Blazing an Authentic Trail

Cameron lives by the mantra her grandmother taught her, “Never turn down anything but your coat collar.” This mantra and her approach to life provides for an engaging and worthwhile conversation that touches on a variety of important topics. Cameron shares candidly with us about her experience climbing the career ladder, dealing with toxic work environments and how taking risks saved her life and helped her reclaim her voice.  The conversation also touches on the importance of belonging and diversity in the workplace and taking calculated risks. One of her greatest risks involved writing about her experiences and Cameron shares how writing helped her cope with and work through her experience. Cameron prioritizes her health and well-being and will hopefully inspire you to do the same. The fun cornerstone of the episode does turn back to the power of grandmothers and the inspiring stories of how they continue to live on through their families. Tune in to hear these powerful stories of leadership, self-care, and community.

Cameron Curtis, CMM, CAE, is the Founder and Chief Executive Officer of C2 Association Strategies and has more than 22 years of association management experience. Prior to founding C2, Cameron served as President & CEO of the Association of Air Medical Services (AAMS) and Medivac Foundation International (MFI). During her tenure with AAMS and MFI, she led the organization through a federal lawsuit against the Departments of Health & Human Services, Labor and Treasury, established the Emergency Transport Healthcare Operations and Safety (ETHOS) database, launched new DEI initiatives, facilitated strategic planning that resulted in future-forward mission, vision, and strategic priorities, overhauled and implemented a new governance structure and membership model, worked with the legislative team to impact legislation and rule-making related to the No Surprises Act, Medicare reform and 5G Implementation, and led COVID response efforts and townhalls to support members during the pandemic.

Prior to joining AAMS, she worked for SmithBucklin where she served as the executive director for the Society of Interventional Oncology (SIO) and Association for Clinical and Translational Science (ACTS), managing resource allocations and staffing for the Washington, DC, healthcare association practice and serving on a committee designed to develop training and education for executive directors, companywide. In addition, Cameron has worked with a variety of organizations, including serving as the executive director for the Texas Speech-Language-Hearing Association and Association of Meeting Professionals, and providing oversight for meetings and events, domestically and internationally. She worked with the U.S. Department of Defense and U.S. State Department on several international meetings, including the International Military HIV/AIDS Conference in Maputo, Mozambique, and the International Conference on AIDS & STIs in Africa in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. She also served as the director of meetings for the Regional Airline Association (RAA) and Alliance for Continuing Education in the Health Professions (ACEhp). Prior to joining SmithBucklin, Cameron served as manager of meetings of the Association of American Medical Colleges and director of society affairs of the Phi Beta Kappa Society.

Cameron holds a bachelor’s degree in music theater from the Christopher Newport University in Newport News, Va. She is a member of the American Society of Association Executives and is a current member of the CAE Commission, served as ex-officio on the ASAE Industry Partner Alliance, is past chair of the ASAE Meetings & Exposition Professionals Council and past member of the ASAE Foundation Development Committee. She is also a Certified Association Executive (CAE) and has a Certification in Meeting Management (CMM) from Meeting Professionals International. Cameron is a contributing author in the 2023 book, by bestselling author Jessica Buchanan, Deserts to Mountaintops: The Collective Journey to (re)Claiming our Voice. In her chapter, “The Sound of Resilience,” she shares her experience climbing the career ladder, dealing with toxic work environments and workplace trauma, and how taking risks saved her life and helped her reclaim her voice. Cameron lives in Alexandria, Virginia, with her husband, Scott, son, Vincent, and her three dogs, Stella, Oscar, and Emmy.

Connecting with Cameron:






Book that was discussed – Chapter by Cameron “The Sound of Resilience”

Deserts to Mountaintops: Our Collective Journey to (re)Claiming Our Voice,

by Jessica Buchannan

How to connect with Diane 




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Diane Schroeder [00:00:21]:

