Jessica Stamm – Community Disruptor
Jessica Stamm, a senior manager in Baird’s finance department in Milwaukee, has been dedicating her time to charitable activities since she was in college. In this interview, Jessica talked to us about the kinds of skills she helps high school kids develop, and how Baird has supported her philanthropic efforts.
How long have you been with Baird, and what do you do?
This July it will be 20 years. I've been in finance my entire time, primarily in financial planning and analysis. In March I started a new role within finance as senior initiatives manager, so I'm responsible for special projects primarily focused on talent and our associates.
When did you get started working with charities?
I started doing a lot of the activities that I do now in college at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. I started working with an organization called The Gathering, which is a local meal program for the homeless and hungry. My husband and I still volunteer there regularly now.
My other lane is working with kids who are underserved, which I started doing in college as well. Through my accounting fraternity, I started going into schools and working with kids, whether it's volunteering in classrooms or one-on-one mentoring that I've done with high school students.
Is your mentoring centered on finance?
It's more just life and role modeling: explaining what I do, introducing Baird, introducing the financial industry, sharing what an accountant does, that it's not just algebra or math. Recently it was helping with resumes and cover letters too. It's also helping the teachers, because the teachers are overwhelmed and they need a little bit of a break.
Do you find that there are kids who don't really appreciate that you can make a career out of math?
Yes, but once you start talking money with them, that gives them, you know, a little more interest.
Is there any one young person that you feel like you really made a difference for?
One young lady named Tiffany has a really tragic background story, but I was able to help her establish a checking account, and I also helped her get a work permit. But backing up before that – she didn't have a Social Security card. She didn't have a birth certificate. So I worked with her to get these things, and a checking account, a debit card, setting up budget targets, those kinds of life skills. That was something that she had never even had on her radar.
We eventually got her employed at a fast food restaurant. She's doing this on her own, and she has a long way to go, but we’re working on planting seeds. They're not trees yet.
Are there other organizations that you're involved with at this point?
LuMin, which is the Lutheran Urban Mission Initiative, is a network of schools here in Milwaukee, and I'm on their board. Also NABA, which is the National Association of Black Accountants, that I’m connected with through my finance department here at Baird.
How has Baird supported you in these efforts?
A ton, starting with the two Baird Cares days that we get. I also work a flexible work arrangement, so I am not in the office on Fridays. That has allowed me to work in these schools, because I go there during the school day. If I worked five days a week, I'd never be able to do that.
My department has gathered school supplies and money for LuMin. And then most recently we've started this connection with NABA. It’s a very supportive environment.
If somebody told you they really wanted to get more involved with the community, do you have any advice for them?
Ask around in your personal and professional networks to understand what others are doing. Participate in Baird Gives Back Week with the goal of experimenting and seeing what works for you. I would suggest trying various things before making a real deep commitment, because not everything clicks for everyone, but something will work for you. And that’s what makes us great.