although leadership changes are sometimes seen as difficult times for organizations, this change is one that really excites me, both for myself and for the organization. It’s because the organization is doing so well that I felt it was the right time to initiate a change that we have been considering for a while.
I have thoroughly enjoyed serving as Executive Director for the past two years and have led the organization through a period of tremendous growth. And I’m really proud of what the team accomplished while I was ED. We launched the first research funding program to focus entirely on the welfare of wild individuals, achieved ACE Top Charity status two years in a row, and expanded our staff and fundraising efforts to bring us closer to the scale of our ambitions. I couldn’t be more honored to have led this team through such an important time for our organization.
However, two considerations – one temporary, one permanent – led me to believe that I could better serve the Wild Animal Initiative in another capacity.
A temporary consideration: Throughout my time as an ED, I have only been able to contribute part-time, as I am concurrently pursuing a PhD in Mechanical Engineering from Virginia Tech. I have prioritized my Wild Animal Initiative responsibilities over my PhD and therefore need more time to focus on my degree in order to complete it next semester. My time split between these two jobs was worse for Wild Animal Initiative than if I could serve as a full-time CEO, and in that regard, I’m very happy to hand over the reins to someone who can dedicate a full work week to lead the organization.
An ongoing consideration: My experiences as CEO have shown me the tremendous value organizations can gain by separating day-to-day oversight and decision-making responsibilities from oversight responsibilities for long-term strategy. As the Wild Animal Initiative has grown, so have our operational needs. The urgencies of immediate management concerns have begun to push longer-term strategic issues further from my desk, and a number of strategic projects and initiatives await my undivided attention. Additionally, I see my comparative advantage as being more in the area of strategy than day-to-day monitoring. As Chief Strategy Officer, I will focus my efforts on the type of work I love most and am most good at.
In September of last year, I started a sabbatical to focus on my PhD, and my sabbatical allowed me to develop these thoughts. During this time, Cameron has led the organization excellently and will do an incredible job over the next 5 months as I work to complete my PhD and adjust to my role as Chief Strategy Officer. Then, in May, I will return to full-time staff and support the Board in the search for a new CEO. While I am fully convinced that Cameron could take on the role of Executive Director on a permanent basis, he and I agree that we want to take this opportunity to see if there might also be other excellent leaders with new skills and knowledge who would benefit our team.
It has truly been a wonderful experience working with everyone at Wild Animal Initiative – we have an extremely friendly and talented team, as well as our great donors without whom none of our work would be possible. I am so excited that I will continue to be part of the Wild Animal Initiative team, while pursuing an exciting and necessary role in supporting the strategic imperatives of the organization.
Please read on for additional insight from Acting Executive Director Cameron Meyer Shorb and Board Chair Christine Perry.
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