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Dondi Scumaci

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The Advocate



Dondi Scumaci Interview

by Carol Kurtz

"One of my greatest obstacles was the need to please people." -- Dondi Scumaci


Dondi Scumaci is an international speaker, author, and an expert in professional and personal development. She is well known for her high energy on the platform and for the dramatic results that her seminars inspire.

Prior to establishing her consulting firm, Elevations Unlimited, Inc., Dondi was Vice President and Director for two of the largest financial institutions in the United States.

Dondi co-authored Thriving in the Midst of Change and developed Mentoring-in-a-Box, an interactive, self- study tool for mentors and protégés. She is also the author of Designed for Success, a book which helps encourage and advise women in today’s hectic workplace.

Dondi is currently working on her next book, Hope Grows Wild In My Garden, which is slated for released from Strang Publications in late 2008, early 2009. She lives in San Antonio, Texas with her husband Scumaci, son Tabor, and Basset Hounds –Sir Ignatius of San Antonio, Manhattan Rising, and Isabel de Fortunato.

CAROL: How did your book “Designed for Success” come to be?

DONDI: Writing has always been a passion, and becoming a bestselling author was a longstanding goal. The inspiration for “Designed for Success” is twofold. First, there was a great need. Women often have a difficult time finding strong mentors in the workplace. For many “Designed” has become exactly that – a personal mentor, offering advice and encouragement. When women tell me that they can hear me speaking specifically to them as they read, it is the highest compliment. That is exactly what I hoped for – that women would feel connected, appreciated, and deeply understood. The second inspiration for “Designed” has been the audience. After attending conferences, so often people would ask, “Do you have a book?” Designed for Success is my long-awaited, “Yes.”

Had you written much before? Please explain.

Much of my work involves writing - articles, blogs, keynote presentations, or workshop materials. Every presentation begins with something researched and written. Prior to Designed for Success, I collaborated with a group of authors to produce and publish a book on managing change. My element of the project was, Thriving in the Midst of Change. That “chapter” became a bestselling keynote presentation – one that I love presenting to this day.

How is a Christian businesswoman different from a businesswoman who is not a Christian?

Perhaps the greatest difference is source and resources. I lean heavily on my faith. I can walk out into even the most difficult circumstances feeling centered and at peace. It was a wonderful moment when I finally “got that.” I don’t have to do any of this on my own strength. In fact, I limit God when I try to accomplish things under my own steam. God is big and He has a big plan.

Why do you believe we are designed for success?

Look at the detail and strategy in all of God’s designs. He thought of everything. His plan is perfect, and while He will not impose His plan upon us, He created us for a purpose. I cannot think of a greater achievement than discovering and accomplishing that purpose. Something amazing happens when we tap into our design – when we do what we were built for. The greatest tragedy is living below our possibility and never fully realizing our potential.

Designed for Success by Dondi ScumaciWhat is the most important quality you look for when interviewing a potential employee?

Personal accountability. We live in a society that encourages and promotes an attitude of entitlement. I have a Public Service Announcement for that: “No one owes us a bloody thing!” Our lives are built one choice at a time, and while we don’t control everything that happens to us, we have complete control over our responses. People with a strong sense of personal accountability are focused on the actions they can take and the impact they can have. They do not give attention or strength to “victim-like” mentalities. They are not interested in blame or excuses. They own their outcomes; that is empowering. Empowered people breakthrough barriers, partner effectively with others, and get results. They press through and persevere. Personal accountability really is an issue of character. It is refreshing because it breeds honesty – it invites others to take ownership as well.

What are some appropriate ways to share your faith in the workplace?

The way we live is the message. A life well-lived attracts people. When people say, “I want what you have,” or ask, “How do you do it?” I tell them. Not by my own strength – ever. The source of my strength and the motivation for my work is God. It is a desire to move the very heart of God. If I can do that, my results will take care of themselves. Most of my work is speaking and consulting in the corporate arena. After hearing me speak people will often ask, “You are a Christian, aren’t you?” The answer is a whole-hearted, “Yes, and I am glad that comes through in the message.” My faith is an important part of who I am. It doesn’t detract from the business message, it adds. “Designed” is a good example I think of sharing faith in the workplace. It is a “business message” delivered by a Christian messenger.

What would you consider inappropriate?

Preaching, judging, or beating people over the head with God. That is not attractive at work or elsewhere. Thank God it is not my job to judge anyone.

What advice do you have for women who have been home raising their kids for years and are getting ready to find a job again? How can they deal with feeling left behind?

First, congratulations on the investment you have made in your children. The choice to be a mom first may have meant putting some of your personal and professional dreams aside for a season. The most worthwhile achievements cost something initially, and they pay tremendous dividends! My first advice is not to discount what you have learned and how you have grown in your role as “Mom.” As you plan to enter or reenter the workforce, the challenge will be to market your skills and objectives effectively. Get connected with other women in the workplace through professional associations. Volunteer for the causes you care about. Tap into your personal network. (You may be surprised by the depth and reach of the network you already have.) Find a mentor – someone who can help you develop a plan and build a bridge to the future.

Do you have children/pets, and how have you found the balance between family and a career?

My son Tabor has just turned 25. I have loved every moment of being his mother, and he is just fabulous. Every age has been my favorite. My husband, Scumaci is my best friend. We have a pack of lovely Basset Hounds – Sir Ignatius of San Antonio, Manhattan Rising, and Isabel de’ Fortunate’. We also have a fabulous “extended” family that keeps us very busy. I love it when our home is filled with the people we love.

