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Bringing Your “Whole Self” to Politics and Impact Work With Wendy Davis

Introduction

Wendy came within 78 votes of turning her Utah district blue — and wrote an excellent book about it.

But there’s so much more to the story! On today’s episode of the Nonprofit Thrive podcast, Ben Freda hosts Wendy Davis of Agile Cloud Consulting to discuss her multifaceted life as a tech leader, political candidate, and author. Wendy shares the impact of early political exposure on a child’s future ambition, her deep-rooted commitment to the nonprofit sector’s success, and the challenges and opportunities she’s encountered throughout her diverse career.

Today's Guest
Wendy Davis

Wendy Davis

Wendy Davis is the Chief Experience Officer of Agile Cloud Consulting, a leading firm specializing in innovative cloud solutions for businesses. She brings over 25 years of experience in managing technology for nonprofits, colleges, and universities of all types and sizes across North America and globally. Wendy’s journey in the tech industry began with a degree in computer science, followed by extensive work in software development, IT consulting, and cloud technology.

In 2020, amid the pandemic’s challenges, Wendy boldly ran for Utah House District 45, nearing victory. Her journey inspired her to pen The Fight You Don’t See, a personal account of her political campaign. Passionate about diversity and inclusion in tech, Wendy mentors aspiring professionals and advocates for underrepresented groups.

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Wendy Davis image description

Here’s a glimpse of what you’ll learn:

  • [02:53] Wendy Davis’ experience running a close political campaign as a candidate
  • [03:19] Early political inspirations that can shape a child’s future career
  • [04:26] The significance of engaging with local government representatives
  • [14:26] Wendy highlights the transformational power of ERP systems in higher education
  • [20:36] How international experiences shape personal and professional ethos
  • [32:14] The evolution of technology in facilitating nonprofit missions and fundraising
  • [42:07] Strategic growth in the nonprofit tech sector
  • [43:22] Potential future political campaign plans and current career growth focus

In this episode…

Early political inspirations can profoundly shape a child’s future career. These early encounters lay the foundation for a commitment to public life, emphasizing the importance of civic engagement from a young age.

Wendy Davis, an IT professional specializing in technology for colleges, universities, and nonprofits, demonstrates the power of integrating personal passions with professional expertise to drive meaningful change. With over two decades balancing technology and social impact work, she emphasizes the transformational power of Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems in higher education. These systems streamline operations, enhance efficiency, and support academic institutions in providing quality education. She also highlights how the evolution of technology has significantly facilitated nonprofit missions and fundraising efforts.

On today’s episode of the Nonprofit Thrive podcast, Ben Freda hosts Wendy Davis, CXO of Agile Cloud Consulting, to discuss her multifaceted life as a tech leader, political candidate, and author. Wendy shares the impact of early political exposure on a child’s future ambition, her deep-rooted commitment to the nonprofit sector’s success, and the challenges and opportunities she’s encountered throughout her diverse career.

Resources mentioned in this episode:

Quotable Moments

  • “I want to make laws. That sounds really cool.”
  • “It was like I was airlifted right to the floor of the Senate.”
  • “Competition is good for us.”

Action Steps

  1. Cultivate a genuine passion for community and civic engagement: Experiencing direct democracy reinforces personal empowerment and understanding of legislative impact.
  2. Stay informed and develop a global perspective: Understanding international events can cultivate empathy and inform better decision-making in local contexts.
  3. Embrace technological advancements: Adopting new tools can revolutionize productivity and effectiveness within nonprofits.
  4. Advocate for progress and continuous learning: Ongoing education helps individuals adapt to rapidly changing landscapes in both tech and politics.
  5. Assume best intentions in communications: Approaching others with empathy can diffuse tensions and foster more meaningful connections.

Sponsor for this episode…

This episode is brought to you by BFC Digital.

At BFC Digital, we help nonprofit organizations thrive on the web so they can improve the world.

Our team of creative and tech experts understands that an online presence can help foundations and organizations accomplish their missions. That’s where we come in. Over the last decade, we’ve advised our clients on web design, front- and back-end development, and tech support.

We’re committed to supporting a select set of clients who continually inspire us with their vision for a better world.

To learn more on how BFC Digital can assist you in realizing your organization’s mission, visit bfcdigital.com, email us at info@bfcdigtal.com, or call 646-450-2236 today!

Episode Transcript

Intro 0:06

Welcome to Nonprofit Thrive, a podcast where we learn from the humans who are helping nonprofits succeed in the digital world. Now, let’s get started with the show.

