Seeking the personality behind the role

Lately, I’ve started asking executives how they’re involved in their communities. We are so much more than our jobs, even though that may be where we spend most of our waking hours.

I want to get to know the person behind the executive role and asking about their activities outside of the office is one way to do that.

For example, this month’s cover story is with CEO Chris Keller of IPEG Inc. He’s involved with Community College of Allegheny County’s Educational Foundation.

While it seems like a likely choice because workforce development, manufacturing and a community college all seem to go hand-in-hand, IPEG doesn’t actually have employees in Allegheny County. IPEG’s headquarters are in Butler County and the manufacturing companies that it owns are further away.

Even though there’s no direct recruiting correlation, Keller does have an interest in education and workforce development. He likes understanding the role of a community college in the scheme of education, training and workforce development, while also contributing something that goes beyond giving a donation. He enjoys seeing how he can help the college be more successful and effective.

It was nice to peel back the curtain and learn more because my first thought when I read about Keller’s involvement with CCAC on his LinkedIn page was, “Of course, yes, that makes sense.” But it’s actually more nuanced than it appears.

As I learn more, it’s also interesting to see how all of the relationships work. Connections are everything, and I think this only gets more important in today’s digital world.

That’s why when I meet someone who is a natural connector — someone who seems to know everybody and has a hand in many different arenas — it’s important to cultivate them.

In the digital space, you often hear about influencers. But there are influencers in the real world, too. They are the points of connection in your industry, in your community, and sometimes even within the walls of your company.