One of my most meaningful relationships of my entire life was with my Grandma Kinsley. She was a light and just an incredible woman with so much love. I miss her every day. I was fortunate enough to spend my childhood with her. She lived just a couple of blocks away from my parents, and from the time my mom felt comfortable letting me walk over to her house alone, which is probably six, that's exactly what I did. I helped her make candy every year to prepare for her annual New Year's Day party. She took us to school every morning and every afternoon. My little brother and I went to her house and she always had a treat for us, whether it was a twinkie pudding. Sometimes if we were really lucky, it was jello with carrots or cabbage in it, and she made a special dressing of mayonnaise and sugar to put on top of it. Did I mention she was raised in Kansas during the Depression? She was just an incredible woman. And I love hearing stories about the relationship of other women with their grandmothers because generationally speaking, our grandmas teach us so much that our moms might miss, because when you're in the middle of being a parent directly, you're worried about a lot of other things. And the benefit grandparents have is they've been there and done that. And my Grandma Kinsley was a single mom in the 1940s, so there really wasn't much to stress her out in. The she passed away in 1997. I just miss her every day. This week's guest also had an incredible relationship with both of her grandmas, but the mantra her Grandma Lois taught her never turn down anything but your coat collar has really guided her life. Her bio is very impressive, and I will put the entire bio in her show. Notes the highlights are cameron Curtis, Cmmcae, is the founder and chief executive officer of C Two Association Strategies and has more than 22 years of association management experience. Prior to founding C Two, Cameron served as president and CEO of the association of Air Medical Services and Medevac Foundation International. During her tenure with AAMS and MFI, she led the organization through a federal lawsuit against the Departments of Health and Human Services, labor and treasury established the Emergency Transport, Healthcare, Operations and Safety database launched new Dei initiatives facilitated strategic planning that resulted in future Forward mission, vision and strategic priorities overhauled and implemented a new governance structure and membership model. Cameron holds a bachelor's degree in music theater from the Christopher Newport University in Newport News, Virginia. She is a certified association executive and has a certification in meeting management from Meeting Professionals International. She is a contributing author in the 2023 book by Bestselling author Jessica Buchanan deserts to mountaintops the collective journey to reclaiming our voice. In her chapter the sound of resilience, she shares her experience climbing the career ladder, dealing with toxic work environments and workplace trauma, and how taking risks saved her life and helped her reclaim her voice. Cameron lives in Alexandria, Virginia, with her husband Scott, son Vincent and her three dogs, Stella, Oscar, and Emmy.

Diane Schroeder [00:04:33]:

Hi, Cameron. How are you?

Cameron Curtis [00:04:34]:

I'm good. How are you?

Diane Schroeder [00:04:37]:

I'm fabulous.

Cameron Curtis [00:04:38]:

It's so good to see you.

Diane Schroeder [00:04:39]:

It's really good to see you, too. It seems like a lot has happened for both of us in the last six weeks since we really first met and last saw each other. But before we dive into all of that, my random question for you is would you rather photograph puppies for your full time job or be a pizza taste tester and never gain weight?

Cameron Curtis [00:05:02]:

Wow, that's hard because I love puppies and I love pizza.

Diane Schroeder [00:05:05]:


Cameron Curtis [00:05:06]:

I think I would do the pizza tasting because with the puppies, I already have a foster fail dog. And so I feel like if I photograph puppies, if for some reason any of them were available, I would bring them all home and I would probably be divorced because I would just have a farm of beautiful, cute little puppies. So the pizza is probably safer.

Diane Schroeder [00:05:30]:

Yes, I understand that, and I agree. If I could just eat pizza as a full time job and nothing would happen to me, I wouldn't gain weight and I could travel the world I'm in.

Cameron Curtis [00:05:40]:

Me too. Let's go together.

Diane Schroeder [00:05:41]:

I like it. It's even more fun. Then we can incorporate wine tasting as well.

Cameron Curtis [00:05:46]:


Diane Schroeder [00:05:46]:


Cameron Curtis [00:05:47]:


Diane Schroeder [00:05:48]:

Thank you so much for joining me today and for my audience. They are going to be so excited to hear your story. And I guess let's just start there, like the brief addition of a little bit of your journey to authenticity and how you got to where you are now.

Cameron Curtis [00:06:03]:

So I studied music in college. I started playing the piano in middle school, and I loved music, and then from there I wanted to sing. And so I started singing in, I guess, high school. And then I went to college to study vocal performance, opera and musical theater. And then I got married and moved to DC. And had to get a job, like a real job that paid real money so I could pay bills and all those grown up things that you need to do. And so I sort of fell into the nonprofit space and really unexpected, but I've really enjoyed being in that space, sort of working for a bunch of different organizations, mainly in healthcare. A lot of my work has been in the healthcare nonprofit space. So I started out at an academic nonprofit, and that was really interesting. And then I fell into healthcare nonprofits, and then I worked at an association management company. Then I was running several healthcare nonprofits at an association management company. And then I became CEO of a healthcare nonprofit as a standalone. And then from there, I was there for two and a half years. And then I started my own company last year so that I could consult and help other nonprofit associations grow and really be the best that they can be based on all of my experience.

