Robert S. Dendy, Jr., Class of 2009
Robert S. Dendy, Jr.
President and CEO, HumanKind
What is new and exciting with you now or since your time with Lead Virginia?
Since participating in Lead Virginia, HumanKind has significantly diversified our services and revenue, adapting and showing resilience in the ever-changing landscape of human services. We created a new brand that better reflects our commitment to equity and inclusion, created a new presence in Richmond, expanded our array of services to include Work Force Development and developed a new model of home visiting for early childhood education. These strategic initiatives are intended to raise awareness for and increase the impact of our mission, strengthening children and families in the Commonwealth.
How did Lead Virginia shape you as a leader?
Lead Virginia reminded me that our most important resources are human! As a natural extrovert, it confirmed the importance of leveraging my personality for the benefit of HumanKind to make the Commonwealth a better place for everyone to live, work and play. The work force of tomorrow is being born today and investments in healthcare, education, transportation, housing and job training have to constantly evolve to develop the talent companies and communities need. Additionally, it gave me confidence that great companies want to collaborate to see communities become healthier and more productive.
Since Lead Virginia, how have you put your social capital to work?
When HumanKind decided to open an office in Richmond, there was not a single phone call or email I sent to classmates that went unanswered. Lead Virginia alumni opened doors to collaborative partners, funding partners, community advocates, corporate leaders as well as city and county leaders who welcomed our Economic Empowerment programs as an important asset for wealth building and work force development. Additionally, I was asked by former Governor Tim Kaine to serve on a statewide board addressing the needs of blind and deaf-blind citizens in the Commonwealth which led to eight years of very gratifying service and more social capital.
What were your expectations of Lead Virginia prior to beginning the program? Did the program exceed or meet your expectations?
Prior to beginning the program, I expected to learn more about Virginia’s very diverse economy, employers, causes for celebration and challenges. It far exceeded my expectations even as a lifelong Virginian. There is no substitute for face-to-face, real-time visits, tours and discussions with the people who are creating, innovating and struggling with the challenges of an ever-changing landscape.
What was your biggest takeaway or lesson learned from Lead Virginia that continues to stick with you today?
Pick up the phone. Make the call. Take the meeting. Get out of the office. Go and see. Building social capital means sharing the wisdom, knowledge and network we have while appreciating what others share with us. Whether it’s a vineyard in far southwest Virginia or a microchip maker outside of DC, people are people. If we look, we can find more similarities than differences.