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Women’s History Month Women at Work Spotlight: Judy Chappelear Shares “It can Be Challenging to Become Part of the ‘Boys’ Club’”

In celebration of Women’s History Month, we’re spotlighting Liaison employees who identify as women whose contributions have been integral to our success. 

Judy Chappelear, Director, Association Partnerships, works with sales and marketing teams to promote Liaison’s Centralized Application Service (CAS). She earned an MBA from the University of Akron and has worked for more than 20 years in marketing and sales/business development with ERP, college access and career planning companies focused on the transition to a post-secondary education.

What drew you to the technology industry? 

Judy Chappelear (JC): Long story short, when I was working on my MBA, I was offered an opportunity to do marketing for a consulting firm focused on higher education. I fell in love with the industry, and became a subject matter expert. That led to tech services (training, customer support, marketing) and then to sales. Since then, I have worked for technology companies of all sizes.

What’s one of the greatest challenges you’ve faced as a person who identifies as a woman in the workplace?

JC: I have always been outspoken and had a voice in the workplace, and I have had some amazing female managers and mentors. I still find it can be challenging to become part of the “boys’ club” when it comes to team building.

What is the most impactful professional lesson you’ve learned since you began your career?

JC: WOW! There are many, some that I always carry with me.

I was concerned about a corporate restructuring that meant I would change managers. I went to my current manager and his message to me was that I could work for and with anyone, because I was always focused on my responsibilities.

As I moved into my first sales manager role, the advice I received from my manager was that the most difficult thing for me to accept is that not everyone has the same work ethic as I do. Boy, was that true! I was raised with a strong work ethic, and it is just who I am.

Where do you see yourself professionally in 10 years?

JC: I think I will probably be retired, but as long as I still enjoy my role and I am an asset in business, I would like to stay involved.

When you’re faced with a tough professional challenge, who/what/where do you look for guidance? 

JC: At this point in my career, I think I have multiple places to look for guidance both internally and externally. I have always found that listing pros/cons is a good exercise for any decision or challenge.

I have both male and female mentors in the industry who have always been a good source of support and advice. I am also fortunate to have a spouse who will listen and give advice — when appropriate and not when warranted.

What advice would you give your 18-year old self?

JC: At 18, I had no real idea of what I wanted to do, but I was going to college. With my family, it was never an option. I think I would advise myself to make more of the college experience. In my career, I have had great mentors, but I didn’t really create that for myself in college. Now, I would. I would also encourage myself to create a better balance between career, family and other interests.

What barriers have you experienced or observed for women in higher education?

JC: I actually think that women who either work for an institution, higher ed association and/or a vendor working with higher education have a better opportunity for advancement than other industries. However, having worked for tech companies where higher education was only one industry among many, the higher ed team was often last hierarchically. As a woman, I have always felt more pigeonholed into the higher education market than my male colleagues were. But I have always been fortunate to love the market.

What has been your biggest career and/or personal achievement?

JC: For me, it isn’t just about one achievement. I receive the most satisfaction from providing a solution to the customer’s challenges. I have had the opportunity to work with state agencies to improve going-to-college rates and retention, to work with schools to provide more self-services to students and now to work with associations and institutions to provide a more efficient application. I look forward to the next challenge!

Who are your favorite women in history, women who inspire/empower you?

JC: I have always admired strong women who make a difference. I would start with my mother; she provided a strong role model and always challenged me to be better, to do better and to make a difference.

There have been many others who have influenced who I am, but if I have to pick one… it would be recent history. Michelle Obama has been, and continues to be, a strong role model for young women and men. From diet and health to making education and career a priority, she demonstrates admiration and empathy for all. She has and will continue to make a difference in this world.

What are you most proud of?

JC: I am proud of who I am as a sister to both family and friends, as a wife and friend to my spouse and as a contributor in both my charitable work and career.