Diane Schroeder [00:07:19]:

Thank you for sharing your story. And that is really the rough outline because I did read up on you and I read your chapter and your book that you are contributing to called Deserts to Mountaintops. And what a crazy journey, right? To start. I'm sure you thought you were going to go into theater and musical theater so you could be a Broadway star or an opera star.

Cameron Curtis [00:07:39]:

Yes, opera, preferably. But I also loved musical theater.

Diane Schroeder [00:07:43]:

And now here you are running your own business and consulting and there's a lot of stuff in there. I think one of the things that strikes me the most about you and how we met and instantly connected, I was like, oh yeah, she's one of my people, was the way you talk about risk. And so I grew up in the fire service. I spent almost 24 years in the profession. I moved my way up the ladder. And in the fire service, we're taught to value risk as you risk a lot to save a lot, you risk a little to save a little, and you don't risk much to save nothing. And so risk is very like life or death. And I really appreciate your view on risk, that you've got to continuously take risks and little risks give you confidence for bigger risks. So let's talk a little bit about that, about how you kind of started that your risk taking behavior from a young age.

Cameron Curtis [00:08:36]:

So my grandmother had this saying, never turn down anything but your coat collar. And it's interesting because I thought that was like a normal colloquialism that people said and actually it wasn't. It's something that she just made up. And really it is that it's like, take risks. And my mom would say that to me. And I think it's just if you don't take risks, life is boring. And a risk can be anything, right? From trying a new skincare regime you don't know it's going to completely break your face out or to going into a job that you really don't feel as prepared for or that you don't have all the qualifications, but just sort of taking that leap of faith and sort of figuring it out along the way. Obviously it's not necessarily life and death in the nonprofit world, but it can be. I mean, I've taken some risks and some of them have paid off and some of them haven't. And sometimes you can take a risk and end up in a very toxic work environment and that can actually be life threatening. It can take its toll. And this one situation, I was on antidepressants, and I was just miserable. I wasn't myself. And so that's a risk that didn't necessarily pay out as much as I thought it would. But it got me to the next place, which got me to where I am today. So I think it's really important. Obviously, don't just run into a burning building. Right. You need to think about it, put some thought into it. But I'm always like, is it going to break the bank or cause any financial harm? No. Okay, great. Is it going to hurt anybody? No. Okay, great. It's sort of those questions, and as long as it's not going to hurt anybody, hurt me, hurt my family, hurt the people I care about, or cause major financial destruction, then it's typically I'm willing to take the risk. And it definitely keeps life interesting, which is good.

Diane Schroeder [00:10:27]:

I love that you don't get bored without taking risk, and that's true. And I think when I hear you speak, what I also hear is, yes, you take risks, but you always bet on yourself 100% that you know who you are and your confidence. And that is so important when you're being authentic, to fall back on. Yes, this is a risk, but you're betting on you.

Cameron Curtis [00:10:50]:

Right. And I think that's the most important thing is a risk can also be standing up for yourself. Right. And that's a really hard risk to take, especially in a professional setting, especially as a woman, where we're often seen as if we stand up for ourselves or we push, we're aggressive instead of assertive. It's really fascinating. I was reading something earlier today about that in this DEI course that I'm doing, and the difference between women standing up for themselves and men standing up for themselves is fascinating to me. And the fact that we are often seen as being I've been called aggressive before, and I'm not aggressive. I believe in what I'm doing, and if I feel like it's the right thing and it's the right risk to take, yes, I'm going to push for that, but ultimately, everybody involved has to agree. So I'm doing what's in the best interest of the organization. But again, I've been called aggressive for that.

Diane Schroeder [00:11:51]:

Side note. But it ties in, I promise. Have you seen the show? The Diplomat on Netflix?

Cameron Curtis [00:11:55]:

Yes, I love it.