Ben Freda 0:23

Welcome, I’m Ben Freda, host of this show where we share the stories of leaders in the nonprofit space. The people behind the organizations the foundation’s the companies that help nonprofits change the world. Past guests have include included Ryan Ozimek of Soapbox Engage who helped me understand more about CRMs and why they’re important. And Elise Newman, who’s executive director of Oregon Shores Conservation Coalition. She talked about how their organization uses a website to effectuate this awesome program that has gotten every single mile of Oregon Coast adopted by volunteers who monitor and report on their mile every three months. Pretty amazing. Go back and check those episodes out if you haven’t already. Before we get to today’s guest, I must let you know that the podcast is sponsored by BFC digital, which is my company Surprise, surprise, where we help nonprofits thrive on the web. If you work at a nonprofit or foundation or another type of social change organization, maybe a university, I’m sure you know that unless you’re doing a huge chunky big project in the multiple 10s of 1000s of dollar budget range. How hard it is to find reputable, responsive, friendly help for your web issues at BFCDigital, we help our clients succeed on the web by being your friendly neighborhood web tech partner. We can help you fix your bugs, evolve your web presence, integrate the new donation system to the site, and we can do it all without ever asking you to fill out a support ticket, which is one of our huge things. People hate support tickets, and they should. Go to BFCdigital.com to learn more. So onto today’s episode, I’m very excited to have a guest which is who’s a little bit different from our past guests. But super excited about it will give us another perspective. We have on today’s show Wendy Danley Davis, who is Chief Experience Officer at Agile Cloud Consulting. She spent 25 years managing technology for nonprofits, colleges, universities of all types and sizes across North America and globally. In 2020, at the height of COVID, she ran for office in her native Utah, and came within 78 votes, that’s less than 100 votes of flipping Utah House District 45 blue for the first time in 10 years, she has a new book out about the experience called The Fight You Don’t See, which if you’re looking at the video version, you can see me holding up now. It’s a personal account of what it’s like behind the scenes of a political campaign. It’s an amazing read. Wendy, thank you so much for joining us.

Wendy Davis 2:53

It is my pleasure, Ben, thank you for having me. Yeah,

Ben Freda 2:56

I’m really excited to talk to you. And one of the first things we always ask people on the show. And you know, we’ll get into nonprofit we’ll get into politics is really in a little bit of this is in the book, but you as a kid. So you growing up in Illinois, and you get interested in politics at early age. But can you go through a little bit of that, like how you know what interested you as a kid and what you thought you were going to do with your life? Yeah, sure.

Wendy Davis 3:21

Love to talk about my origin story. I grew up in a working class family. My my dad was former Navy and a lot of my uncles and cousins are in the trade. So very working class labor in central Illinois, right in the heart of Caterpillar country. And, you know, I was always a really curious kid I like to read I really became interested in government and politics in elementary school, I had one of those, you know, one of those teachers who just inspires you and I was just fascinated with all things government and remember about the Illinois State Constitution. I know it sounds really geeky for like a 10 year old. But when I was in school, we had an assembly and our state senator came to speak to us and he was Darcy’s dad, Senator Loft. I remember listening to him speak and I at the age of like, 12 or 13 I’m like, I want to do that. I don’t know many kids who are young and they’re like, I think I want to be a politician.

Ben Freda 4:26

I think that’s sort of rare. Do you remember what it was about what he said that really engaged you? Or was it his presence or what was it?

Wendy Davis 4:33

A lot of a lot of it was the allure of you know, the the majestic buildings and and Land of Lincoln and having Abraham Lincoln and knowing his journey and his ascent to the presidential ballot, which was not easy. By the way. He lost several elections. We don’t often talk about that. Right? And just knowing how important government was, and you know, it was just something that was really fun. fascinating to me. And I thought I want to go make laws. That sounds really cool. All right. And then, you know in in high school, I gravitated toward history and social studies in government and then decided to study political science, went to Washington, DC for the first time caught Potomac fever and was just enamored with thing as as a young person, I had never had been to DC as a very small child, but didn’t remember it. And it was just Laura at all. And I thought, this is where this is where stuff happens. And this is what I wanted. And so the irony is that six years after I saw Senator love speak, he hired me to be his intern for a summer. That’s awesome. And that’s where I got my first induction, as you read in the book into politics. And I mean, it was I was airlifted in right to the floor of the Senate, and had some truly life-changing experiences as a young person. And

Ben Freda 6:02

that was that was as a page, right, like as a page at the Utah House or no, the Illinois House.

Wendy Davis 6:07

Yes. And it was a paid position back in the day back. And so yeah, so And even with assistance, essentially, there were there was a cadre of us on the floor, and we didn’t, there’s it’s not hard work, run errands, you make copies, when that was a much bigger thing than it is today. I assisted their their secretaries, which we called them back then, but their administrative assistants and really just did whatever we needed to it was all hands on deck to do to help. There’s

Ben Freda 6:39

a great part of the book where you meet James Brady, on the floor of the Illinois house, and you get him to sign an autograph. Right. And for people who don’t know, he’s the architects of the Brady bill, which that gun control bill, and you got him to sign the calendar. I think

Wendy Davis 6:54

I did. People might also not know that he’s an Illinois native. Oh, okay. Yeah, I didn’t know that. Yeah. And he and his wife, Sarah, were making the rounds advocating for the Brady bill. This was in the late 80s. And I was just enamored, I also share in the book, my very vivid recollection of the day that Ronald Reagan experienced the assassination attempt and how much of an impact that made on me as a very young child, and how upsetting that was, and, and everybody knew Mr. Brady took a bill, a bullet for the President, right, intentionally. To be there, literally, face to face with him was just astounding, and everyone cleared away. And I recognize that no one was talking to him and his mother, and, and I just said, Mr. Brady, may I Is there something I can get you? And he’s like, Yeah, can I get a glass of water and, and then I’m like, I knew this was important, even as a teenager, and I asked her, and was a basically a small booklet that had all the bills written in it, that they were going to cover that day. And, and he signed that for me and, and the Senate photographer, the staff photographer happened to be there. And he captured that. So I have a picture that’s very dear to me. Oh, and then I had together and I still have the copy of that and meant a lot.

