Get to Know Sally J. Guzik, Fourth Economy's Vice President of Strategic Initiatives
In July, Sally J. Guzik joined Fourth Economy + Steer as the new Vice President of Strategic Initiatives. It marks a return to her hometown of Pittsburgh after five years spent in Miami and Philadelphia, and a step forward in her commitment to equitable, community-based economic development. In her last role, Sally worked directly with entrepreneurs and companies to support innovation and economic growth. As the VP of Strategic Initiatives, she gets to take what she learned and apply it at a new scale – helping many organizations, cities, and regions create economic environments where diverse peoples, communities, and businesses can flourish.
We asked Sally a few questions about her new role, how it builds on her past personal and professional experiences, and what she’s excited to accomplish at Fourth Economy. And, since she loves collecting and listening to vinyl records, we also had to find out her what some of her favorite albums are!
Welcome to Fourth Economy + Steer! You are the new Vice President of Strategic Initiatives. What does that involve? What kind of things are you working on from day to day?
No two days are the same, for sure, and that is great! Our team is leading several projects across the country, ranging from developing economic competitiveness and recovery plans to examining the tech ecosystem for a tech council. I’m currently excited about working with our team to share our clients’ successes and stories in a broader format. We’re in the process of growing as an organization and learning where we can deepen our expertise. We anticipate 2022 to be a year focused on the recovery of many cities affected by the pandemic. The recovery funding may be one of the only chances in my lifetime to see such a financial investment put forward. I hope we can use this opportunity as a country to propose bold solutions to longstanding community challenges.
Right now, our team is gearing up for how we can best support efforts to drive these ideas forward., I’ll be working with our team to lead our marketing and communications efforts and our staff
attraction and development. As a people-centered firm, taking time to develop our staff is a priority. We work with brilliant folks who have been with amazing organizations before coming to Fourth Economy, and who bring that wealth of experience to their work with Fourth Economy's clients. We
want to continue attracting intelligent, creative,
curious people who are committed to making a difference.
Your career path has taken you from early community-based and non-profit roles into economic development work. Most recently you were the General Manager and Executive Director of the Cambridge Innovation Center in Philadelphia, working with start-ups and research & development teams to spur innovation. How are you applying what you learned from these past experiences to your work at Fourth Economy?
I valued being around entrepreneurs because they taught me to embrace risk and failure much more than I ever had before. Creative solutions became a lot more attractive when I started seeing them achieve success. I realized just because something was ‘done this way before’ didn’t mean it had to continue in the same way. Often, institutions and government organizations hesitate to take risks because they have not left financial margins that allow for sustainable operations in the event of failures. However, the fast-paced environment of startups is similar to economic development work in that these risks have high stakes, affecting the livelihood of many people. In entrepreneurship, there is an emphasis on collaboration, continual feedback, and thinking outside the box. Those skills translate into our work at Fourth Economy, where we try to address challenges in a new way.
You begin your Fourth Economy bio by mentioning you are a first-generation college graduate. How has that achievement motivated or informed your work?
Being a first-generation, low-income, college student shaped my passion for community service and engagement. I’m proud of being from a small town in the Mon Valley in Pittsburgh. It’s a region similar to many rust belt towns still recovering from the collapse of the steel industry and manufacturing more generally. In addition to navigating college and financial resources alone, I also had to navigate access to quality health care, educational opportunities, and career opportunities.
First-generation college students still experience emotional and financial stress when navigating college. I’ve dedicated my time to supporting nonprofits like the Collective Success Network to ensure that first-generation college students have meaningful mentorship opportunities throughout their college experience and succeed in earning their undergraduate degrees. I believe that representation matters, and if telling my story about being a first-generation college student can support someone else’s growth, that is important to me.
What are you looking forward to accomplishing at Fourth Economy?
I’m looking forward to supporting the team’s growth over the next few years. We have such a strong group of individuals who are passionate about helping others. Our team is spread throughout the country now, allowing us to expand our perspective and understanding of how communities address similar challenges.
You’re a record collector! What would your Desert Island LPs be, if you were fortunate enough to have a record player wash ashore?
John Coltrane, A Love Supreme
Herbie Hancock, Head Hunters
Joanna Newsom, Ys
Bloc Party, Silent Alarm
Jenny Lewis with the Watson Twins, Rabbit Fur Coat
MGMT, Oracular Spectacular
De La Soul, 3 Feet High and Rising
Shakira, MTV Unplugged
Too many to choose from! I love collecting vinyl because you have to love every song on a record--from start to finish. There are no skipping tracks or sides, and you listen to the entire record in order as intended.