University of Iowa - Bachelor's Degree, Business Administration (Accounting)
Ellen Sparacino has an atypical story for finding her meant-to-be job, but with determination she found a way to work in her dream job. We’ll give you a hint. She started by volunteering. As the chief financial officer for Starfish One by One, Ellen is in charge of all money that goes in and out of the nonprofit. She says she loves working for the organization because its fulfilling and recharging. When she’s not at work, Ellen enjoys reading, music and spending time with her family.
I feel very fulfilled and recharged by working for an organization that is improving people’s lives.
How did you discover your current job?
Honestly, I was at the hair salon and I overheard the founder of Starfish One by One talking about her nonprofit. I got her card, asked questions, attended a meeting and started working with them by volunteering my time. A few months later, I got a job offer!
What has been your path so far to get you where you are today?
I spent the first 12 years of my career in the for profit sector, but my goal was always to work in the educational nonprofit sector. On the side, I volunteered my time when I could. I began working for a nonprofit by taking a lower-level accounting job at a school for children and adults with developmental disabilities. I was way overqualified, but wanted to get my foot in the door. A few years later, my boss and mentor left that organization to work at Communities in Schools (CIS), a national organization that helps kids stay in school. She offered me a job to come with her.
Was there any one situation that helped you along your way?
I was incredibly lucky to have found a mentor who was not intimidated by hiring someone who was way overqualified. I think my level of enthusiasm and my passion for education helped convince her to take a chance on me. The fact that I was able to volunteer my time to Starfish at first is the reason I work for them today.
What is your typical day like? Does it ever change?
I spend my days crunching numbers, preparing financial reports and analyzing financial data. The end of month and end of year is generally busier.
What is the most rewarding part of your job?
Being able to give back to Guatemala, a country which gave me so much. I am the adoptive mother of a Guatemalan son (pictured above). I am forever grateful to his birth mother for her difficult choice. I feel so fortunate work for an organization that educates and provides Guatemalan girls and their families a brighter future.
What is the most challenging part?
I don’t speak Spanish, which can make the job challenging at times. Learning Spanish is on my to-do list.
What is the biggest personal sacrifice you have to make because of your job?
There are none. I work part-time while my son is in preschool, and I feel very fulfilled and recharged by working for an organization that is improving people’s lives.
What is one lesson you’ve learned in your job that sticks with you?
I was a full-time stay-at-home mom before I started working with Starfish One by One. I waited a long time to start a family and thought staying at home would be my dream job. I loved the luxury of being home with my son; however, I really missed working for a bigger cause. Since returning to work, I feel I use my time more wisely and spend more quality time with my family.
What do you feel is the biggest challenge for women today, particularly females in your industry?
Balancing work and home is a constant struggle, but I feel energized by working outside of the home.
Who are your role models?
I admire any woman who devotes her life to helping others, for example, Mother Teresa & Zainab Salbi, the founder of Women for Women International.
Is there a quote or mantra that you live by?
Well behaved women rarely make history.
What advice do you have for girls who want to be in your industry?
Find your passion, set goals, find positive mentors and work hard.