Lead with your heart: Janeen Latin

Nicole Chynoweth//January 21, 2020

Lead with your heart: Janeen Latin

Nicole Chynoweth//January 21, 2020

Janeen Latin –

Janeen Latin’s journey at UCP of Central PA is the epitome of the phrase, “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try, try again.”

She first got involved with the nonprofit organization, which provides services to children and adults living with disabilities, as a volunteer in the early 1990s after her daughter, Ashley, was diagnosed with cerebral palsy and autism. She applied for a paid position and didn’t land it, only to be offered the position when it opened up again.

She worked through a variety of roles at UCP over the last 20-plus years, including Development Director and Foundation Executive Director. She applied for the CEO position in 2016 at the urging of her colleagues, but, despite making it to the top two, she didn’t get the job.

“Rejection can tear you down or build you up, it’s your own personal choice,” Latin said. “I always select the path that there is something to be learned from each experience and seize the opportunity to grow.”

On Dec. 6, 2019, a week before her 22nd anniversary with the organization, Latin was named CEO, after Judith McCowan resigned to take on the role of President and CEO at UCP of Long Island.

“It really demonstrates the fact that UCP is a learning organization,” she said. “I’ve had a lot of opportunities to learn. My last twenty years have really been a culmination of that.”

Latin spoke with CPBJ about working at UCP and her advice for others in the field. Answers have been edited for length and clarity.

With your husband, Frank, you’ve parented two children with autism. How has that shaped your approach to your various roles at UCP?
Obviously my connection to the mission is extremely personal. It really helps me because it’s one thing to understand the right thing to do, but it’s another thing to actually live it day to day. The decisions that I make and the impact that I make on families – I step into those shoes. I think that I really instill that in the staff even if they don’t have a family member with a disability – is that the way they would want their mother to be treated if they were in our care? If I can’t say this is how I would want to be treated or my child, then it’s not the right decision for us as an organization.

What do you want UCP’s team and participants to know about you?
I lead with my heart. I care about our employees and participants deeply and, at the end of the day, it’s always about doing the right thing. I will always use that as my guide. Is it the right thing to do and what is the impact?

Describe the moment you realized UCP was the right workplace for you.
I think it was probably very early on in my career with UCP when the executive director really started to coach me and mentor me. That was the time of my career when I was trying to figure out what I was going to do next. What did I want to do? Once he said to me, “I was told you have a lot of potential.” He was very candid with me. At that point in time, I said I was meant to be here. Prior to that, I was thinking it was a nice job to have while I was figuring things out. He helped me see the impact I can have on the nonprofit industry and he really lit the fire for me.

Which parts of your job do you find the most fulfilling and why?
Developing staff. I have been beyond blessed in my career with some amazing mentors. If I have the opportunity to make a positive impact on someone’s professional development, I consider that an honor. The ripple effect this has on us achieving our mission and impacting lives of people with disabilities is exponential.

What advice would you give others starting out?
Take every opportunity that’s presented to you. Life does begin at the end of your comfort zone. I’ve done a lot of things that I wasn’t comfortable doing. Taking the opportunities and living outside of your comfort zone, that’s where you grow.

What are your best tips for goal-setting?
It’s important to set them. Many people don’t set goals. They just let things happen. Serendipity is nice, but if you want to develop professionally you have to set the goals and be mindful that if you set a goal and don’t attain it that’s OK as long as you’re making progress. Sometimes goals also have to be adjusted.