Q & A with Susan Harig, RFL Board President and 2018 RFL Mastermind Alumni
Susan Harig moved to the Roaring Fork Valley from Las Vegas in 2013 with her husband, Jeff, and their son, Tillman. Tired of the intense heat and confines of city life, she found the big life change she sought in the valley’s cool mountain air and rural setting — a place where her son could climb trees and play outside on his own. In her professional life, too, Susan was also looking for a change. Previously, she was wearing suits and high heels, traveling all over the country on a corporate career path, but she lacked a real sense of purpose or meaning. Fast forward nine years and she’s now the managing director of engagement and development at the Aspen Skiing Company, helping develop talent and teach employees about leadership. Three years ago, she joined the RFL Board of Directors and currently serves as president — the first board president in RFL’s history who hasn’t gone through the Academy program!
In the midst of a busy run-up to the upcoming ski season, Susan took some time to chat about what drew her to RFL and why she believes RFL is an indispensable resource for the Roaring Fork Valley.
Roaring Fork Leadership: How would you describe your career path?
Education has always been central. I was a junior high school teacher and then started working in the prison system providing HIV education and prevention to female inmates. After that, I switched over to anger management and criminal thinking education for male offenders. Then I moved to Las Vegas and started working in HR. So that’s the theme: I’ve always felt very comfortable talking about things. I had my first employee while I was working in the prisons and it was hard. That was where my passion for leadership started to grow because I saw what it meant to be an unsuccessful leader. Now [at the Aspen Ski Company], instead of educating about HIV I’m educating about leadership and developing talent.
RFL: What got you involved in RFL?
SH: I needed support. I was representing the largest employer in the valley, but I was a team of one. I’d reach out to Andrea in her RFL role and tell her what I needed. We had this long dialog over many years and then I took Mastermind and saw the organization’s needs and decided to join the board.
This is a weird community. Having come from Las Vegas where everything was 24/7 and accessible and available in one building, the challenges of this valley are real — in terms of the seasonality and the prevalence of people having multiple jobs.
RFL is a centralized resource for all employers in the valley and for all people who want to become better leaders. As I mentioned, I started out as a team of one and I work for the largest employer. What about the smaller businesses that still need as much leadership training? Leadership is a skill and you can’t do it alone. RFL meets that need. It creates opportunities for people to come together and learn from one another, support one another, network, and build skills.
If you want to be the best leader you can be, RFL will meet you where you’re at and walk this journey with you.
RFL: Women in particular face so many barriers taking on higher-level leadership roles in the workplace. How does RFL help women address those challenges?
SH: Leadership can be lonely— especially for women because we’re kind of programmed for self-doubt. RFL is an opportunity to normalize the challenges women leaders face. Not just in the sense of, “this is just what you have to deal with,” but, “oh you’re dealing with this too, what did you do?” So, it’s a chance for women to learn from one another and embolden each other because when you know what you’re capable of, you get more clarity on what more you can do.