Jim Wagoner

Oakland, CA

I served as an engineering and manufacturing executive at Intel for 33 years. During that time, I promoted the concepts of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) education at schools by volunteering in elementary through high school classrooms. I also volunteered for Junior Achievement in the classroom, and took a seat on the Silicon Valley board as their Director of Strategic Planning.

I thought the opportunity to do an Encore Fellowship would be a great transition for me. I couldn’t envision going from 135 miles per hour to 0. I wanted to take my energy and apply it to working for a nonprofit for a year, while learning how to transition from corporate life to personal time. When I decided to take an Encore Fellowship, I knew I wanted to continue to work with youth around STEM.

I used my skills to provide process improvement, strategic and business planning, and consulting to Techbridge Girls, a program to expand the academic and career options for girls in science, technology, and engineering. It has worked with over 4,000 girls in grades 5-12 through after-school and summer programs in the San Francisco Bay area, Washington D.C, and Seattle in the last four years.

I worked with the CEO, and was pulled into executive staff meetings, providing tools for decision-making, insights, and coaching for the team. First, I looked at best practices for how to scale out and grow the organization. I interviewed people involved in the scale out, how they grew their infrastructure and how they interacted with local partnerships, what went well, and what didn’t. I looked at models and the landscape for scaling nonprofits, and then created a “recipe” of how to scale, what to pay attention to when expanding, what to do differently, how to support local regions.

I helped the CEO with the annual planning process, looking at the timing, the process, how did financial budgeting play into strategic planning, as well as data collection and analysis. We put together KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) to assist the CEO to monitor performance. Another initiative I focused on was the IT infrastructure. We moved the entire infrastructure to the cloud, for external support, rather than trying to do it inhouse. I also led the project to move the organization, finalizing the leasing documentation, space planning and orchestrating the move.

When the COO gave notice, I was asked to become the interim COO for six months, overseeing HR, finance, administration, and operations, while a search was conducted.

I gained appreciation on how difficult it is for a nonprofit to straddle the fence on both its mission for social impact and managing the business operations and infrastructure. I also gained insight into the gaps that girls of color and in low social economic status situations face, how difficult it is to get exposure to what may be possible from a career in STEM. Even if they don’t go into STEM, Techbridge Girls provides them skills such as team work, self- confidence, and public speaking.

I now intend to stay in the social impact space, consulting on operations and business administration. A year and a half ago, I was just going to spend 1000 hours helping an organization out, providing extra capacity. I realized that even though I came from a Fortune 50 company running organizations around the world, I could translate my experience into a much smaller organization, and found my skills valued. It put me on a new path. I would never have seen past my current job, but now I see an opportunity to provide skills for other nonprofits. I credit the Encore Fellowships for putting me in this direction.