Thursday, February 1, 2007

Cynthia Oswald

Cynthia Oswald: “Go For It!”

By: Joseph W. Norman

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Enjoy the read about...Cynthia Oswald...below! Thanks for your readership!

The first thing that a person recognizes about Cynthia (Cindy) Oswald in casual conversation is probably how fast she talks. This is most likely in direct correlation to her brain function because she is always thinking about what she can do next after her current task (or two, or three…) are finished.

Cindy is no stranger to hard work as she has accomplished much in her life already while raising a few children with all the love and care they deserve. She lives her life with a fundamental belief in fate, and the right place at the right time principle. In fact, she describes her selection to be President of the Livingston County Chamber of Commerce as this type of occurrence. One could argue that fate favors the hard working and the perseverant though.

Therefore, in Cynthia’s case, one can expect much more to come from this motivated woman. A quote she uses most often is, “Many a false step is made by standing still.” She says it is so easy to stand still because we think standing still is a neutral position, but in our society it becomes a negative. After reading Cynthia’s story, one will realize that standing still has never been an issue.

It seems necessary to first outline Cindy’s professional life before tackling the underlying motivations for her success and trials she has faced. She started going to school at SUNY Brockport to study art because she had already sold some of her work in high school. While at Brockport she sold shoes full time and then after only a year got married, had her first child, and then was forced to attend school part time. At Brockport she studied a variety of subjects including Sociology, Early Childhood Education, and the aforementioned, Art.

At this point she had her second child and had not yet completed her degree. This is when things got really interesting for Oswald because her second child was born chronically ill, so she “spent a lot of time managing his health.” It took up much of her time but it “taught me a lot about communicating and about how to get what I needed for him and for her” both in the medical sense and in general, out of life.

Her advocating and influence on the medical field led her into a part time job working for Rochester General Hospital. Here she used her art background to create an illustrated story book for the Sibling’s class which is still in use by ViaHealth hospitals today.

Meanwhile, she continued her part time education and worked countless jobs where she was frequently “under-employed” because she did not have the piece of paper to land her in a job she belonged in. This was difficult for her because she knew she was meant for so much more. She even started her own wood working business at one point; with this she could stay at home with her children while working. What really seemed to interest her from all of her endeavors though was politics.

In her efforts she worked with a group to get asbestos removed from a school that was closed in Rochester which was a huge campaign. As the up-front person in the group she worked with media and political figures. She describes the experience like so; “I was really young and I got beat up, but we were successful. The school is open to this day.” Mind you, this is all while still pursuing her education. It took her twenty five years to get her bachelors degree which she finished at Empire State College, after tenure at both Brockport and Roberts Wesleyan. She was invited to be the speaker at her graduation, “I think they felt sorry for me,” she proclaims.

Teaching came into the picture for a while and then she finally started to send out hundreds of resumes to whatever seemed interesting. From this she landed a job with Genesee Valley BOCES as a business and education liaison. Her success in this capacity got her clout within the chamber she worked in and eventually got her into her current position as President of the Livingston County Chamber of Commerce.

In her first year as president she took over and completed a building project which had gone awry. This is the present Chamber building on Millennium Drive in Geneseo, NY. In the last few years she has helped create and run fourteen programs while bringing in more membership from county business owners.

It is necessary to toil through this long list of achievements and activities because it provides a clearer picture of who Cynthia Oswald really is. She is an extremely motivated individual who is the greatest advocate for her people and for herself. Her employees are the most important part of her day. In fact, she makes an effort to go out of her way for them to the point that she often has to take her own work home to complete it; which she does with the highest quality. She feels that this support keeps her Chamber running smooth and successfully.

This new type of advocacy is of utmost importance, but another person she sponsors with great persistence is herself. During her second year at the Chamber she got herself onto the United States Chamber of Commerce’s Council on Small Business. Many people ask her how she got appointed to that council. Her answer is, she wrote a letter and told Giovanni Coratolo, Director of Small Business Policy, about her county and her desire to serve. Soon after, he called her and invited her on board.

This is representative of an integral part of Cynthia Oswald, her character. “Amazing things happen when you are confident. You can be humble and confident at the same time, but people often do not make the effort. People in their heads believe that the better people are out there and the better people get these positions.” In reflection on this fact she describes her theory about each and every one of us. “It is people like us that are needed to run the country.” One must not doubt themselves because if one believes, they will be able to achieve. “In a nutshell,” this is who Cynthia is.

This entire story, with a few more details, was deliberated in approximately ten minutes; efficiency at its finest. “When I am sleeping, I’m thinking; and when I’m not sleeping, I’m out making contacts with people who can help me.” In fact, when asked how she relaxed, she quipped, “I don’t.” She is working on it though. In her free time she reads books on leadership, politics, and business. Her ultra-competitiveness has led to her success and will carry her on to much more.

Despite this attitude, she says that a key thing for her is to be able to shut it off immediately. That generally only happens once a day though before she gets her eight hours of sleep. She always wants to be the first to do something and she feeds off the fear and challenge of new ideas. When asked about her strengths, she replied that “strengths are also weaknesses.” Her ability to focus is what she described as her strength, but she also recognized her weaknesses as a result of that focus.

Often times in meetings, she sits on the edge of her seat and is asked to sit back because it makes people nervous. That is her “focus” working against her but it is the essence of who she is. Her excitement and energy makes her great at what she does. It also makes her an inspiration to be around and talk to.

Cynthia's office

Now, one must move to the little things that round out the life of Cynthia Oswald. She lives in a home that is straight out of the 1950’s, literally. All of the furniture, decorations, artwork, etcetera, are from that era. She describes it as a Barbie Dream House from that time period. People she would like to have met or would like to meet are Eleanor Roosevelt, whose quote “Do one thing everyday that scares you” is on her giant coffee mug, George Washington, not because he was the first President but rather because he knew how to spin the “media” in his favor which got him his presidency, and Jim Wallis, founder and editor of Sojourner’s magazine whose writings on faith have influenced her.

She despises tardiness, because it is disrespectful. In fact, she does not even like the word “tardiness.” Her favorite movie is Thirteen Ghosts, the original which was shown in theatres with 3D glasses. If you try to show her one of the remakes, she will not be happy and will most likely leave to do more productive things.

The book that is currently her favorite is Jack: Straight from the Gut by Jack Welch, former CEO of General Electric, because he was the underdog. From her nursery background, she says everybody should read, Blueberries for Sale by Robert McCloskey and her current book on leadership is The Leadership Challenge by Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner.

To sum up Cindy in a few words, the last statement she said in her interview is the most fitting. “Go for it.” It was quick, to the point, and had a passion and sincerity that could motivate the most complacent of souls. That is Cynthia Oswald.

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Cynthia Oswald
Livingston County Chamber of Commerce
4635 Millennium Drive
Geneseo, NY 14454
Phone: 585-243-2222
Fax: 585-243-4824
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