Diane Schroeder [00:11:56]:

Oh, my God, I loved it. When they're talking about her and the VP like, you can be a bitch, but not too bitchy. You can be pretty, but not too pretty. And I was like, oh, my gosh, that resonated so much for me when I heard that, because I'm like, oh, hello to every woman trying to climb the leadership ladder and take on nontraditional roles or to be their own CEO and be their own boss, there's just this stigma. And I think it is a risk to stand up for yourself. Also, when you were talking about toxic work environments. That is really scary too. And I think when it comes to that life and death, you're absolutely right. There was a great article that was just written in a magazine last week that talked about it's not the trauma that we see in emergency services, it's the trauma we experience in the working culture. And that just hit home for me because I think really we spend a lot of our time as professionals working in an environment that isn't our safe home or safe space. So if that environment is toxic, of course it will affect your health and create anxiety and create just a lot of, I used to call it I wouldn't sleep the night before work. And a lot of times it wasn't because I was worried about the calls we were going to run on. I was worried about the interactions I was going to have with some of my colleagues.

Cameron Curtis [00:13:22]:


Diane Schroeder [00:13:23]:

And that was horrible.

Cameron Curtis [00:13:25]:

It's crazy. And I think the really bad thing about it is that the first time it happened to me, I didn't realize it right until it got to a point when it was just almost unbearable. And I think that happens to a lot of people is they don't realize that they're in this toxic situation. It's sort of like your behavior changes a little bit at a time and all of a sudden you are someone that you don't recognize and that your family maybe doesn't recognize. And I mean, I was angry all the time. I finally realized it and I left. I stood up for myself and I left. I got myself out of that situation and with money in my pocket, which was good because I was basically I said, this person is bullying me and it is not okay. And I think more people should feel like they can do that and you just can't. And again, I think I carried that trauma. It was trauma. And I carried that around for eleven years. And it wasn't until I was writing the chapter that I realized that I was still carrying this woman with me. Every time, everywhere I went, where it was an industry event, I was like, I'm going to see her. And all of those feelings from those eleven years before just bubble up again. And it really struck me when I was like, oh my gosh, I have to let this go. I can't keep carrying this around.

Diane Schroeder [00:14:51]:

How do you let that go? How did you let that go?

Cameron Curtis [00:14:54]:

Well, I wrote a chapter. I'm not a big writer. I don't journal. I aspire to be like one of those people who's like, I wake up in the morning and I meditate and then I write in my journal and that's just not me. I'm just not that person. But I do think writing the chapter really helped. And I happened to be writing it at a time where I was going through a difficult work transition. And I was trying to keep sort of the feelings from that difficult, also somewhat toxic environment out of the writing of the story of the original toxic situation. And finally I sort of just let all the feelings come out. And that really helped. I just sat with myself and said, this is not okay. You can't let her hold this power over you. And then I saw her in an event, actually, where I was dreading seeing her. I knew she would be there, and she was like, sitting off by herself with this scowl on her face like she always had. That was the moment when I was like, oh, this is my karma. Because I wanted the karma to be like, hellfire brimstone and everything falling down upon her. And it was I think I say in the chapter, sometimes karma or justice is quiet. And in this case, it was quiet. But I appreciated that moment of clarity and that really made a difference. And so now, moving forward, I try to, one, recognize if I'm in a toxic situation, even in a consulting position, you can be in a toxic situation. I try to recognize it as soon as possible, and I limit the time there if I can because it's not worth it. It's not worth my health.

Diane Schroeder [00:16:26]:

Right? Well, and I think I also hear is that's self care, that's how you take care of yourself, create those boundaries, you know, what is acceptable, what's not acceptable. Again, you lean on yourself, but what a beautiful way to take care of yourself that isn't like the typical, oh, this is totally self care. No. Self care is like really making sure that your whole I think it's probably.

Cameron Curtis [00:16:49]:

Like the highest form of self care right. Is recognizing when you are in a position it's not I love going to get a massage or a facial or whatever, but it's recognizing when you are in a space that is not healthy for you and figuring out a way to escape. Right. Figuring out your exit strategy.

Diane Schroeder [00:17:08]:

It's so much more than being resilient, right? Because resilient is just, I can buckle up, pull my boots up, and just keep trudging along. That's being resilient, recognizing that it's toxic and that it's time to leave, and that you've got to bet on yourself. That's growth, that's beyond being resilient, that's taking it a step further. And resiliency is important because resiliency is a great survival tool, but I think resiliency consistently can have a lot of the same effects. Like that trauma can, that toxicity can, because it's like, I know I'm resilient, but I'm really tired of being resilient, right?

