YPN5Q is a weekly Q&A series spotlighting the state’s top young business and civic leaders and creative minds — professionals propelling change through entrepreneurship, the arts, public service, social media, and community involvement.
This week, we hear from Megan Pelka, programming chair for the Minnesota Opera’s young professional group, Tempo. She was chair of this year’s Opera Tasting: “Pouring out from the Heavens,” which took place on Sept. 17, and is still recovering from the whirlwind of planning and hosting the event.
In addition to working for the Animal Humane Society, Pelka is currently pursuing her graduate degree at St. Mary’s University.
Name: Megan Pelka
Current job title: Executive Assistant
Current employer: Animal Humane Society
1. What is your most marked personality trait?
Dedication and energy.
If I were to tally up the number of hours I’ve given to the various organizations I’ve volunteered for, I’m sure it would be more than I can even imagine. But the hours don’t matter to me — what matters is that I’m involved with organizations I’m passionate about.
When I commit to a project, I’m wiling to do whatever it takes to make it a success. Late nights, weekends, working over the lunch hour, cancelling plans with friends (sorry!) so that I can go meet with a potential sponsor — you name, I’ve done it.
Most of my time is spent planning events and programs, both for work and volunteer projects. The frenzy can be quite stressful, but this type of work keeps me energized and motivated; finally seeing a project come together inspires me to keep on going.
2. What actions, strategies, or professional networks have been most helpful to you in building your career?
Volunteering has been the most helpful endeavor on my career path.
I’ve made so many connections just by offering my time and skills to organizations I believe in.
I’ve spent five years volunteering on the board of directors for Tempo, Minnesota Opera’s young professionals group, where I’ve been able to interact with people from a variety of backgrounds in diverse professions. The friends and contacts I’ve made through Tempo have been helpful during my job searches, as well as good professional resources in general.
I’ve also formed valuable connections from simple volunteer activities like being an usher at the Guthrie Theatre or the Fringe Festival.
Joining a board of directors is definitely great for one’s résumé and networking, but young professionals shouldn’t discount general volunteerism, especially if they can’t make the long-term time commitment or financial commitment required of board members. All types of volunteering pay off!
3. What are you passionate about? What do you advocate for?
Continuing support for the performing arts. The majority of my current volunteer work is with Tempo — planning events in order to educate the younger demographic about opera.
Opera is such an amazing but under-recognized art form; our generation needs to work to cultivate appreciation and financial support for such forms of aesthetic and cultural expression.
I’m currently pursuing my Masters in arts and cultural management so I can channel my passion into a career.
4. How do you start each day?
I’d like to say I get up early, workout and have a healthy breakfast. But it’s a comedy of errors, really.
I usually hit the snooze button one too many times, then have to race out of bed to hit the shower and end up tripping over one of the cats.
I end up trying on multiple outfits for the day and my breakfast is usually whatever I can find in the fridge — bagels, fruit, leftover sandwiches, a piece of cake…This is an area I’m working on.
5. What was the first tape or CD you ever owned? Do you still like it?
Madonna’s “Like a Prayer.”
Do I still like it? I love it! How could you not love Madonna?!
To nominate a young professional for “YPN5Q,” email firstname.lastname@example.org with the nominee’s full name, employer or contact info, and one or two brief sentences supporting your nomination.