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Goodwill's Lake Selected for RBJ's Forty Under 40

Oct 13, 2016

ROCHESTER, NY – We are proud to celebrate that Jennifer Lake, Vice President of People Resources at Goodwill of the Finger Lakes, has been selected for a 2016 Rochester Business Journal “Forty Under 40” award. Lake will be honored alongside other nominees at a ceremony held at the Joseph A. Floreano Rochester Riverside Convention Center on November 17, 2016.

Nominations for the RBJ’s “Forty Under 40” awards are made by the community. Finalists are then selected by a committee of business leaders. The awards recognize 40 women and men, under the age of 40, who have achieved professional success and have also made significant civic contributions to the community.

The fact that others in the community value the work she does at Goodwill and volunteering in her personal life made a real impact on Lake. “First off, to have other people feel like you are worthy of being nominated means a lot,” says Lake. “When I was reading the nomination letters the award didn’t matter, because I was so overwhelmed by the kind words; by individuals acknowledging that what I do makes a difference.”

“With over 800 employees in 20 locations throughout nine counties, our (Goodwill of the Finger Lakes) Board of Directors is fortunate to have such an accomplished HR executive leading the important and integral activities that such a position entails. [S]he is someone who is making a difference not only within Goodwill and ABVI but throughout our community and beyond,” says Gerard Rooney, Ph.D., President of St. John Fisher College and Goodwill of the Finger Lakes board member.

For Lake, one of the most significant professional efforts has been the work she has led to build and implement a strong talent management strategy and a more robust learning culture. She has developed an emerging leaders program that has made a significant impact throughout the organization. This is a stellar example of how the culture of the organization has evolved in the 10 years she has been at Goodwill.

“Through employee feedback, talking, and listening to people you realize that there is more we could be doing and how much more of an impact the organization could make as a collective with all of these great individuals being more engaged,” says Lake. She led the effort to take what she described as an already good culture, and improving on it by finding ways to involve more employees and build on the organization’s shared values. She points to some of the programs that have been implemented, like the Spirit Award program and the GOOD HEALTH programs, as examples of how the culture shift has moved the responsibility for the organization’s shared mission and vision from leadership to everyone at Goodwill.

Outside the office, Lake says she is most proud of her work serving as a mentor to other young professionals in the Human Resources field.

“Whether its people looking to enter the field, an individual already in the field looking to advance his or her career, or pro-bono coaching. There have been several individuals who I’ve crossed paths with that I’ve been able to help through coaching realize their dreams,” says Lake. “For many of them it stems from truly seeing themselves for how wonderful, confident, and talented they are, which has allowed them to feel their own personal and professional success.”

In addition to the mentoring/coaching, Lake is a member of the National Human Resources Association, where she is currently the president-elect.

“Her leadership on a local and national level with NHRA (National Human Resource Association) demonstrates her commitment to the growth of and educational opportunities for the community of HR Professionals across the US,” says Candace Walters, President of HR Works, Inc.

Lake also volunteers with smaller organizations such as Bivona Child Advocacy Center and through her church, donating her time each week. “There are smaller organizations I am a part of, where a couple of hours a week allows them to serve thousands,” says Lake. “In the year that Jen has been involved with Bivona, we have made significant improvements and grown as an agency due to her dedication to this agency,” says Mary Whittier, Executive Director of Bivona.

She looks to the future and says she wants to continue down the path Goodwill is on. “I feel that while we’ve done a lot, our organization is just starting to increase our community impact, and I’m excited that I get to be a part of doing even more throughout the community. I see my work role as a primary avenue to doing that in the widest scope,” says Lake.

“She has transcended her role in Human Resources and is integrally involved in our extensive operations. Jennifer has played a critical role in propelling our organization’s growth and helping to create many additional job opportunities for people in our community,” says Gidget Hopf, President and CEO of Goodwill of the Finger Lakes.

Born in Ohio, Lake moved to Syracuse, NY in middle school. She graduated from St. John Fisher College in 2002. She credits her husband and daughter for understanding that her roles with Goodwill and in the community mean she will be busy personally and professionally more often than not. She says her mother and grandparents have also made an impact in her life by instilling in her at a young age the value of service to others.

“Whether it was my mom or my grandparents, they were always giving back to the community. I saw them as role models and I am happy to follow in their footsteps,” says Lake.