I travel extensively with a full calendar of speaking events and consulting engagements. Balance is a challenge. We manage it through goal setting and prioritizing. We make sure that in addition to professional goals, we have established goals for our relationships. We must develop a vision for the person, not just the professional we want to be. Next we protect what we value by establishing appropriate boundaries, managing our commitments and learning how to say, “No.” We learn to negotiate and to ask for what we need to be successful at work and at home. It is impossible to be all things to all people all of the time. We must carefully choose our priorities and construct our lives around what we value.

What’s the biggest mistake women make in the workplace?

Research indicates women are actually more comfortable talking their weaknesses than their strengths! Early in life we are taught, “Don’t fight, get along, don’t brag, and nobody likes a bossy girl.” Each of us must find ways to talk about our efforts and our achievements – to market ourselves effectively.

What should someone do if they are expected to do something that goes against their faith, like lie for their boss?

We simply cannot exchange our integrity for anything. If asked to do that, we need to have our personal “script” ready. That might sound something like, “I am uncomfortable with this request because it violates my personal “code of conduct.” You can put some top spin on the ball by adding, “I know you would never ask me to compromise my ethics, and I appreciate that. Thank you for understanding.” If we find ourselves in a position that requires us to use this script frequently, we may need to reevaluate the job. This may not be a good fit.

What’s the biggest obstacle you’ve had in your life, and how did you overcome it?

Some obstacles are on the outside. Some are on the inside. Every obstacle will test you; it will reveal pieces and parts that need work. Obstacles sharpen our senses and our skills. They humble us and keep us from becoming arrogant or complacent. One of my greatest obstacles was the need to please people. The need to please morphs into an “approval addiction.” When you are addicted to approval, you lose your center and give your power away. I learned to overcome this by “rewriting my personal script” and managing my messages from the inside out. Managing Your Messages is actually the first commandment in Designed for Success; when we learn how to do this, it is so liberating. I replaced a self-limiting message with an empowering one. Instead of, “It is important to be liked and to please everyone,” I learned to say, “It is important to have impact – to make a real difference.” Don’t misunderstand; I still want to be liked. Who wakes up in the morning and announces, “I hope no one likes me today.” That’s just ridiculous. But the need to be liked is not my motivator. It is not in the front of my mind when I am writing or speaking. When I am performing, I have learned to get “me” out of the way. It isn’t about me at all. It is about delivering real value to the people who are in the seats or turning the pages of the book.

Tell us about your career journey and how you got started.

My career began in the banking industry. I began at the entry level and progressed to an executive level for two top financial institutions. In 1995, I launched my consulting practice. This began a fulltime speaking career. All of those experiences and opportunities have led here with Designed for Success (and two more book releases in the months to come.)

The thing about my career path (the part I don’t recommend) is that is wasn’t planned to begin with. I think I responded well to the opportunities that presented themselves, but in the beginning I was not proactively managing my career. I didn’t understand that I have options! When you don’t see options, you certainly don’t exercise them. When I finally “got that,” I began to design a career around my strengths and values.

Anything else you’d like to share with TitleTrakk.com readers?

I appreciate so much this opportunity to share what has led to the release of Designed for Success. “Designed” has taken off beautifully. It is very rewarding to see what women are doing with the strategies – how they are implementing them. For many women, Designed has become a personal mentor – a source of encouragement and innovation. When I receive messages from women who have read the book, implemented the tools, and experienced a breakthrough, I am absolutely thrilled. This is exciting stuff!

What are two things people might be surprised to know about you?

When I was very young, I was an accomplished Ventriloquist! I still have my first Ventriloquist “dummy,” Danny O’Day. My husband thinks that is a little creepy, so I have to keep Danny stored in the closet.

It takes me days to decorate my Christmas tree and hours to wrap each present. Every present has a theme and wrapping is an art form!

What do you do to relax?

Pilates is the ultimate relaxation for me home or on the road. I enjoy horseback riding, art projects, reading, and gardening. I love altered art. I enjoy photography, and I am beginning to explore digital scrapbooking.

What did you eat for breakfast this morning?

I am not very exciting for breakfast. Typically a strong cup of Starbucks in the French Press and two slices of brown rice toast. I become much more interesting at lunch. My favorite is sushi or very spicy stir fry over brown rice – the hotter the better. I have finally mastered chopsticks and that pleases me!

Three things always found in your refrigerator:

Penta water, Aspargus, and Fresh Garlic. (And that really is pretty much it, unless you count the takeout menus on the second shelf. There is a phone near the refrigerator for calling in take out.)

You’re next in line at Starbucks. What are you ordering?

What I’d like to order? Quad, Venti, Breve, No Foam Latte. What I actually do order? Tall coffee, black, no room.

What’s left unchecked in your “goals for life” list?

I love traveling to Africa, and one of my dreams has been to rock babies in an orphanage there. In August my son and I will travel to Kenya for a Designed for Success tour. I will have the opportunity then to visit an orphanage in Nairobi. I am looking forward to that very much. We will also go on a Photo Safari. That is another dream of mine.

When was the last time you cried?

This morning during praise and worship. When I step into the presence of God I should never be wearing mascara, and I should always have tissue ready.

Three words that best describe you:

Idealistic, Driven, Blessed

What’s currently in your CD player/iPod?

For music it is Andrea Bocelli, Phil Driscoll, or Selah. I also love audio books. More than likely that a wonderful English mystery.

Carol Kurtz Darlington is a certified personal trainer and a certified group fitness instructor who works with people who want to lose weight as well as those who just want to enjoy better health. She enjoys empowering and encouraging others to reach their health and fitness goals, feel better about themselves in the process, and enjoy more energy to stay active in all areas of their lives. She is the founder of Totally Fit With Carol, a Christian weight loss website featuring workout videos, health tips, exercise advice, and more. She loves her morning cappuccino and her beloved grand-dog. In her spare time, she enjoys traveling and haunting Starbucks.