Ben Freda 8:13

Wow, that’s really cool. One thing that’s a bit tangential, but just reading your book, one of the things I really liked about it was the interweaving of childhood experiences that you’d had with like your candidacy. And you know, it’s kind of a chronological story of the candidacy from the beginning to the end, but in between there sort of stories about your childhood and how you were brought up and why you’re interested. I mean, yeah, I thought that was a really interesting choice. And a good one. Did you plan on doing that from the beginning? Or was it just going to be sort of a book about your candidacy?

Wendy Davis 8:45

You know, I know, it’d be a memoir, and our lives are not linear paths. I mean, and it was surprising to me when I started to really think about how I wanted this to unravel how important my upbringing was, and my time, good and the bad, like, I didn’t have childhood, right? divorced parents lived in some pretty tough economic times. But those are the things that make me who I am. And so in telling the story of running for office, I did want to weave these things in and, and while I haven’t lived in Illinois for a very long time, those those experiences that you have in those formidable years are so critical. And even into the state of adulthood that I’m in, you know, I’m from a small town and a pretty small group of kids that I grew up with. And there’s these shared experiences that only the kids you grew up with really cannot. Yeah. And it’s been so fascinating to me as people have reached out to me about the book and even people that I wasn’t super close to and you know, my growing up years have really found parts to the book, I was just messaging an old friend this morning. And she’s asking me about, like, who was that person who started to share all of her memories about her dad in our hometown and all of his politics. And so that’s meant a lot to me that it’s conjured up memories for a lot of people when I when I was able to share my memories, but you know, our paths there intertwine and to pretend like I got where I am today. And there’s not three there, you know, it was important to weave that into that. That’s

Ben Freda 10:34

interesting. Do you there’s one of the fascinating things too, was the story of your dad growing up in a carnival, which is something I’d always had never knew was real. You hear about, like carnies and stuff, traveling with the carnival. But he actually grew up in that environment moving around, is that accurate? And he had to, and in the book, you talk about how you how he had to learn to sort of talk, you know, and be a presence in a room and stuff to get people to guess their weight, or whatever the thing is. And later on, you became big in debate, right, like in high school, which was a good way of sort of it starting in politics to do you think those two things are connected? Did he encourage you at all? I mean, what was Yeah, how did that work?

Wendy Davis 11:18

Yeah, it’s fascinating. So I, my father’s family was very poor. I like this is not a romantic story. Very poor. Like my grandfather, his dad was a taxicab driver for years, and they just had a really hard time making ends meet. And somebody’s got the crazy idea. Like, we should make lemonade shakeup stand. And so that was the business and there’s a family recipe with lemons and sugar. This is not hard recipe. And carnival. And, and, and when my dad and his siblings were younger, and my grandpa got this idea, like, you know, all those little tchotchkes that you can give away. I don’t know where they bought them back, you know, in the 60s. But my dad would wear a little straw hat and have a little apron on with the money in it. And he would say, I can guess your weight within 10 pounds or your age within three years. You win a prize, and he was a kid. Yeah. He was a carnival caller. As they were growing up, that’s what their family did. And it’s seasonal work. And so I think this that part of the book kind of surprises everyone. I said, my dad came from a family of carnies. And they’re like, what? People travel with the carnival. And they Yeah, they set those and they all travel together. And they moved from these little towns all all in the Midwest, from going all the way into the fall. So yes, that’s kind of a interesting part of my family. That’s very unusual.

Ben Freda 12:47

Yeah, that is great. That’s great. Did he pass away before you ran for obviously, I can’t remember in the book. He did?

Wendy Davis 12:55

Okay. Yeah. Really, he had died of complications from Alzheimer’s. But my dad was always very politically aware. And you know, because of my dad, I watched the Today Show since I was a small kid. Every morning, we watched the news, he read the newspaper, and very politically aware and voted. He never ran for office or canvas, or anyone that I know of, but he knew what was going on in politics, it would talk about it was just very unusual, I think. And because I kind of geeked out about it. But when I would come home from work, I’d go into his office, he had an office on on site. And we were just I remember during the Ollie North trials in the 80s, I’d watched them at, you know, work on the TV and the donut shop. And I was like, Dad, this is what happened. And we would just talk about it. And like we both super geeked out to it.

Ben Freda 13:49

Yeah, that’s funny. That’s funny. So he encouraged you, at least in that way. What about your mom? Was she interested in politics at all or not? or less? My

Wendy Davis 13:57

mom always voted. My mom also worked for the government. She was a bureaucrat her whole life. She worked for the Veterans Administration. But don’t she wasn’t particularly civically engaged beyond voting that I recall. She voted in every election that’s important to her. But not nothing more than that. Gotcha.

Ben Freda 14:22

So before we get to, you know, how you decided to run in 2020, etc. Let’s go back to after let’s see after high school, college, right, you’re page in high school, and then in college, how did you get sort of into and then you go to Utah Mormon mission as well. And in Bosnia, I think, how did you get from there into sort of nonprofit technology in general?

Wendy Davis 14:45

Really quick timeline. Went to school I actually joined the LDS church when I was in college. This is very unusual. I was a convert which is very unusual.

Ben Freda 14:55

What what could you feel my mask and what made you do that? Like what was was it just you? Was it people you knew? Or what how did that how did that come about? I

Wendy Davis 15:04

think at that, at that point in my life, and I was 20, I was really looking for a community. I could belong and I had different communities. I mean, my hometown and my college friends, but it was this sense of community that really drew me in and, and I felt like I belong. I felt embraced and really held on to that and, and then also a little bit unusual. After I graduated from college, I went to a private school, Bradley University in Peoria, Illinois. Here I am with this designer degree, I decided to go on this mission for a year. My parents were like, What are you doing? Because they

Ben Freda 15:50

were not in the church. Right. So they said they were like, What are you doing?

