We had the good fortune of connecting with Cindy Grossman, LCSW and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Cindy, what was your thought process behind starting your own business?
Although I am not the founder of Kids’ Turn San Diego, I joined the organization in 2013 as the Executive Director. Kids’ Turn San Diego empowers children and heals families. We change family relationships in positive ways so children experiencing family separation, divorce and military transitions have happier childhoods. I am an adult child of divorce and when I learned about the organization, the mission resonated with me. As the Executive Director, I have found my “career home”. Every day when I come to work, I am helping children like me and my sisters. I love what I do and am committed to our mission of “promoting, supporting and securing the well-being of children experiencing family separations”. I am honored to lead our team.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
What sets me apart is that I am a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) who is also a leader. I am able to sit in a meeting, read the room, listen to everyone, summarize what I’m hearing and help shift us toward decision making or next steps. I think this is one of my strengths as a leader. I’ve experienced a few proud moments along with the way. My first two proud moments were when I graduated from Penn State with my Bachelor’s Degree and San Diego State University with my Master’s Degree in Social Work. My third proud moment was when I passed the licensing exam the first time and was able to begin my career as a LCSW. Being hired into my first Executive Director position with Kids’Turn San Diego was another proud moment and then sitting in the audience listening to a presentation at the San Diego Downtown Lions Club about the recipient of the Melvin Jones Award, which is the highest honor for a Lions Club Member, and then hearing my name was also a proud moment. My journey of getting to where I am professionally was one of looking to the universe to provide and following my gut. I had about 1,000 hours left before I could apply for the licenseing test and knew that I needed to be in a clinical position if I wanted to pass the test. I resigned from my position at a middle school and hoped for the best. I was offered a position as a part time Counselor and thanks to the support of my parents and fiance at the time, I accepted the position. I was there two months and was offered a full time position, quickly became the program coordinator, was promoted to the Program Manager within two years and spent four additional years as a Program Director. From there, I worked for a school district and ran a district program like it was a non-profit. I worked there almost 9 years when a colleague told me about Kids’ Turn San Diego and how they would soon be looking for an Executive Director. I checked out their website and knew right away that it was the job for me. Fast forward almost 10 years and here we are. I learned so many lessons along with the way but I think the most important one was always have an open door and be willing to do whatever needs to be done. A leader is one who has walked in the positions of all the employees and understands the role and significance of everyone working with you. A former boss taught me the importance of transparency and being direct with staff. We were in a meeting and a colleague shared an idea. I thought the idea was pretty bad and didnt’ say anything because I didn’t want to be rude. At the end of the meeting, my boss asked me to stay. She told me that I am a very facial person, meaning that sometimes my face speaks loud words. She told me that my facial expression after the colleague shared his idea let her know what I thought of his idea and it wasn’t good. In this moment, I learned that it is not only what comes out of your mouth but also what look or body language you may be displaying. This lesson was huge for me! If there is one thing I want the world to know about me, it would be that I love being a mom, it is the best role I will ever have. I love my career and everything I worked hard to obtain, but nothing beats being a mom!
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
Hmmm. Pre-pandemic my answer would be very different than it is today. If my best friend was visiting today, some must go-to-spots would be the San Diego Zoo, watching the sunset from anywhere we can see it and enjoying a glass of wine on my front deck or in my back yard. Some might think I’m boring but the pandemic brought perspective to what is important to me, my husband and daughter, family, and health and well-being. I prefer to keep it simple. A walk at Mission Bay, getting an Acia Bowl at Roxy’s (by Kearny Mesa High School), getting a Seasalt Coffee with Boba from 85 Degrees or lunch at Rubio’s would be some of my favorite places to share with my best friend. If my best friend was in town during Del Mar Fair time, that would be a go-to-too.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
There are a lot of shoutouts but two come to mind as my biggest supporters, mentors and encouragers. The first is my mom. When we were children, my mom never spoke a bad word about our father, she never compained and did whatever it took to ensure there was food on our table and that we had everything we needed. My mom was a role model of having a strong work ethic, family first and showing up for your kids. There have been several times while working at KTSD that I called her to say “Thank you for doing everything right and for taking such good care of us”. I have a great relationship with my mom and I really admire her and feel inspried by her. My second shout out would be for Tom Iselin. Tom wrote two books, First Things First, the Gold Standard Non-Profit, and Cloudburst. I had heard Tom speak at a leadership fast pitch event and found his first book to be my “non-profit bible” when I first started at KTSD. Any question I had, I found the answer in his book. Fast forward a few years, I had the incredible opportunity to be mentored by Tom. Through this experience, I grew tremedously as a leader, as a fundraiser and as a person. I am still connected with Tom and see him as having a signficant role in my journey. Beyond my mom and Tom, I read a book called “The Way of the Peaceful Warrior” by Dan Milman when I was in my 20’s. This book helped me begin my journey. I encourage anyone who is not sure of their path or calling to read the book. It was a total inspiration to me!