A Conversation with Suzanne Patackis, president of Harrisburg Young Professionals

Suzanne Patackis - (Photo / Slice of Lime Photography)

When it rains, it pours. For Suzanne Patackis, that old trope could not be more true. The end of 2017 was a time of major life changes for Patackis.

The Harrisburg native left her sales job at medical device company Zimmer Biomet, where she had worked since graduating college 12 years ago, in November. Shortly after, she was asked to lead Harrisburg Young Professionals’ executive board as president. To top it all off, she became engaged around the holidays in December.

Now, Patackis is catching her breath after a hectic couple months. The Business Journal caught up with her in January for a chat at the HYP office in Harrisburg.

How are things on the job front? It’s exciting that you could take on leading HYP’s board and be in-between jobs.

I am job hunting right now and looking for a new opportunity, so just doing a lot of soul-searching and figuring out what I want to do.

[Parting ways with my company] gave me the time to really focus on HYP and start planning for this year.

How big is the membership of HYP?

There are 20 board members and 26 committee chairs. We have well close to 2000 members but unique members, those who are not playing sports, it’s close to six or 700 active, dues-paying members.

Tell me about what brought you back to Harrisburg post-college.

I went to La Salle University in Philadelphia, graduated with a communications and marketing degree. I didn’t have a job lined up, so I was like, “Ok, Harrisburg, here I come!” My parents thought for sure I was staying in Philly. There’s so much to do there, and then moving back home, I realize there’s so much to do here, too.

How did you get your start in your field?

I started in customer service. A year and a half went by, and I was promoted to a marketing position and then a sales support position, and I just kind of worked my way up through the company.

I was the biologic specialist. I focused on all the early intervention products, the stuff you do before you get invasive surgery. So half my time was spent going into the operating room instructing the staff and also doing more of sales side, where I would do presentations to surgeons and hospital staff.

I went through the growing pains of a merger [with a global company] and realized that there’s more that I wanted to pursue and get out of my career…so I’ve been trying to figure out what I want to do.

It’s pretty telling that you get this job out of college, and you stay for a decade and learn a lot about a niche industry and move your way up.

I don’t regret anything. I still have amazing friendships…and 12 years, that’s kind of rare for someone my age. I’m loyal, and I grew with the company, so I hope to see myself do that again.

I’m very lucky because HYP has really opened the door to networking. I feel if I didn’t have those connections I’d be pretty depressed.

Being president of HYP will probably keep you busy enough as it is.

Yes. This is a volunteer position, but there’s a lot of work and a lot of hours, and being the face of the organization, you want to make sure you’re fulfilling the mission to its full potential.

How and when did you get involved in HYP?

I got involved six or seven years ago through a mutual friend. I realized the city’s pretty cool, and I wanted to get more involved. I really wanted to make Harrisburg shine. I found HYP and went to an economic development committee meeting. It turns out a guy that I knew from years ago who was leading the group.

I chaired two committees over four years, then I served on the board, then on the executive board. There are a lot of growing and mentoring opportunities with HYP. My work life and HYP were kind of both going in this same direction.

Why do you think HYP is an important part of the young professionals community in Harrisburg?

We’re showcasing these bright, talented young professionals that are eventually going to be that next stage of top executive and CEOs in the area. And some of those executive and CEOs were past HYP presidents or part of HYP. It’s kind of cool to see that transition through the years.

What do you have planned for HYP’s 20th anniversary this year?

My focus this year is really driving home the idea of servant leadership. Sometimes I think we make leadership out to be bigger than it is. Really leadership is just being kind, being aware of the moment, being friendly and doing good for the community.

I created an ad hoc 20th anniversary committee for really reflecting on the past 20 years. Tell the story of HYP through the past 20 years, but let’s also focus on the next 20 because we’re not going anywhere any time soon.

Becca Oken-Tatum
Becca Oken-Tatum is the web editor for the Central Penn Business Journal. She also coordinates and writes for CPBJ's monthly Young Professionals e-newsletter. Email her questions, comments and tips at btatum@cpbj.com.

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