Cameron Curtis [00:17:45]:

I'm exhausted and it's like, I'm resilient. But why? Why am I being resilient? Like, why am I continuing to put myself in harm's way when really I need to leave? And I understand, like, a lot of people, it's your work, right? You need to pay your bills. There are lots of things that go along with that, and to some, it's your identity, and to sort of extricate yourself from that situation is very scary and very hard. But if you don't stand up for the toxic work environment, no one will. And if you can be that one that does it, you might help so many others behind you, because they're probably feeling the same thing.

Diane Schroeder [00:18:22]:

Thank you for sharing that. I feel like now that I've officially left the fire service, for so many years of my life, I did what I was expected to do or what I thought I needed to do. And some of the first moments of clarity that I had, which was like, maybe I need to figure out something else, was right. At the end of COVID I started my master's. I'm like, I'm going to be a fire chief. I'm going to get my master's degree. I'm going to check all the boxes. And then, like, I don't know, a third of the way into my master's program, I was like, screw this. I do not want to be a fire chief. Okay, well, if I don't want to be a fire chief, then what do I want to do? And I've never really asked that question before of myself. I'm just like, I'm just in the fire service. I'm going to stay till I'm old, and then I'm going to retire. And that's the plan. And I'm like, I think I need a new plan. And I really started setting the intention. And what I found most exciting about this entire journey of leaving the fire service and starting a new chapter is the incredible people that I've met like you. The synergy, the way the universe aligns things is just really grateful, and I don't know that I'd be open to it or even looking for it. Had I just kept my head down and kept moving forward and not listening to myself.

Cameron Curtis [00:19:34]:

Right? It's so funny. I was thinking this morning about when I came to pick you up at the hotel, we were going to do that education thing, and you got in the car, and I was immediately like, oh, my gosh, oh, my gosh, oh, my gosh. And then later that evening, when we went out for the glass of wine, we were done. And we're like, we have to be friends. We have to be friends. And it just was amazing. I mean, it makes me smile because I love surrounding myself with badass women, and you're certainly one of those. And I think it's very brave to say, I've been in the fire service my entire career, and I don't want to do it anymore. And now I need to figure out what I do want to do. And that's really impressive. Not many people can do that. A lot of people just sit and say, all right, this is the path that I'm on. I'm just going to stay on this path and they just suck it up resilience, right? And they're just like, I'm going to trudge through and do whatever I need to do and I'm going to try and either climb the ladder or I'm happy just in this one space. And I applaud you for being so brave and just saying this is not what I want to be or where I want to go.

Diane Schroeder [00:20:35]:

Well, thank you. And what I found, likewise, is when I meet badass women like you and I'm like, oh, there's a whole different world out there of women who support each other and lift each other up. And one of the things that my old medical director, she used to say, women are villagers. They'll go where great women are, they'll go. And so I kind of turned it into where badass women are, badass women will go. But you've got to be open to that. And I think for a lot of my career in the fire service, it was very competitive and women were pretty mean and not super supportive of each other, and it never felt right. But I didn't know how to really make friends. I didn't know what was on the other side of the door or just on the other side of fear. And now I'm like, I feel like the universe likewise, you're like, oh. I'm like, oh, look what Cameron's doing. Okay, I can do this. I know people now that inspire me and it's just a really awesome feeling to have that and that support and it's like, that, man, we should just be taking over the world, to be quite honest. So I would love to hear a little bit more about Grandma Lois. And the reason why is because I had an amazing grandmother who really was the bedrock of love for me and just showed me what unconditional love and belief in yourself was and is, and I carry her with me to this day. And she passed away 26 years ago, and I still I miss her all the time. But when you talk about Grandma Lois and what she told you about don't turn down anything but your coat collar, what type of relationship did you guys have and how awesome?

Cameron Curtis [00:22:16]:

