Women Worth Watching 2015
Shelly A. Espinosa, MPH
United Health Foundation VP Helps Build Healthier Communities
Shelly Espinosa work with United Health Foundation is helping build healthier communities. In her role as vice president of grants and programs, she develops relationships and programs to further enhance the Foundation’s mission.
Established by UnitedHealth Group in 1999, United Health Foundation is a nonprofit, private foundation that works to improve the health system, build a diverse and dynamic health-related workforce, and enhance the well-being of local communities through community partners, grants, and outreach efforts.
“You are responsible for carving your own path….”
Prior to joining United Health Foundation, Shelly spent four years working in Target’s community relations department. As manager of community relations, she was responsible for Target’s national social services programs and for consulting with executive teams throughout the company to build and execute their community relations plans. Prior to her tenure with Target, she was state director of program services for the Minnesota Chapter of the March of Dimes.
“I think my biggest career leap was when I made the decision to move from the nonprofit sector to the corporate sector,” said Shelly. “It’s one of the best decisions I ever made. I’m fortunate to be in a role where I still have the opportunity to work with some amazing nonprofit organizations and support the great work they do for communities in need.
Shelly earned a bachelor’s degree in community health education from the University of Northern Iowa and a Master of Public Health in maternal and child health from the University of Minnesota. She currently serves as president of the University of Minnesota’s School of Public Health alumni board.
Education: MPH, University of Minnesota School of Public Health
First Job: Washing dishes in my sister’s restaurant. It was hard work, but it taught me the value of being part of a team.
What I’m Reading: “The Alchemist” by Paulo Coelho
The most important quality a woman leader should have is…
…integrity. It’s important to always honor your commitments and to never compromise ethics.
The career advice I’d give my former self:
You are responsible for carving your own path. No one else can do this for you. Seek out opportunities, rather than waiting for them to find you.
Words I live by:
Love what you do. When things get tough, because they will, remember why you chose the path you did.
The one thing I’d do differently in my career, knowing what I know now, is…
…to trust my instincts. If something doesn’t feel right, it usually isn’t.
When I really need to focus on a project, I…
…schedule the work time on my calendar so I can fully commit my attention to it. I had a boss that always used to say “just put your fingers on the keyboard.” Having dedicated time to do that is essential to getting the work done.
My biggest career leap (and what I learned from it) was…
…when I made the decision to move from the nonprofit sector to the corporate sector. It’s one of the best decisions I ever made. I’m fortunate to be in a role where I still have the opportunity to work with some amazing nonprofit organizations and support the great work they do for communities in need.
Being a woman in my profession has been…
…rewarding. I’ve had the opportunity to work with a number of amazing female leaders, both within my profession, as well as over the course of my career. I have learned a lot about the qualities that I value in strong leaders and try to emulate those.
I’ve learned that failure is…
…inevitable, so instead of trying to avoid it, learn from it and keep on going.
I maintain a healthy personal life by…
…exercising and spending lots of time with friends and family. A few years ago I discovered kettlebells. Not only does it make me feel better and help relieve stress, I’ve also gained some really amazing friends.
I knew my present career was what I wanted to do when…
…I was in my first job out of graduate school. One of my roles was managing a small grant program. I loved learning about the work others were doing and knew I wanted that to be my next step. I was fortunate to land a role in corporate philanthropy following that job. And the rest, as they say, is history.