Wendy Davis 15:53

Wow, not happy about it at all? Really? They

Ben Freda 15:57

did. They tried to dissuade you.

Wendy Davis 15:58

My dad absolutely tried to dissuade me. And my mom was like, she wanted to be supportive. And, and so yeah, that was kind of crazy. And I was assigned to my mission call actually says you are assigned to Yugoslavia,

Ben Freda 16:15

Because this is during the Yugoslavia war, by the way. Yeah. And it

Wendy Davis 16:18

was in it was in 1992. And at that point in time, Slovenia had seceded and declared independence. Croatia had declared independence in late 91 or early 92. And there was a full on war going on.

Ben Freda 16:33

As a parent myself, let me just say your parents had a decent reason for being against it.

Wendy Davis 16:42

I’m a Gen Xer too, we were raised on, you know, being independent, and there was nothing that was going to stop me, but they were like, great. And so, you know, and that was just such an, a life changing experience. I was just back in Croatia two years ago, seeing friends that I met 30 years ago, who I adore, by, you know, living in Croatia, and then Serbia at the time that they were transitioning from Communism to there. They don’t have a democracy, it’s a republic. It’s a complicated forms of government. But living there during that time was very, very interesting. And it was interesting time, if history and history can like an old woman. But you know, the fall of the Berlin Wall had a domino effect. And we saw the breakup of the Soviet Union. And we saw the breakup of other communist countries and, and that whole region dramatically changed in a very short period of time. So living there during that time was quite interesting. So come home from that back to Illinois.

Ben Freda 17:48

But you have to also mention that you were bombed. I mean, you can’t give you this story without mentioning that you’re

Wendy Davis 17:55

an epic store. So listen, I in retrospect, there, we really had no business being there, a third of the country of Croatia was under Serbian occupation. And the main, the capital city of Zagreb was, was not under Serbian occupation and the war seem very far away. The war was distant and close all the same time, if that makes any sense. Like you, there was no, there were no bombs in Zagreb, but everybody knew someone who died on and these cultures were all one and a, you know, these, the sub cultures of these autonomous provinces or regions were where everybody knew somebody who was Serbian or Bosnian or whatever. So we love it was July 14 1993. Yeah, got it. Yeah, took a bus to a city about 40 kilometers away. And it was, I mean, July, it’s the apex of the the, you know, sun, you’re gonna have a lot of light. And we were there for a meeting. And I knew that the city was closer to the front, but it wasn’t anything that anybody was worried about. And right in the middle of the meeting. And I’m like, This must be what it feels like to live in Carla bops. And, and it wasn’t normal and the air raid sirens went off. And I’m like, I have literally never been to this city before. I have no idea what to do. Or we took off like running down the street looking for shelter, and ended up breaking a storefront to hide and we’re able to get out of the city in a car but other folks that I was with had to stay in a discotheque underground for hours and hours until the bombing subsided. So I had serious PTSD from that I didn’t even know what PTSD was. I thought I thought only military people could have PTSD. I now know in our in our current era that lots of people can have PTSD for lots of different reasons, but really, really struggled for a couple of years. Wow. And just the sounds and that is a very traumatic experience. Sure. And yeah, live to tell. And I wrote about it for sure. And all these all these stories span, they are this aggregation of who you are what you believe, to believe what you believe when you when you live in a former communist country? How does your empathy change? How does your worldview change? Right? So that’s another reason why I share the stories, this tapestry of ideas and experiences makes us who

Ben Freda 20:36

we are. Right. All right. Sure. Yeah. That experience, you talk about that a little bit in the book. You know, again, we didn’t cut any of this you don’t want to talk about but I probably should have warned you before bringing up a traumatic experience. But, um, but you talked about that in the book about being pro choice. Yeah. And how and how that and you weren’t really sure where that came from? It was just kind of how you always were, and then you moved in were part of the church and of course, and that that may makes you a bit different, I guess, in that in that context, but how you know, you’re not for that particular one, you’re not exactly sure where it comes from, but it comes from all this stuff, right? Like all the combination of influences and experiences and all that. It sure

Wendy Davis 21:20

does. And I said I didn’t know what it where it comes from, because I didn’t feel like my parents ever talked about it. I was, you know, I’m sure ideas were were presented to me in ways that were passive, right? I always believed ever since I worked, because remember that people should be free, they should be equal, they should be allowed to do what they wanted to do with the law like it, it never occurred to me. And I will tell you, I consider myself a pro choice. Mormon, that never changed for me. And that I got into more than one argument with people about that, I’m sure yeah, that was something that never changed for me and, and whatever religion you are, it’s sometimes that stance is not popular in religious cultures, right? That was something that I mean, I didn’t broadcast it all over the place. But I always felt that, that people have the those, you know, rights to choose how and I broached the subject in the book, I think in interesting ways. And I talked about a young woman that I met when I was in DC and, and her stance on that and how it just hit me like a ton of bricks that, you know, different people have different opinions for different reasons. And it was the first time I really felt like I had heard someone else’s views and really, to understand and, and she taught me that I never seen that that girl since that time, she was a girl back then. And I just hope that she knows how much she taught, taught other people just by being her and by sharing those views.