She was a pretty incredible woman. And I have to say, I have to give credit to my other grandmother who was also equally incredible. She died. She was 100 when she died and she lived in Iowa her entire life and she moved cross country to be closer to my dad, who was an only child, and she outlived two husbands, like, very strong. I happened to spend more time with Lois, but I have to give a shout out to my grandma Iowa, which is what I called her because she lived in Iowa, but her name was Fern. Shout out for her. But Lois was man, she was a force to be reckoned with. My grandfather died when they were in their mid 50s. They had been together since teenagers. It was very, very difficult. He was in Saudi Arabia when he died, and so she wasn't there. That was like a devastating moment to her. And she picked herself up and just went moved forward. And I sometimes joke and say the moment my grandfather died, she had been waiting to die ever since she lived to be 91. And so obviously for whatever that math is, almost 40 years later, god, she would wear these amazing skirt suits. She would take me to the opera. We had season tickets to the opera. And she would wear these fancy stilettos. She had this beautiful silver hair. It was like short but always in perfect position. So she was either wearing something like that or she was wearing a track suit and cute tennis shoes. And she had these amazing legs and just really spunky, vivacious. And she also used to say to me, besides, never turned on anything but your coat collar. She would always say, you better get it right, lady. It was like, pay attention. Like, get it right. We spent a lot of time with her, and she traveled a ton, which I think is probably where I partly got my love of travel, but just this really amazing woman. I felt the love from her all the time. I still feel it now even though she's gone, right. Like, I know that she's sort of looking down on me and cheering me on, but like one of the original badass women, my mother is a lot like her, and I am a lot like my mother. And somebody said yesterday, apple trees make apples. And so my mom and I are apples to lowe's as apple tree. But she lived alone for most of her adult life. I mean, you figure 55, she lost most of her friends, and she had a really interesting life and just really amazing woman and so supportive, so proud of me and my brother and my son. And she loved us all 150%, and we knew it.

Diane Schroeder [00:24:57]:

I love that. Last week or a couple of weeks ago now, I had to give a talk on leadership. And really it's a love story. I think that leadership is love and you have to love your people. And it sounds like you were very fortunate to grow up with that type of love. I had similar my other grandma, same thing. She lived to be 100. She lived on the east coast. I didn't see her as much, but she's freaking incredible woman and they were these matriarchal figures that really set up the future generations. And the foundation of it was love. I mean, they just love their family, and I think we get away from that sometimes through these sterile environments like unhealthy work cultures also don't have love. And I'm not saying like, you don't hold people accountable and that you don't even have to like people, but you have to love them because we're all human and we all have other things going on in our lives. And to not be genuine and authentic and just really love what you do and who you serve and who you work with I think creates a lot of obstacles and unhealthy work environments.

Cameron Curtis [00:26:05]:

Yeah. I always say you have to lead with positive intent, right. Everybody there, whether you like them or not, right? We all have people that we've worked with or who have worked for us where they're not our favorites. But you have to lead with positive intent because everybody is there doing the best they can. It's very rare. I'm not going to say nobody. It's very rare for people to go to work and be like, I just am going to screw everything. I'm going to do my worst. People don't do that. And if they're doing that, it's because they don't have a good leader. They're not engaged. They don't have somebody who's creating an inclusive environment. They're not given the tools and resources they need to succeed. Because if you do that, if you provide those basic things which seem like they should be a no brainer, people will be so engaged and they will do anything for you, and they would do anything for the organization, and the result will be good. The organization will be more productive. The people will be more productive. People will enjoy going to work. Now, that's not to say that every now and then you're not going to go to work and be like, I hate this place. I don't want to be here today.

Diane Schroeder [00:27:11]:


Cameron Curtis [00:27:11]:

If you do that, if you do those things and again, primarily lead with positive intent, it will be fine, right? Things will actually be good.

Diane Schroeder [00:27:21]:

Well, I agree with that. And I think it's knowing that because we're human, I agree with you. Most people don't wake up and be like, all right, today I'm just going to be a dirt bag and I'm going to screw it all up and make all kinds of mistakes. In my experience, when people do that, it's because they've got other stuff going on. Okay? So we got to figure that out. And all those skills that you talked about to be a leader and lead with positive intent have nothing to do with the job description of whatever company you're working for. And like you mentioned earlier, that sometimes you've gotten into jobs where you didn't maybe have all the answers, but you bet on yourself and you knew that was going to be enough to get you through. A chief that I used to work for said the same thing. He goes, you don't promote to the position you're competent for. You promote to the position you know you can learn. And it reminded me that same thing. And those foundational tools and skills that you have that you bring to the table as a leader. Those are universal. They have nothing to do with the industry that you work in.

Cameron Curtis [00:28:24]:

Correct. Isn't that funny? I mean, it really is. And I think people think, oh, to do this job, you have to lead differently. But no, it really is those same tenets. Right?

Diane Schroeder [00:28:36]:

Well and it's the authenticity. I think for a long time, I tried to lead differently. I tried to lead that was not out like a man. Essentially, I just tried to lead like all the guys that I knew led, and that just didn't work for me. And I guess I didn't know how impactful my leadership was or wasn't until my last shift at work. And the emotion and the genuine care that my guys took in the gift they gave me, and that expression was just one of the more meaningful moments of my life. It was like, oh, did I make the right decision? Oh, my gosh, I don't know. How could I leave these people? It was really sad.

