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Why RHD CEO Dyann Roth is leaving for the job at smaller Inglis

Dyann Roth. June 8, 2017 Category: FeatureFeaturedLongPeople


Updated 6/8/17 8:23PM: Clarified the commitment the RHD board has made to interim CEO Marco Giordano.
Why would a CEO take the same job at an organization a fifth the size?

If you ask Dyann Roth, 50, chief of social services giant Resources for Human Development, it can come down to life choices.

This morning RHD announced that by August, Roth, an RHD lifer who started at the nonprofit as a teenager, will start the CEO role at 140-year-old Inglis, another far smaller, if also multifaceted, social services nonprofit. (In 2015, RHD reported more than $255 million in income. By contrast, this fiscal year, Inglis House has a $51.2 million operating budget.)

“RHD is so important in my life. It has really made me who I am,” said Roth. “This is now probably the time for me to design the rest of my career, rather than have it happen to me.”

RHD’s Chief Financial Officer Marco Giordano will become interim CEO on July 31. Roth starts at Inglis on Aug. 21, following the retirement of Gavin Kerr, who held the role since 2008. It represents a unique moment for the RHD board.

Roth was a safe and familiar replacement in 2013 for the iconoclastic and visionary RHD founder Bob Fishman, whose reputation still carries a sizable shadow inside RHD and elsewhere in Philadelphia’s social services sector. What happens now? Does RHD find another stable, familiar leader within its ranks, knowing much of its leadership is made of longtime stewards of the nonprofit giant’s programs in behavioral, mental health and other social services, like homelessness, reentry and drug addiction programs? Or do they bring in someone entirely new?

That’s to come, though Roth says Giordano “is not your average CFO” and seems likely to be the next in line for the permanent internal promotion. ” Giordano will have the role for at least the next year, said RHD spokesman Kevin Roberts, but “the hope and expectation is that Marco will be the CEO.”

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This announcement is instructive in understanding that career goals don’t always follow a linear path of grander titles at ever bigger organizations.

RHD has more than 6,000 employees and a range of 160 programs in 15 states. It’s a behemoth headquartered in a sprawling and light-filled facility wedged between East Falls and Nicetown in North Philadelphia. Inglis has 630 employees, a residential facility, in-home care and a range of services for people with physical disabilities (they’re the largest the largest developer of “affordable” wheelchair-accessible independent living apartments, says Inglis spokesman Gary Bramnick), including initiatives pushing into technology to service those needs.

A search firm working for Inglis contacted Roth for background on filling the CEO role. Roth was intrigued but “had to think long and hard before I even shared that I was interested in being a candidate.”

In the end it fit many of her interests and needs at this point in her career, after working with RHD since a part-time job as a 15-year-old, save for time as an undergraduate at Penn State and a brief stint in a junior role at the United Way in Chester. Since then, she’s been with RHD for 25 years.

“I’ve been very organic with my growth with RHD,” she said. “Now I have an opportunity to be more intentional to design my life.”

Interestingly, Roth will likely get a pay bump when she makes the move, helped by Inglis having an established endowment. (Retiring Inglis CEO Gavin Kerr made more than $500,000, according to public records, though at RHD Roth made $136,268 in 2015.)

“Salary has to be part of it, it can make decision making a little easier, but it wasn’t the driver in this,” she said. “It can’t be.”

For Inglis, the get could be a good one. For one, Roth is the first female CEO in the organization’s 140 year history. Roth has managed a far bigger and more robust offering, though she also has experience in the field, as she climbed through the RHD ranks.

“We are very excited for having someone with Dyann’s capacity and renowned and reputation to join us,” said spokesman Bramnick. In a release, Kerr said he was “pleased” with the choice.

RHD spokeswoman Roberts noted that one of the initiatives that Roth helped foster within RHD was a well-liked leadership development program to cultivate internal leaders.

“Dyann knew that people leave, and that you need to have a transition plan because the main goal is to deliver great services,” Roberts said. “Dyann said she might need to take her own advice.”

What is Roth’s advice for other executives on choosing next career moves?

“Look at your whole life, not just your job. Look at what it might bring in terms of new passion. Whatever you need to do for the right balance to you,” said the mother of two. “In this role, I can be more present with my kids.”

She also noted that Inglis’s narrower focus will allow her to be closer to the work.

“I think I can focus and get more connected to the people. When it’s such a large organization, it can be hard to be connected to our work,” she said. “But let’s not forget: A $52 million organization isn’t small.”

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