Ben Freda 23:05

Yeah, that was interesting. Because from what I remember the story of the book, she she doesn’t say she essentially says she doesn’t know where she stands on it. Right. And she says I was an adopted child, my mom gave me up for adoption. And yeah, am I getting this? Right? And I’m kind of left with the feeling that well, this may have been somebody who, whose parents would have opted for abortion, maybe or, and that might color her views or whatever. But it was a really interesting story. Yeah. Yeah. And I think also, you know, it’s a how do you do that in today’s culture, like, I feel, I feel like so much of communication about politics, particularly is about this idea of which team you’re on. And the other team is bad, and your team is good and, and righteous anger and indignation about the other team and blah, blah, blah. But as a candidate, you’re going around knocking on doors, asking people how they feel about things and how you can help them. So how do you turn that off? Like that team sort of feeling and really listen to what they say, Do you have any, like tricks that the rest of us give us? You know.

Wendy Davis 24:11

One of the things that was most important to me, when I was a candidate was literally meeting people at their doorsteps. And I think then when you’re talking to someone face to face, and not hiding behind social media, or throwing out a tweet or a face, you have to look someone in the eye and have a conversation. And was I insulted directly for for rational and irrational things? Absolutely. But I really think that we’re more alike than we are different. And we might we often agree on what problems are, but we don’t often agree on how to solve them. And I think that that’s their friends is and and so I mean, I never lead with the controversial things but it was in the middle of the confirmation of a new Supreme Court Justice and I I mean, I had people open the doors and asked me directly what are your feelings on this topic? And I was like, we’re gonna leave

Ben Freda 25:07

this this. This was the Kavanaugh thing. Is that what it was?

Wendy Davis 25:09

Amy Coney Barrett. Right. Right. Right. And so

Ben Freda 25:13

Okay, so what were they? I’m just trying to remember this, but

Wendy Davis 25:17

and remember that was like, I believe Ruth Bader Ginsburg had died in September, I think is Kimber and the confirmation hearing was taking place in September and October. And so I had people open the door to me and say, like, what are your feelings about reproductive rights? And I’m like, What are your feelings about that? Right. And moreover, I’m like that, okay. And the other one that always surprised me a little bit. And he became very used to it only surprised me like, once or twice, and then I’m used to, is how people feel about second amendment rights. And there, and, and, and so I, you know, I would say my husband has a gun, we have it in a gun safe, because I have 10. Grandchildren. I want to make sure that they’re protected. And, and I believe people should carry their guns responsibly. I just, I’m opposed to murder. And everyone was like, Well, I am too. Oh, yeah. We can agree on something. Right. And it’s really hard to find fault with that. You know, I mean, I don’t know exactly what people thought. But more often than not, we could align on things that were tangible, like housing costs, the cost of rent, or the quality of education and the we in Utah, we have a pollution problem. We want breathable air, and I must be like, yeah, where we might diverge on the solution is, but I still want to drive this kind of a diesel truck. And I’m like, but maybe we could have alternatives. Like, we agree. There were problems, but we didn’t always agree on the solution. And that’s okay. Because then you’re then you’re talking and then rotation.

Ben Freda 26:59

Yeah, yeah, that makes sense. Yeah, that’s interesting. I had probably cut this, but I was in my laundry room. This morning, I lived in apartment building. And there’s one laundry room in the basement as well, stories. And somebody had left their laundry there, I guess overnight. And some, somebody had written a nasty note about how, if you leave your laundry in the laundry room overnight, you’re not allowed to do that. And next time, I’ll throw it out, you know, and just left his note on the thing. And I was like, that seems a little that seems a little harsh. You know what I mean? Like you’re pissed about some you don’t even know who’s laundry is, you don’t know why they left it there overnight, maybe they have a baby, and they didn’t get any sleep. Who knows, I don’t know, maybe they got hurt Beats me. But like, I certainly know that their laundry being in the corner of the laundry room is not really hurting anybody. And I wonder if the letter writer, if they had to say that to the person face to face, like you did door to door would be able to trigger some more maybe empathy for whoever it was, you know, in the way that you had to write intentions.

Wendy Davis 28:00

And I’ll have a converse of that story. Because when I lived in an apartment building, I did coin op laundry as well. One of the things that I and other tenants would do is that if somebody’s laundry was left wet in the in the washer, we’d put it in the dryer, and we’d pay for it to be dried.

Ben Freda 28:19

You know, that’s pretty nice of you. That’s pretty nice. That’s the reverse of writing a nasty note.

Wendy Davis 28:23

Oh, yeah. In society today, there’s, I just, I just feel like people feel empowered to say things that are unkind and hurtful. And I try to lead with the principle. I tried to assume best intentions. Yeah, when you lead with that lens, you know, even if my kids don’t call me very often, I’m like, Oh, they’ve got a bunch of kids. And they’re working. It’s a lot to get everybody up and dressed and fed into school and background and dressed and like, yes, it is worried about is calling me to see how I’m doing. Try to assume that everybody’s doing their best with what they do. And it completely changes your perspective.

