In 1980, Ila Cipriani was working three jobs to support herself and her daughter in Alaska. In an effort to give her family a more stable footing, Ila enlisted in the Air Force. She served in Air Force for 15 years (1980-1995) in administrative roles and personnel management, Ila took full advantage of the training, mentoring, and life skills her Air Force career offered. In the last five years of her military career, she used her GI Bill and attended school part-time. She earned her Associate’s degree in Psychology and Bachelor’s degree in Human Resource Management.
After retiring from the Air Force, she committed herself to continuing to serve the community in the non-profit sector and did so in the areas of healthcare, deaf and blind services and currently in workforce development at Goodwill Industries of Southern Arizona.
What made you want to work with Goodwill?
I felt passionate about the mission and vision and wanted to be part of it. I worked for other non-profits prior to coming to Goodwill but none of those missions spoke to me the way Goodwill’s did. I practically stalked the President/CEO until she finally gave in and invited me for a conversation. That was over 10 years ago.
You’ve seen Goodwill grow in the past 10 years. Tell me what your experience was like.
There were slightly more than 200 employees when I arrived and it felt like we were a little “Mom and Pop” company that was figuring out how to carry out our mission. We had a few programs but nothing fresh or highly impactful for the community. There were many “chopportunities” (where challenge meets opportunity). Over the years, we have experienced explosive growth.
Since my arrival we have opened 13 stores, several Attended Donation Centers, increased our employee base to over 500 team members and currently deliver several relevant programs that make a difference for those we serve. Our community has been fantastic in supporting us. It is because of our community members’ donations, shopping and overall support we are able to generate the revenue to support our mission and vision to make a positive difference in our community. The transformation of this organization is like nothing else I have seen in my professional life…. And we’re not done yet.
How do you feel about Goodwill turning 50 years old?
It is extraordinary! We have accomplished so much in that span of time and we look forward to the amazing things we will do in the next 50 years.
We just completed our most successful year yet and I believe that success results in large part from the advancement of leadership skills, our values based culture and the talented and compassionate staff we have who work every day with our community to provide our programs. When we live our value of continuous improvement, everyone benefits.
What advice would you give someone who hasn’t yet taken their first steps to achieve their career/educational goals?
Be brave. Adopt a positive mindset that you can do whatever you set out to do. The first step is always the hardest and most frightening. Conquering that fear is life altering.
Ila loves sailing and golfing; and her passion is spending time with family and especially her granddaughter. She also served as President of the Society of Human Resource Management of Greater Tucson (SHRM-GT) in 2016-2017.
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