Columbus Women in Business: Shelly Stotzer, Vice President at IGS Solar Energy
Shelly Stotzer is a driven and open-minded leader, philanthropist, mentor, mother, strategic problem-solver, and badass.
Self-aware and selfless, Shelly will always do what’s necessary to surpass her personal and professional goals while serving her numerous volunteer projects. Over the past 20 years, she has grown from an individual contributor to a C-suite executive and an expert in strategic planning, operations, and marketing, all while building a supportive family and giving back to her community.
Here’s how she got there
After graduating with a bachelor’s degree in Business Operations from Devry University at 20 years old, Shelly made her way to Highlights for Children where she earned a job in marketing analysis. Although her naturally high risk tolerance begged her to be a stockbroker or police officer, she had received a full scholarship to Devry and realized it wasn’t prudent to give it up.
“Sometimes life opens doors that you didn’t expect, and I got into corporate audit and moved into financial analysis,” Shelly said. “Financial analysis gave me a great foundation in numbers.”
From there she continued to work her way up through several different roles. A natural leader and motivator, Shelly found her first opportunity to lead others at Highlights.
“Going from being an individual contributor to getting work done through others is, for me, the biggest transition I ever made in my career, regardless of industry, because it’s a completely different skillset,” Shelly said. “You have to be good at what you do, but then you have to know how to find, recruit, motivate, coach, have tough conversations, hold people accountable for the work you need done, and more.”
Shelly pointed out that one benefit of working at one place for an extended period of time is that you are forced to live with your decisions and what they lead to, and then reflect on it. “If I made a decision two years ago, I was there to see what came of that and live with the consequences—good or bad!”
After 20 years Shelly decided to leave Highlights to explore different career options. Although she didn’t know exactly what she wanted, she was no longer waking up excited where she was.
“I knew that I needed something that would capture both my heart and my head,” Shelly said. “I don’t feel I’m balanced in all areas of my life unless I have both.”
There were very few career opportunities that did fulfill both, and IGS Solar was one of them.
“I feel like we can change the world through solar, the renewable energy source.”
Having already met the IGS team, Shelly knew she would fit well in the company culture.
They were smart, hard working, innovative, positive, and fun and they had created an environment that was a great match with Shelly’s personality. It was a no-brainer.
“It felt like an industry I could get behind and stay around for a very long time,” Shelly said. “Energy is not going away. We need it, and I feel like solar is on the cusp of something amazing, so from the career perspective, it’s a great place to be, right?”
Exactly right. Especially when the team’s camaraderie is “off the charts.”
4 characteristics that contribute to Shelly’s success
Open mind | Shelly contributes a handful of specific characteristics to her continued success, including her open mindedness. “Even if it’s not a good solution right now for this problem, it’s not bad. I like to keep my mind open to possibilities.” She is able to work on various timelines, learn from others, and brainstorm often. Whether it’s from the lowest or highest employee in the organization, Shelly says “If it’s a good idea, it’s a good idea.”
Achiever | Her strengths finder test also identified her as an achiever, described as having a great deal of stamina and being a hard worker. She has the perseverance and drive to always keep going. “If I have to work through the night, wake up earlier, or figure out a way to get my kids to childcare early, whatever it is, I am willing to do what it takes.” And it has obviously paid off.
Creative problem solver | Shelly believes her ability to solve problems creatively is thanks to her ENTP personality type, which allows her to hold several ideas in mind at once and make connections across different ideas and disciplines. “I find myself having good intuition. It’s the combination of a whole bunch of things that I see, hear, feel, touch, and read that lead me to a conclusion.” She is always one step ahead in creative solutions.
Team building | Surrounding herself with a great team hugely contributes to Shelly’s success. She has a knack for hiring strong teams and being able to get the most out of them. “None of these accomplishments are possible if you don’t have a team of people who, together, are able to accomplish more than any of them individually.” It means having real conversations, challenging and supporting one another, and sharing ideas.
Above all, Shelly attributes her success to her selectively established support teams at IGS, home, and volunteer communities.
Giving back to the community
How does one become vice president of a company, be a super mom and wife, and also an active philanthropist? I’m still not quite sure, but Shelly has found a way to do it.
Lately she has been dedicating most of her volunteer time to Girls on the Run, a 501(c)3 non-profit organization dedicated to inspiring girls and helping them succeed. It’s an opportunity to support health and happiness in young girls while spending time with her daughters. Shelly often participates in 5Ks and other races with her two daughters, ages 9 and 11.
A governance board member of the Make A Wish Foundation of Kentucky, Indiana, and Ohio, she ensures that policies, budgets, and high-level decisions are responsible and worthwhile. “Studies show that when you give these wishes to children with life threatening medical conditions, their immune systems and bodies fight harder,” Shelly said. “It gives them something to look forward to.”
Although she is currently in between assignments, Shelly also volunteers as a tech advisor at Rev1 Ventures, where she works with startups to help them prepare for the next steps business development. Tech advisors are assigned to companies based on advisor expertise and the company’s needs. “Rev1 is one of my favorite places to hang out,” Shelly said. “I love the vibe. When you walk in, there are people who are excited, passionate, and energetic about their companies.”
She is also a past volunteer at CoolTechGirls, a Central Ohio-based organization focused on exposing girls to STEM activities, and the Worthington Resource Pantry, where her goal was to directly improve and give back to her immediate community.
A master of work/life balance
A struggle most professionals face at one point or another, Shelly seems to have mastered over time. Her chaotic schedule and regular business travel allow her to put her creative problem solving skills to use at home with her husband and two daughters.
“It’s not easy, but it’s worth it,” Shelly said.
She works diligently to make sure it is, something that wouldn’t be possible without her husband, Joe, who also carries the family when necessary.
According to Shelly, you have to understand what’s important. “It’s not always what’s important in my eyes—it’s what’s important in my family’s eyes. What you assume is important to them may or may not be.”
When there’s a conflict, Shelly will simply ask her daughters what is most important to them, and then she will prioritize her business life to accommodate her daughters’ priorities. “Sometimes it’s not what I thought, and it takes the stress off,” Shelly said. Simple advice, but some we may often forget to take.
When Shelly had a Highlights business trip to New York that fell on her daughter’s birthday, she avoided the conflict by bringing her daughter to New York with her for a weekend of learning and fun. “It was a false binary decision. I didn’t have to make a choice.” Talk about a creative solution.
Another time Shelly was traveling to Baltimore, she got a call about her daughter’s pet dying, and even though her daughter said she didn’t need to, Shelly knew she had to be there for her when it happened. She canceled the trip on her own dime, and traveled back home because she knew what was important. Later her daughter said, “You always know when it’s important to be here.”
Sometimes you just have to think up a creative solution. When her daughter was missing her, Shelly brought her to a board meeting, and she left understanding more about what her mom does at work.
“Understand what’s important, and do it. When you look back, you’ll never regret it.”
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