Ben Freda 29:04

You know what I heard that from first I heard that from not personally, Joe Biden. And it was it was really interesting to hear it from him. It was first year he was elected, I guess he was fighting against Republican Congress. And they were saying, Oh, they’re just trying to people are pissed because they’re just trying to get in your way or they’re just trying to screw you, you know, and he was like, No, you know, I’ve been in politics 50 years. I must assume the best intentions of my opponents if I don’t, it’ll drive me insane. Yeah. drive me insane with anger. You know, I

Wendy Davis 29:33

don’t write this in the book. But I had a once in a lifetime opportunity to meet the president last year.

Ben Freda 29:39

Wow. How was that? How was it?

Wendy Davis 29:41

It was fascinating. He was in Salt Lake for you know, fundraiser but also to represent the pact act with protecting our veterans and creating other categories for which they could receive benefits specifically, the wars in the Middle East They’re like big burn pits that are toxic. And, and so I was shocked. I got I got the email and I texted a friend who I thought might have something to do with it. And I was like, Is this factor crap? Fill out the form they need. And that is awesome. Why there’s happening. And so, Jack, I mean, you know, it was it was astonishing. And my whole life I’d seen Hail to the Chief and movies and, and I don’t care who you are, but I’d like you hear that. And like there’s a lot that comes in your throat and you stand up and you’re like, This is it and he’s Yeah. And it was a small venue. There were maybe 150 people. And you know, heard him speak on and off script. He does much better off script. He seems dizzy. Yeah. He just seemed when he’s reading the teller. I’m like, Do you need a pair of glasses. When you read when he’s reading the teleprompter, you can tell he’s he’s got to be on message. But he there was a young veteran, a female who had lost along because closure in Iraq. And she introduced him and she was just as nondescript and casual and normal as a human could be. And he wanted to talk all about her and talking about her and elevating other people. He was just on. Yeah, it was truly amazing. And then he went off script again and made the Secret Service very anxious. But he worked the crowd. He shook every single hand in that room. Wow, I hustled him out the door. It was just it was really neat.

Ben Freda 31:43

So So senile, right. That’s the take on him. That was it. I was being sarcastic, just to be really clear.

Wendy Davis 31:53

I understand the commentary. I get it. I mean, yeah, not the best orator on the planet. He went down in history as a great orator. Like we’ve seen in my lifetime Reagan and even Bill Clinton and and President Obama were great. But I really genuinely think he cares about you. Yeah,

Ben Freda 32:14

I do, too. I do, too. He’s got the empathy gene. Yeah. Yeah, for sure. That’s interesting. Well, I’m jealous. Jealous. Okay, so let me you know, as I said, before we start recording these, we always get off topic and listening. Which is great. That means it’s a good conversation. So we are in we were in Bosnia, right? Or Croatia, I suppose. And then and then in Serbia, and you get back from that. That mission? Did you have a job lined up? At that point? Did you have any idea what you wanted to do? No,

Wendy Davis 32:48

we didn’t. I ended up staying in central Illinois for a couple of years, I was just really unhappy. I felt like I was I had a great education. And there just weren’t any jobs for me in that market. So I loaded up my my little car and I moved to Utah, and I never looked back. I got a job at the University of Utah working in human resources. And this was in the the mid to late 90s, when when ERP systems were becoming a big thing, especially in higher education, defining ERP for people. Yeah, enterprise resource planning. I don’t even know what that week, I don’t even know that we call them ERP is any more different. There’s a different moniker for them today, but really big systems, student financial aid, HR, finance, alumni, what have you. And my university was one of the early adopters of PeopleSoft. Okay. They were going through a PeopleSoft implementation. And my manager at the time, and my dear friend got it cold email, right. And by the way, the first time I ever got an email was when I moved to Utah. Like, what is this? And so she’s like, I think you need to look at this. And the email pitch was from an intern at a company named SCT. Like, we know, you’re implementing PeopleSoft, we get it. We’re not trying to convince you of that. But if there’s anybody there who is interested in HR technology, and in a job of travel, like we’re hiring, I’m young, I got nothing to lose. And so the next thing I know, I’m on a plane to Philadelphia, going to Malvern, Pennsylvania to talk to the largest company in the world that built student information systems. Okay. Got my first job in tech.

Ben Freda 34:31

Wow. Okay.

Wendy Davis 34:33

I knew HR and I could communicate well enough. And a manager took a chance on me, she was like, I can teach you everything you need to know. Right? And so that’s how it all started. I mean, of course, people talk about becoming an accidental admin like I became an accidental technologist. Oh, yeah. The through the sales process where I would configure systems for large colleges and universities in order to demonstrate the case nobody’s have the software right? traveled the world. I’ve been to every small community college you could possibly think of in the most remote parts of this country. Many universities, people often say, Have you been to fill in the blank in North Dakota? Yep, I’ve been there. There’s a university. Right.

Ben Freda 35:22

I have to ask you only because my daughter, who’s 12, and my son, who’s eight, joke that North Dakota is pretending that it’s not a place because they’ve never met anyone from there. They can’t think of anyone from there. And they can’t think of a single thing that exists there or in the city. So you’ve been there, I can tell them. I’ve met a person who actually has set foot in North Dakota; it’s a real place.

