January 2016

Groups work to keep talent in Madison

We checked in with a handful of professional...

Madison is rife with professional development groups that nurture members’ careers, foster community and create a dynamic—and sustainable—quality of life that keeps talent local. We checked in with a handful of thriving groups to hear what 2016 has in store for them and us.

Urban League Young Professionals
The Urban League Young Professionals Madison chapter, one of fifty-five active annual YP chapters nationwide, is making a serious mark on the Madison community. With a core intention to support the Urban League of Greater Madison’s mission, its sixty-two YP Madison members also focus on personal and professional development opportunities, while working toward the greater good for all; in 2014 alone, local YP members raised $14,700 and contributed 1,160 community service hours to ULGM and the broader Madison community.

“Our slogan is about empowering communities and changing lives,” says former YP president Ariana Mankerian, whether that’s in the form of volunteering at food pantries or distributing books to promote literacy, awarding hardship grants and scholarships, fostering professional development and networking or recognizing talented young entrepreneurs and leaders at its key annual fundraising event, the Emerge Gala.

“In Madison there are a ton of opportunities for young professionals,” says Mankerian. “It’s a matter of making sure that all those opportunities are open to all, that everyone has the same workforce and education opportunities, no matter your background.”

Out Professional and Executive Network
What began eight years ago simply as a way to connect LGBT executives is now a full-fledged, diverse, one-hundred-member networking and professional development organization.

“This organization is for everybody. You don’t have to be an executive, you don’t have to be ‘established,’” says Gregory Frahm, OPEN president as of January 2016, a year he says will bring even more growth for the group. Guests are welcome to attend events to see what the organization is all about. At its core, however, OPEN remains a vital networking hub for all LGBT individuals regardless of career path, including students, entry-level professionals and retirees, to connect, engage and thrive, which translates to greater quality of life for all.

“So often, Madison is a place where individuals will get their start and build their resume, but then don’t feel that they have the professional or social network to continue to thrive in this area, so they look for greener pastures in Minneapolis or Chicago or New York,” says Frahm. “We can provide opportunities to develop networks and allow for career advancement, ultimately put people in more senior positions within their organizations, and then hopefully have them in a position to make sure that corporate or organization policies within the workplace are suitable to allow the next wave of LGBT professionals to feel safe and comfortable in their workplace.”

Latino Chamber of Commerce of Dane County
The Latino Chamber of Commerce of Dane County engages, empowers and develops Madison’s Latino business community, with one invaluable advantage: The 195-member Latino Chamber is the only one that provides technical assistance, workshops and seminars in Spanish.

“What we want to do is provide that cultural competence so that when our Latino neighbors come in, they see someone that looks like them, can speak their language, and understands that this business environment of permits and licenses can get pretty tricky,” says Latino Chamber president Mayra Medrano.

The Latino Chamber produces cultural community events such as the annual Latino Art Fair and hosts a monthly La Movida radio show, “Mundo de Negocios,” tackling topics such as self-employment and entrepreneurship.

New for the Latino Chamber is its two-year-old, already 155-member-strong networking and professional development arm, the Latino Professional Association. LPA connects Latino professionals with each other and with invested civic leaders and community partners, such as American Family, Alliant, MGE and CUNA Mutual—“those that are really involved and putting effort,” says Medrano, “into building a strong community.”

Madison Magnet


Now almost twelve years old, Madison’s original networking, professional development and community involvement organization for young professionals is evolving. With an eye to battling brain drain and keeping talent local, Magnet implemented a new student membership in 2015. It also partnered with the University of Wisconsin–Madison to join the new graduate student resource fair.

“How do we get people to come to school in Madison and want to stay?” says Magnet board president Corinn Ploessl. “We feel like being a part of Magnet can really help with that. Get them engaged and involved as students, then have them build a network and friends that help in their decision to stay in the area.”

Open to all industry and trade sectors, Magnet continues to provide collaborative networking events for its young professionals, particularly in hot spots highlighting unique or newly opened small businesses. Its Community Connections series fosters volunteer work with local organizations because that, too, says Ploessl, will keep talent close. “We believe giving back to the community helps them build ties to where they work and live.”

Madison Network of Black Professionals 
It can be challenging to be the only person of color in the workplace, especially for professionals who are looking to take their careers to the next level.

For the past eleven years, the Madison Network of Black Professionals has been a place for its members to gain access to professional development opportunities and associate with other like-minded individuals.

“The reason we formed was we noticed there was an absence of input from Black professionals and we wanted to help groom, recruit and retain Black professionals in this community,” says Dawn B. Crim, the organization’s president for the 2016-18 term and associate dean for external relations in the School of Education at the University of Wisconsin–Madison.

Crim says Madison can be a transient place. People come here for school, graduate and decide to stay and enter the workforce. But for some African Americans, they become the one Black professional there. “So we thought it made sense to try to build a network across the city so professionals feel supported and connected as well as informed on what’s happening in the community.”

The network organizes a lunch every month hosted by a local business. Crim says it enables the host businesses to see a cross-section of Black professionals that they might not otherwise see in their own professional circles. “Oftentimes you’ll find there are networks that are closed, or you are not aware of because you’re a person of color. You don’t have access,” she says.

The organization is open to anyone who wants to support the connections that the network is trying to make in Madison, Crim says. 


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