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How PHMC enables employees to turn their passion into purpose

August 15, 2019 Category: FeaturedLongPurpose
There’s something contagious about Katherine Addison’s passion for what she does.

It could be that her work at the Public Health Management Company (PHMC) is her passion, so to ask her about it naturally exposes her enthusiasm. Or, perhaps it’s that when she talks about proactively seeking out the opportunities she wants, you can’t help but feel compelled to do the same.

“Working at PHMC fits into my overall passion and purpose,” said Addison, the director of case management and program standards in the Forensic Services Program. “As a social worker, as an advocate for social justice and as someone who wants to improve the welfare of other individuals, PHMC has the resources and access to the disenfranchised populations that I want to work with.”

PHMC is one of the most comprehensive public health resources in the country, with over 350 programs serving almost 350,000 clients annually. The organization has helped modernize the public health sphere, taking a holistic approach to client welfare.

Katherine Addison.

As Addison tells it, her secret to staying energized at work is due in part to what she does outside of it.

“I’m not limited to the work I do at PHMC,” said Addison. “I’ve model for a company called Bouche Bridal Productions and walk runways throughout the Delaware Valley. I volunteer with the Philadelphia chapter of the Black Butterflies Sisterhood Organization. I work after hours, part-time within PHMC’s Home Health Assessment Program for individuals that need supportive services.  These are the things that bring me joy. You gotta find that balance.”

Read on to learn more about Addison’s career journey at PHMC and how she’s found ways to channel her passion into purpose.

Generocity: What has your career trajectory looked like?

Addison: I earned my undergraduate degree in social work from East Carolina University where I played collegiate basketball on a four-year scholarship. After I graduated, I couldn’t find a job in North Carolina without a master’s degree.

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So, I called my dad and said, “Baby girl’s coming to Philly!” I got a job as a social worker at Sleighton Farms. Then it shut down. So I became a therapist, and worked in Delaware and at Thomas Jefferson University.

You just never know who you’re going to meet in your career. While at Jefferson, a housing coordinator visited my treatment program and told me the Forensic Intensive Recovery program at PHMC was hiring evaluators.

I began working at PHMC in 2002. I started off as an evaluator in the clinical assessment unit and worked my way up the ranks to become an evaluation supervisor.

"You just never know who you’re going to meet in your career."
Katherine Addison

While still working full-time, I went back to school to earn my master’s in social work from Widener University. While you won’t get a free ride, depending on which department you work in, PHMC does offer tuition assistance.

After receiving my degree, my role upgraded from supervisor to director.

Generocity: Tell us a little bit about what your role entails:

Addison: As director of case management and program standards in the Forensic Services Program, I oversee a unit that coordinates support services for approved ex-offenders outside of institutions sentenced to drug and alcohol treatment programs.

In our unit, we work with these returning citizens who are court-stipulated to receive drug and alcohol services, many of whom also require mental health services.

Generocity: Walk us through a typical day in your life.

Addison: I’m a mother to an 18-year-old and a cat named Bambi. I commute to PHMC’s 1500 Market Street office from my home in South Philly.

My days consist of many meetings and doing outreach over the phone. Part of my role is also to generate new revenue through grant writing.

During a typical day, I may have a probation meeting with another director to figure out how can we communicate better as programs. Or, I might connect with other individuals to check in and understand their challenges and concerns.

I also handle data and produce reports for my supervisor. A lot of the work we do is evidence-based to back up outcomes (admittedly, not the fun part). But it’s essential that we understand our data, know exactly who we’re serving and how much of our resources we are using.

Generocity: What is your personal approach to growth?

Addison: I believe in failing forward. I constantly remind myself to go beyond my fears, to not be afraid to speak up in meetings, to ask questions, to question things if they’ve always been done the same way.

PHMC's headquarters at 1500 Market, with active design elements such as an internal staircase, treadmill desks and natural light.

PHMC’s headquarters at 1500 Market.

I think PHMC also is developing growth mechanisms through different avenues. There’s “Coffee Connections,” a casual way for different members of PHMC to network and connect. PHMC also started something called the “Innovation Lab,” which is a program where you take an idea, bring it to life, and pitch it to other PHMC directors who can decide to fund it. Even if you don’t get funding, it helps you learn to pitch and build new skill sets.

You have to create opportunities for yourself, also. I had the opportunity to do voiceover work for PHMC training videos. I was interested in it, so I went after it. There’s a clearinghouse of opportunity to be a success and to grow, but you have to direct that path.

Generocity: What are some of the biggest challenges of your job?

Addison: At the end of the day, nonprofits are a business. You have to handle a lot of documentation, paperwork, credentialing and budget management for the services we provide.

"I want to inspire the individuals that work on my team, to help them understand the value of what they do."
Katherine Addison

In this line of work, there is always demand for us to do more for less. I often have to get creative with how to motivate my staff and participants. The staff wants raises and bonuses, but we can’t always offer that when they want it.

I work to help my staff channel their passion with some parameters around it. You have to have a process. But I want to inspire the individuals that work on my team, to help them understand the value of what they do and the hope that they instill in people and communities.

Generocity: What do you look for in job candidates?

Addison: There’s a gut feeling you get about someone’s passion.

They don’t have to have the most expensive degree or extensive resume. What I’m looking for is someone who understands that in order to make change you have to be flexible, willing to learn, willing to ask questions and to make mistakes.

We’re part of a team, but individuality matters — how you see things, how you can make things better.

Generocity: What would you say to someone considering applying to work at PHMC?

Addison: For someone who has a passion for social justice, social work, leadership, innovative change, legislative change, or improving the delivery of services for individuals and communities in need — PHMC is an incubator that allows you to do all of those things.

It also allows you to develop the skills, training and networking skills to navigate the systems and create the relationships that make change happen.

We’re always trying the next thing. That’s what keeps us innovative.

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