Wendy Davis 35:43

I think it was my 49 state. And my 50th was Alaska. And to get to both of those states, but I was able to get there. And I just had this amazing career selling software and and like as technology is rapidly evolving. Oh, yeah. And having to learn this, I remember the first learning management systems that came out. And there were a whole horde of them and the.com era when everyone’s getting venture capital, and there were maybe 12 of them. And then they got started getting purchased. And we’re trying to figure out how to integrate them into our student systems and how before students could register on the web, like other offerings for web registration. And yeah, checking your financial aid, like all this is like rapidly evolving, right? So we’re exciting time. And then I did that for a really long time in my career, and was extremely happy doing that started to learn the alumni and advancement system. Okay. And that’s a very logical transition, you got a student and you become an alum. And they became entrenched in what that looked like, which led me it’s a foray into the nonprofit world fundraising and higher education is that different than fundraising and nonprofits? For sure, yeah. pivoted away from student information systems and Oracle based systems and to the Salesforce ecosystem. First time I saw Salesforce, like I almost shed tears, I was like,

Ben Freda 37:18

what, what was what was so much better about it, or worse, or whatever? The

Wendy Davis 37:22

interface, the ability to add fields without signing a contract, you know, like, wow, oh, in our systems, like you couldn’t add fields, and you couldn’t, there was no automation, there was no nothing. And I mean, just everything about it was truly amazing. And started working for Target X, which did recruiting and admissions on the Salesforce platform. They hired me, however, to do to be their first ever advancement hire. So people see recruiting and admissions and are like, oh, I can Shepherd someone through the admissions process, right? I get donors to donate like they would level we’re talking like presidents a colleges would say, like, Can we do this for alumni? And our leaders were like, how are they skipping all the rest of it in the middle? On that, and then I just got so lucky to become involved with round corner. When in when I started working at round corner, it was like when he 13, 14, 15. And that is when Salesforce had an exclusive marketing agreement with round farm round corner produced exclusively the nonprofit solution and the higher education solution, right. And so I became a product manager. And like, I didn’t know I had enough knowledge to be a product manager learned all of that, and held around corner through that. But then that part of the story is that five years ago, Salesforce purchase round corner, right? That was kind of the end of round corner actually still exists or some legacy customers still trying to figure it out. Yeah. But that’s how I got into Salesforce. Yeah, sure. With round corner, and now with Agile cloud consulting, where I work, we work with nonprofits, and we help them implement technology that changes the way that they interact with, with their customers or their constituents, whether it’s issuing grants or making grants or funding, or they manage programs, where they serve domestic violence victims or blank, like field service, like things are in the health care arena and the arts arena. So it’s been an interesting career. And it all started with a green screen at the University of Utah my first ever email like all these years later, with continuing to evolve technology, but working literally with hundreds of nonprofits.

Ben Freda 39:58

I I love it because it’s so I almost never speak to anybody in this ecosystem, who is trained as a technologist went to college for computer science or whatever, like almost all of us are accidental. And it gives us a really unique perspective, I think on what it’s like to sort of struggle your way through a lot of this stuff. So you’re Yeah, you’re it makes total sense. So now, you now our chief experience officer, is that I have the title correctly, at at agile cloud and tell me what a chief experience officer does?

Wendy Davis 40:32

That’s a really good question. Well, I firmly believe that at agile cloud, everybody on our staff is in the business of making sure that we deliver successful technology projects for our customers, right. And so as the chief experience officer, one of my main jobs is to meet with the customers make sure that their interests are being met, right, but also work with our delivery team to make sure that we are moving projects forward, we have lots of capable staff members who are doing the exact same thing, but elevate, also elevating our profile of our customers telling their stories, telling our technology, we love to be the people behind the people who are helping people, right. So he’s amazing stories to be told. So on any given day, I’m meeting with customers or meeting with internal teams coaching them on like how to navigate a really tough situation for conferences, doing a lot of things. In tandem with the release of the book, I’ve been privileged to write a couple of thoughts, articles that I never thought that that would happen for me. i It’s been delightful to really sit down and think about what that looks like. So just did a really fun interview with Forbes magazine come out, and that focused on diversity, equity and inclusion, and what that looks like. So that’s what I do. I sit on the executive team, also how grow our company, we see, I think I was employee number five, I hit my three year anniversary in a couple of days.

Ben Freda 42:07

At Agile Cloud, you guys have a lot of people now.

Wendy Davis 42:10

A lot of people. How did you do? I was just telling my husband last night, I said, I can’t think of a month that I’ve worked here in three years where we haven’t hired new people. And it’s been really planned in thoughtful growth and mindful growth, and focusing on what we do best, which is nonprofit, also higher education, other technologies as well. All you know, as you know, in the Salesforce ecosystem, things change a lot. We went from nonprofit success pack to nonprofit cloud, we have the data cloud, we have experienced cloud, we have been sort of like all the different clouds that keep changing in in a good way, always in the name of progress, right. So there’s a lot to learn and grow. Yeah, we’ve been growing our business, that’s one of my favorite things is to I never dreamed in a million years that I would have any kind of an influence and help a company grow and possibility of that, you know, rely on agile cloud for their livelihood. And so that and what that means it’s been fun and thrilling and exciting.

Ben Freda 43:22

Cool. That’s great. Yeah, I can totally relate. I mean, we our company is much smaller. But But yeah, it’s it’s always funny when I sort of, you know, have a difficult day or I’m struggling with something. And I’m like, stupid company that I started. And then I’m like, wait, there are actually people who work here, you know, who depend on us for health care insurance, who depend on us for a salary who have families, blah, blah, blah. It’s a really it’s a it’s a heavy burden, but it’s also makes it really meaningful. So totally, I get what you’re saying. Now, before we have to cut out I do want to quickly cover your your race, and most importantly, when you’re going to run again, because you are less than 100 votes behind this guy. And I know there was a redistricting thing. So the district is no different. And you that may have made it much more difficult, but and is so so what are your plans for the future politically? I know that from reading the book, the candidacy and the race were extremely difficult emotionally, and trying for you and your family. Hopefully worth it. Is that also something you’re taking into consideration? Or are you willing to try again or you might now focus more on getting other I guess normals I would call them to run for office?

