Volume 36 Number 2 | April 2022
Ali Nussbaum, MA, MLS(ASCP)CM, ASCLS Leadership Development Committee
Why should a professional want to expand their leadership portfolio? That’s an easy answer: Because it helps you evolve as a person.
Leadership is something that needs to be built upon, practiced, and improved. In order to grow, mistakes and missteps need to occur to provide valuable learning opportunities. Being a leader is a mindset and an attitude, but being a good leader that people look up to takes skill, knowledge, and the willingness to see past your personal ideas for the good of the community. One cannot just consider themselves a leader; they need to be able to demonstrate it in a positive fashion that yields constructive outcomes. The desire to be a leader needs to start from within but then needs to become an external practice of gaining those skills and knowledge.
I am not here to convince you that you should seek out opportunities to grow your personal value as a leader. Although, I’m certain it would benefit your career. My goal here today is to tell my personal story of growth. In 2013 I decided to change professions and began the transition into medical laboratory science (MLS). The best way to tell my story is to try to capture the way I looked at leadership before this career change.
My lack of leadership comfort was evident for as long as I can remember. In high school I did not have the confidence to join any clubs or participate on any real level within school. I was notorious for helping with student council and key club activities but was not a member. Intimidated was the best way to describe my inability to become involved.
College did not get any better. I was attending the University of Minnesota and earning degrees in genetics and biochemistry without any real career goals; I just loved science. At the time, if you would have asked me to serve in a role for anything, I would have adamantly declined and then would likely never talk to you again for fear that you would ask again. I considered myself a follower. Tell me what you want and how you want it done and I will work to accomplish your goals for you. At the time, I didn’t have any goals or passions of my own to pursue, so I enjoyed helping others reach theirs. I was uncomfortable taking credit or praise. My goal was to fly under the radar as someone who was not threatening but highly dependable.
I graduated, worked a couple jobs before meeting someone (Katie Meling) who would change the course of my life. One night while working late and on break, she told me she was returning to school to finish her MLS program. I asked her to explain, and that was the eye-opening moment when I knew my career path needed to change. So, I went to college a second time at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh. A wise program director (John Strous) informed me about a professional organization that is geared to the laboratory profession. I joined, hoping that I could use it to network, because I needed any advantage to gain an internship spot and a future job. That is when the first opportunity arose: be a student representative on a national committee.
This scared me. This was not something I did nor would ever consider applying for. But I did … I joined the national Awards Committee as a student representative. This was a HUGE personal step for me. Something I had never done before. Additionally, this was the defining moment in my ASCLS career that has motivated me to continue trying and advancing myself.
Before this, would I give a presentation? Never. You could not pay me enough to stand up in front of a group of people and talk about anything. Now I am willing to participate in panel discussions and group presentations. Lecture style presentations are still not in my wheelhouse, but I’m actively working towards that.
Before this moment, would I write an article? Not a chance. It was far too embarrassing and difficult to write something and willingly put it out in the world. But since you are reading this, I’ve obviously worked to overcome that hurdle. It still frightens me to write, and I had a minimum of three people read this article before I submitted it.
Before this, would I hold any leadership position whatsoever? Nope. I would work actively to avoid being put into the awkwardly terrible position of being asked to serve. Currently I hold several positions and enjoy providing my own input into the topics.
My ASCLS career has only been a mere six years of growth, but in that time, I believe I’ve already grown 10-fold from where I started. I believe ASCLS is here to support me, and I feel confident that they will come to my assistance in time of need. I would not trade my ASCLS experience for the world, and I look forward to continuing to grow my confidence, step outside of my comfort zone, and develop into a well-rounded leader.
I have been blessed with so many opportunities for leadership development. I’ve been able to participate on every level of the organization on committees, taskforces, and constituent society board of directors. I am a member of the 2021-22 ASCLS Leadership Academy class; attended several conferences, including the Emerging Laboratory Managers Collaborative Conference (ELMC2); and watched several webinars related to leadership. The opportunities within ASCLS for leadership growth are immense and a fantastic member benefit.
Ali Nussbaum is a Microbiologist and a Laboratory Information System Analyst at Hennepin County Medical Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota. She is also the ASCLS Political Action Committee Vice Chair, member of the 2021-22 ASCLS Leadership Academy Class, Region V Symposium Planning Committee Member, ASCLS-Wisconsin Awards Co-Chair, and serves on the ASCLS-Wisconsin SOP Taskforce.