The Man Behind the Client Relations Curtain: An Interview with Mike Pahl
by Kathy Reschke, Crib Notes Editor
ZERO TO THREE is fulfilling its mission to ensure that all babies have a strong start in life through a wide variety of initiatives and projects. But we certainly don’t do it alone! We depend on connections to individuals, agencies, and organizations outside of ZERO TO THREE to reach as many parents, professionals, and policymakers as possible. One of the key people responsible for nurturing those connections, making wonderful things happen as a result, is Mike Pahl, Client Relations Manager for the Professional Development and Workforce Initiatives (PDWI), the department that focuses on building knowledge, skills, and abilities of professionals across all early childhood sectors. This position is a relatively new one at ZERO TO THREE, in a department that is only a few years old, so we’ve got questions! …and Mike was happy to answer them for us. We hope you enjoy meeting Mike and learning more about the man behind the Client Relations curtain!
In twenty-five words or less, what is that you do, Mike?
I cultivate positive and lasting relationships with ZERO TO THREE clients and enhance both internal and external understanding of PDWI’s products and services.
You already had a different position at ZERO TO THREE when the new position of Client Relations Manager for PDWI was created. What was it about this new role that was intriguing or attractive to you?
What most attracted me to this role was the fact I’d be able to engage and foster partnerships that directly impact the populations ZERO TO THREE serves. Our mission is to ensure that all babies and toddlers have the strongest start possible in life and to help achieve that goal, PDWI provides professionals with essential knowledge and tools to nurture early development. The exceptional products and services PDWI develops and pioneers are incredibly important and truly critical to the work of any professional working with young children and their families. For me it’s impossible to not be passionate about this work and I’m thrilled to be on the frontline promoting these services and tools, as well as the organization as a whole.
How does the work fit with who you are, what you are good at, and/or where you want to go in your professional life?
Since I was a little kid, I’ve always wanted to help others. As an undergrad I was initially interested in public service, but by chance my first job after graduation ended up being with a nonprofit. After that first experience with nonprofit work I decided I’d always work for a mission-based organization. Working on behalf of a mission, especially one as important as ZERO TO THREE’s, is what gives me the most satisfaction professionally. I know that the work I’m apart of is directly impacting children and their families. I’ve been with ZERO TO THREE for almost 4 years now and in that time, I’ve progressed to the position I’m in today, and I couldn’t be happier with where I am.
What’s something about your work that people might find surprising?
Well, I don’t think anyone at ZERO TO THREE would find this surprising, but from an outside perspective it might be surprising to learn how collaborative and close our department is even though the majority of our staff work remotely. We have regular virtual collaboration and coordination-focused meetings, but we also have an online forum where we share weekend or vacation plans, photos, etc. We know what’s going on personally and professionally with every team member and though we may not always be geographically close, we feel close as a team.
You actually one of those PDWI staff who work remotely rather in the ZERO TO THREE offices in Washington DC. How do you manage working from home? What are some strategies that work for you?
I’ve been working from home for almost three years and I love it now, but it was a bit of an adjustment at the beginning because I was so used to working in an office environment. One thing I’ve found to be important is that you have to communicate often and feel connected to your team. If you don’t, you’re going to feel isolated and work is going to be very lonely. You also need to stick to a schedule—try to begin and end work at the same time every day and be sure to take breaks! I like to go on short walks around my neighborhood, it helps clear my mind and I feel refreshed when I sit back down at my desk to work again.
What are your hopes for you, your work, the department? What inspires you?
In the past couple of years, the PDWI department has grown rapidly and there’s still so much more to come. We have many products and services that are still fairly new; some are still being piloted, others are still in development, and yet others are still being conceptualized. Our reach is growing and not just nationally, but internationally as well. I’m excited for what’s coming down the pike and I think the rest of the field will be as well. So I guess that’s what inspires me most: the fact that, while we’re already offering invaluable contributions and services to the field, in some ways we’re just getting started. It’s incredibly exciting and it’s what I look forward to furthering every day I come in to work.