Dawn Simonson, MPA, President and CEO, Trellis

What do you do in your current role?

I have the privilege of serving as the chief executive officer for Trellis, a nonprofit organization that provides services, information and connections that help people age well. Trellis is an innovator in the field of aging, and I lead our senior team as we work to offer products, services and relationships that meet the changing needs of older adults and family caregivers. Health care organizations are some of our most essential partners. In 2022, I celebrated my 20th anniversary with Trellis.

Why did you join the TRUST?

I joined the TRUST to learn more about health care from other women leaders in the field and to expand my professional network.

Do you have a favorite TRUST memory so far?

Yes! I participated in a TRUST new member coffee during the height of the pandemic and appreciated the energy in the conversation during that early morning virtual gathering.

How has a mentor helped you the most?

I haven’t had a formal mentor; however, there have been people in my professional life who have offered advice and from whom I’ve learned amazing lessons through engagement and observation.

What is the best career advice you’ve received?

Early in my leadership role at Trellis, the board chair told me our organization must add value and cannot simply produce noise. While this proclamation was not about my personal career, it did frame for me the importance of growing, learning, doing more and doing it better, and striving for excellence.

What support do you need now to evolve your development as a leader?

My career path has an end in sight. I will likely withdraw from paid professional work in the next five to ten years. It would be helpful to frame leadership and its potential at this place in my career journey for maximum impact on the people and organizations Trellis serves.

How do you support other women in their leadership journey?

Most often, I support other women in the form of offering guidance when asked by colleagues or through the process of informational interviews. I’ve done many of the latter and welcome the opportunity to meet women interested in social care, aging issues and family caregiving. As an organizational leader, I’ve directly supervised graduate-level interns from time to time, and that’s a fantastic way to support emerging leaders. I also learn tremendously from these experiences.

How do you cope with demanding aspects of your career?

I try very hard to carve out meaningful blocks of time for myself or my family and actively push away thoughts of feeling overwhelmed or uncertain. Staying physically active through the pandemic was and continues to be key to maintaining all aspects of health. Connecting with colleagues in similar leadership roles at like organizations became more important during the pandemic for support and to generate creative solutions to common dilemmas. And there is nothing like a good book to take my mind to another place for a while.

How do you maintain or improve your health and well-being?

So boring, but I eat regular healthy meals, get physical exercise (my favorite is horseback riding), stay connected in my most precious relationships, and get as much sleep as I should (that’s the biggest challenge for me). I also find it essential to learn something meaningful every day.

Any words of wisdom you live by?

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about something my mom used to say to me: “don’t wish your life away.”  Living in the moment with true presence and gratitude is magnificent!