WBCM Scholarship Spotlight: Stephanie Strazisar, ABCP

Stephanie Strazisar is a Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) Training Volunteer for the District of Columbia, a recipient of the DRI Foundation’s 2020 Women in BCM Scholarship, and as a result, a certified ABCP with DRI International. 

What is your professional background? How did you get there?
I found myself furloughed earlier this year due to the COVID-19 public emergency. I was working full-time as a tipped worker in the service industry in Washington, DC. Throughout the past 25 years, I have been employed in full-time and part-time service roles in the hospitality and craft beer industries.

I returned full time to the service industry in 2019 after working for several years in research. With a newly earned master’s degree, I supported an esteemed research fellow tasked with climate mitigation, adaptation, resilience, and natural disaster efforts. Her collaborative, actionable, and transformative work spanned many areas including climate impacts to national security, governance, public health, the economy, and social equity.

Between my undergraduate and graduate degrees, I worked in various roles ranging from infrastructure resilience, fundraising and development, forestry and wildfire fuels mapping with GIS/GPS technology, and serving on emergency wildland firefighting crews.

What does DRI certification mean to you?
The DRI ABCP certification creates new opportunities for me. It signals to employers and colleagues that I understand the business continuity field. It validates my professional growth, commitment, and interest. Earning this certification allowed me to take the challenge of being furloughed from work and turn it into an opportunity to enter a new industry.
Additionally, it is meaningful that the DRI Foundation makes an investment in women through their scholarship and mentorship efforts.

What made you interested in business continuity?
My interest started during emergency management graduate school coursework and an internship at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Our studies and discussions often focused on the interdependence between critical infrastructure systems and sectors, as well as cascading effects from natural or man-made hazards that can be very disruptive in the short and long term.

Learning how the public and private sectors need to plan for business interruptions and develop resilient practices peaked my interest. We continue to learn and adapt from our experiences after 9/11, Hurricane Katrina, and now the current COVID-19 public health emergency.
In a search for more information about business continuity, I learned about the DRI Foundation. About a year ago I matched with a mentor, Nancy Kolb, through their women’s outreach efforts. She and her network at Fusion Risk Management were instrumental to learning about business continuity as a career field and that it is all right to enter the field through nontraditional experience.

Do you have any life experience that makes this field especially compelling?
My current career in the service industry provides both entity and personal problem-solving experience, all while balancing guest expectations and promoting a brand and mission. The ability to prepare for and adapt to short-term or one-time interruptions to daily business functions is just as important as anticipating long-term interruptions. Changes in supply chains, technology disruptions, and workforce safety and dependability concerns can last weeks or even months.

BCLE2000 coursework, testing certifications, and practice stress the importance of having leadership support in business continuity actions and plans. My past experience in research, development, and response also relied on stakeholder support and leadership engagement, and I know I will continue building on this in the business continuity field.