Wendy Davis 44:38

I get asked that question a lot. I get asked a lot less than I did in the first couple of years and people were well intentioned but had no idea the toll that that all of that all of it took on me. Listen, I leave the door open and it was really hard to be redistricted and made sure aren’t that I could never run against that competitor again, I actually take that as a badge of

Ben Freda 45:04

honor you should they did it on purpose, purpose to keep Oh, I know. Yeah.

Wendy Davis 45:08

purpose because I was a threat. And it doesn’t matter what anybody says, I know that that’s a fact. So I just had a validated again, recently by a lawmaker, and I couldn’t believe what this lawmaker said out in her out loud voice that I was in the room when when they said make sure that she can really, that’s

Ben Freda 45:31

not in the book in the book. There’s no like, big smoking gun, that that’s what they redistricted that that what you just said.

Wendy Davis 45:39

I’m like, I can’t said that out loud. And that is the smoking gun

Ben Freda 45:43

right there. Wow. And

Wendy Davis 45:45

you know, I part of me, I don’t like to lose. And I I’m very persistent. I usually hit all my goals, even if it’s not within the timeframe that I think it’s going to be in, I always leave that door open. I mean, a couple of things that I don’t like, I don’t like people to become complacent, even if they’re in my own party. I don’t. career politicians. I think competition is good for us. Yeah, challenge people. So usually, if that door open, it would be the right race at the right time for me. You know, I don’t really want to be honest, city council. full board, not my jam. I’ve always felt like say, legislature is where I would excel at that level. I’m open to whatever that might look like. But right now, I’m super happy. I’m growing this company. I do have full support of my leadership team was one that I asked Sharif. I said, Listen, I don’t need your permission. Ever did choose to run again. Would you support me? And without hesitating? He’s like, absolutely. Yeah. Got recently this year. He’s like, I think you should run again.

Wendy Davis 46:53

Yeahm I appreciate that. So we’ll see. But I love being in this seat. I don’t have a party that I’m beholden to voters that I’m holding to leadership. So I can say and do things that other people might not be able to say and do because they’re under a microscope. And they’re, they’re accountable in a different way.

Ben Freda 47:12

Yeah, yeah. Although I think as we have seen, maybe some of those behavioral norms that you’re expected to hit as a, let’s just say, you know, candidate for national office, maybe those norms won’t necessarily and, you know, I

Wendy Davis 47:26

was just I shouldn’t do this. I like the last thing I read before I go to bed. It’s usually like a Twitter feed. And I, there’s a, a young woman running for the United States Senate at a Utah. He posts a lot on social media. And I was just reading I think was 195 comments, mostly for man who were so kind and horrible. And I’m like, why would I want to put myself through that again? Yeah. And I was just, I, it’s gross to me. And I think it’s harder to run. I think it’s just more divisive. I really believe that good people with good intentions are dissuaded from. Yeah, it’s really hard. And if you factor into that calculus, like, it’s just not worth it to me. And we need to change that. And so there’s a lot to factor in. But you know, you never know, I, I’ve left that door open. It’s not in my 2024 plan.

Ben Freda 48:22

I was hoping to have the scoop. No podcast, that was the scoop. So yeah, okay, well, good. Well, let us know, keep us updated. Because it would be great. We would love to. I’m not, I don’t live in Utah, but I would still love to be running it. That would be great, just during this experience.

Wendy Davis 48:38

I appreciate it. I really appreciate the opportunity today to talk with you about all of these things. And, you know, not just the book, but also one of the things I write in the book is our lives are daisy-chained together with and I’m not just one thing. I’m not this as a chief experience officer. I’m not just a mom, I’m not just the I’m not just we’re this amalgam we’re multi-dimensional, and that we do in our personal lives, they impact our work and good, good ways, right? Like, we should be multifaceted. We should encourage people to pursue their passions outside of work, and it creates dimension to them as well. So thanks for providing a conversation where I’m able to be

Ben Freda 49:23

Yeah, yeah, it was great. Thank you so much for coming on. I really appreciate it. Yeah, and just in case people missed it, where can they go to find out more about you and what you do? Sure.

Wendy Davis 49:35

Well, you can find out about Agile Cloud Consulting at agilecloudconsulting.com. I do have a personal website, WendyDavisutah.com. Not to be confused with the other Wendy Davis. There’s where you can read a lot of information about my book and your podcasts will be linked there and other media as well. People are interested in buying the book. It’s available right now on Amazon and hopefully in the next few weeks if you’re an audiobook person, I have read

Ben Freda 50:04

the book. Awesome. Very cool.

Wendy Davis 50:07

I can post-production. That’s very interesting. So the audiobook will be out very soon. But yes, the best place to get it or your local bookstore or your library, you can request it.

Ben Freda 50:17

Okay. Great. Thank you so much. It was great to talk to you.

Wendy Davis 50:20

Yeah, thank you as well, Ben, I really appreciate it.

Outro 50:26

Thanks for listening to the Nonprofit Thrive podcast. We’ll see you next time. And be sure to click subscribe to get future episodes.

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