Cameron Curtis [00:29:18]:

Wouldn't it be better if we told people those things while they were still there? It shouldn't take somebody leaving for us to be like, oh, my gosh, you were an amazing leader, and thank you so much. We should say those things more often. And I think especially not that we shouldn't say to men, but I think especially to women, because I do think that we suffer from more self doubt and that imposter syndrome that everybody talks about. And to hear those words like, thank you, I see you, I see that you are here supporting me, and I appreciate that. We should do more of that. I don't know why we don't.

Diane Schroeder [00:29:53]:

Right? Well, I think a lot of it is scarcity mindset. Right. If I boost someone up, they're either going to leave and go somewhere else, or they're going to become a threat to my fightum, which is absolute bullshit. We know that's not true. But I think the ego supersedes the heart at times, and instead of giving that genuine feedback, we play it safe and we don't take that risk.

Cameron Curtis [00:30:19]:

Yes. So you got to take the risk, because I think that's really important. And I always say that, look, if I've got somebody coming up behind me, no matter who or what they are, my job is to give them the tools they need to get to the next space and position. And if that position is my position and I'm not leaving, then it's my job to help them find the next place outside of where we are, or if I'm leaving, to help them into my place. I think if we all thought about that more, then we'd have a much kinder workforce, right?

Diane Schroeder [00:30:57]:

Absolutely. It's that finite versus infinite mindset. The finite. Oh, no, it's a threat. I got to keep it as the way it is, instead of no, it's infinite. They grow. I love exactly how you describe that. There's this movie called we were soldiers, and it was probably 20 years old with Mel Gibson. And there's this point in the movie where he's like, everyone will know everyone else's position. Now, this was very different times. They were in a helicopter, people were getting shot at. It was very violent. But that was the point being, like, you've got to step up and know the position ahead of you and the position behind you. And it's not this resource that you need to hold and not share, because then other people make up their own stories about it. They either think, oh, I must not be good enough because the boss isn't giving me any tools to succeed. They're not pushing me or promoting me. And I'm like, Man, I think we've probably all fallen into that trap at some point. But the results I've seen, when you just freaking feed people and give them tools to fly, they will fly.

Cameron Curtis [00:31:55]:

100%. Yes.

Diane Schroeder [00:32:00]:

And all boats rise.

Cameron Curtis [00:32:02]:

Yes, they do. And I don't understand why people don't understand that.

Diane Schroeder [00:32:08]:

I think it's a big paradigm shift, and I'm excited that you are out doing the work you are doing. And you have that philosophy because that's how it spreads, right? It's that 25% will change a culture, and you can be infectious and use your sphere of influence to keep those ripples going forward as a leader. So even working. And I love how we're so different. I stayed in one industry for over half my life, and you've taken leaps, and it appears that the step appears for you, which I love. And I'm leaning into that really hard right now, that you just continue to grow.

Cameron Curtis [00:32:47]:

I mean, again, it's the risk, right? I'm like, oh, I want that shiny object. And so what do I need to do to get there? And I've done it a lot on my own. I've had to do it for myself because this is sort of a new paradigm shift, and people are starting to realize, I think that's why diversity, equity and inclusion is so important now. Because people are like, oh, belonging is a thing, okay? I mean, I've always been my authentic self at work. I always say, like, what you see is what you get, and if you don't like it, fuck off. Probably runs some people the wrong way. But one of the things that I say on my website is people first, right? That's the first thing, is that I put people first because that's how you succeed, is by supporting the people who work with you or for you or around you or whatever. But you have to put them first. You have to treat them well. You have to make sure that you're creating an environment where they can be their authentic selves and they feel like they belong and that no idea is a bad idea. Everybody gets to engage and be involved. And I think that's really important. And I think as a leader. It's our job, too, to show that we also can be in the trenches, right. We know when things are hard and we can roll up our sleeves and help, and we're there. And you talk to everybody, whether it's the person who cleans the bathrooms at the office or your number two or whatever, you have to treat all of those people kindness because without them, things wouldn't work. You need all of the people.

Diane Schroeder [00:34:19]:

It's community.

Cameron Curtis [00:34:20]:


Diane Schroeder [00:34:21]:

I love community. I think it's so important. And again, what the paradigm shift right. Is also that work is part of community. People spend a lot of time and give a lot of their best selves to their working environment. So it should be a healthy community.

Cameron Curtis [00:34:38]:

Right? It should be fun.

Cameron Curtis [00:34:42]:

That's not to say that sometimes it's not going to be hard, right. And I think jobs are hard in different ways, but it should be fun. It should be something that you enjoy doing now, not everything, right? But for the most part, you should enjoy seeing most of the people that you get to see that you work with, you spend so much time with them. And I'm also, like a big proponent of everybody needs a work person. Right? You need that one person that you can complain to or just shoot the shit with or go out for happy hour or whatever, but that one person that is like your person at work. It's so important. And I'm lucky that I've had several really good ones and I still keep in touch with them. But that's so important, is, again, it goes back to the community and surrounding yourself with people that you want to spend time with.

Diane Schroeder [00:35:31]:

Right. And making that choice, because it is a choice and not making that choice. You're still making a choice by staying stuck and not happy. You're choosing that.

Cameron Curtis [00:35:41]:

Right? Yeah.

Cameron Curtis [00:35:42]:

And there are so many options out there. And now, oh, my gosh, with the baby boomers starting to really retire, there are going to be so many jobs available in lots of different industries, and it's going to be really interesting because I don't think we have enough people to fill them, frankly.

Diane Schroeder [00:35:58]:

Well, and it's changed, right? Like, the work world and the generational differences, and they're not bad or good, they're just different, is going to impact the future as well. And knowing, like you and me now, we have options. We can be our own boss and still impact the world, which is, I think, really powerful.

Cameron Curtis [00:36:19]:

I agree. That's right. I mean, that's the best part is we can be our own boss. We can make that and take that risk, which is sometimes super scary.

Diane Schroeder [00:36:28]:

It is, yes. I'm still stuck on the it's terrifying right now.

Cameron Curtis [00:36:33]:

I go in between moments of panic and everything will be okay because the universe is working in our favor and it does always work out. But then there's that moment where I'm like, what if this is the one time that it doesn't actually work out?

Diane Schroeder [00:36:46]:

99 times? It's always worked out for me, but this could be that one time where it has a bad day or something, I don't know.

Cameron Curtis [00:36:53]:


Diane Schroeder [00:36:54]:

And still it usually does work out. It's very wise words. So how can my people find you?

Cameron Curtis [00:37:00]:

I'm on instagram @cunzcurtis that's. C-U-N-Z-C-U-R-T-I-S. I'm also on LinkedIn. is my website. We have a Facebook page. We also have a LinkedIn page. Those are the best places to reach me.

Diane Schroeder [00:37:18]:

I'll put everything in the show notes.

Cameron Curtis [00:37:20]:

Yeah, LinkedIn is probably the best place. Send me, shoot me a message there. I love meeting new people and making new friends and hopefully some of the folks listening to this. We're going to be friends and do some great things together.

Diane Schroeder [00:37:34]:

I have an incredible community of a lot of badass women and quite a few allies, male allies, that are super supportive. So it's a great community. And yes, welcome. The last question that I want to ask you is if you could go back to your ten year old self, ten year old Cameron, and give advice, what would you say to her?

Cameron Curtis [00:38:00]:

Oh, my gosh. Gosh, that's really hard because I feel like I've made every choice everywhere I've gone, I've made that choice myself. Even as a kid, I would say life doesn't really start until after college.

Diane Schroeder [00:38:16]:

Amen to that. Wise words.

Cameron Curtis [00:38:19]:

Yeah, life doesn't really start until after college. And all of the it's interesting when I wrote the chapter in the book and the people that I went to high school with, that sort of came out of the woodwork. And when I was going through a difficult time last summer, that was really interesting to me and it was we're very different people when we're in high school and college than we are and when we grow up, I'd even say after 40, it gets even better.

Diane Schroeder [00:38:48]:

I was going to say the exact same thing. I was like, oh, college. Yes, it begins. But then, man, once you hit your 40s, you hit your stride and life is just fantastic.

Cameron Curtis [00:38:59]:

Because you're like, I've made it this far and I can do whatever I want and I'm going to do it for me.

Diane Schroeder [00:39:06]:

That's perfect. Well, thank you so much for joining us and I will link all your information in the show notes.

Cameron Curtis [00:39:13]:

Perfect. Thank you so much for having me. This was so much fun.