PITTSFIELD, Mass. — For more than a decade, Linda Dulye has been on a mission to provide leadership development and networking opportunities for young professionals.
That mission did not end when a global pandemic turned those professionals' working lives upside down.
If anything, it intensified.
"COVID-19 had a silver lining," the founder of the Dulye Leadership Experience said recently. "I know that's an unusual thing to say.
"I was in paralysis when work from home and isolation happened because we were doing in-person programming. Then we had to move and improvise. A lot of amazing alumni and volunteers were there to help us. We have quadrupled our reach."
Following a career in corporate communications and change management that included stops at General Electric, Duracell, Allied Signal, Grey Advertising and Public Service Electric and Gas, Dulye founded DLE in 2008.
One of the program's cornerstones is the Gen Now Retreat, which brings in expert speakers from around the Berkshires and beyond for three days of programs and networking opportunities on Pontoosuc Lake. Topics discussed at last year's retreat included: step up as a first-time boss; create a superior customer experience; and expertly maneuver difficult conversations and constructive feedback.
The annual event draws participants from around the country, but DLE is firmly rooted in the region.
"The retreat has always been here in the Berkshires, and the program has expanded here in the Berkshires from when I moved here full-time in 2017," Dulye said. "I had had a residence here and moved here full-time.
"I saw a real need. The economic vitality of this region depends heavily on young professionals. Recruiting them and growing them became a real passion of mine. The program, which was focused on a national effort, became really Berkshire-centered in wanting to help young professionals here."
Dulye said DLE, like most organizations, is in the process of evaluating what it will be able to do in terms of an annual, in-person retreat in November. She is optimistic but will be monitoring the progress of Massachusetts' re-opening to see what can be done.
In the meantime, DLE has transitioned to video conferencing for events like next month's "Own Your Conversation" workshop with Annie Shibata, a professor of communications at Ohio's Miami University. Professionals in the DLE fold also can participate in one of DLE's weekly Culture Chats, where participants look at topics like "collaboration" or "building trust in a virtual workplace."
"It was interesting listening to people onboarding a new team member or a new boss who no one knows and talking about how you form those relationships in a virtual setting," Dulye said of a recent chat.
And in addition to those formal events, the DLE's local community of professionals were served by weekly breakfast meetings that began shortly after last fall's retreat.
The Friday DLE Breakfast Club was a chance to regularly meet with like-minded professionals in a relaxed atmosphere at Otto's Kitchen and Comfort on East Street in Pittsfield.
"We became that connector," Dulye said. "The Breakfast Club is really a great way for people who don't know someone … to meet a lot of people.
"Then COVID hit, and there was no more meeting at Otto's. It took one missed Friday for us to say, ‘We've got to figure this thing out, and we went virtual.' "
That is why several dozen men and women from around the country found themselves sitting in front of their respective screens on a recent Friday morning at 7 a.m. talking about how they refresh from the strain of looking at their screens the rest of the day in a "work from home" world.
The answers ranged from hiking to gardening to yoga to reading tarot cards. Despite DLE's focus on young professionals. The attendees ranged from the 20s through more seasoned professionals who appeared nearer retirement age than the start of their professional careers. And the homes included locations from Boston to Florida to Buffalo, N.Y., in addition to a healthy representation from Berkshire County.
"The cool thing about this is we could reach out to members of the community who had been part of the DLE experience and say, ‘Come back,' " Dulye said. "And then they bring in more people. We had someone from Haiti a couple of weeks ago who was at the retreat six years ago. Now he's back in the fold.
"You'll see multiple generations at the breakfasts. It's very exciting to see this fluidity coming across generations with everyone curious, everyone eager to connect. We're all quarantined, and we really want to connect."
And the virtual meet-ups, borne of necessity, will continue after the "quarantine" has passed, Dulye said.
"We are not going to abandon the community we built," she said. "We want to keep the Breakfast Club at least twice a month as a virtual experience. We're going to figure out virtual when live comes back.
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The fiberglass dinosaur was refurbished by the studio that created him more than 50 years ago. See more photos here.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — He's large, he's prehistoric, and he is back home at the Berkshire Museum.
Wally the 1,200-pound, life-sized fiberglass Stegosaurus was crane-lifted to the museum's lawn on Monday after a yearlong hiatus for some rest and recuperation. During this time, he received a full inspection, tail restoration, surface crack repairs, and a new paint job.
The beloved Pittsfield hallmark of 24 years now sits on the left side of the museum's front lawn. He previously lived on the right side of the lawn.
"That's been our No. 1 question this whole time is 'Where's Wally?'" the museum's marketing and brand manager Kimberly Donoughe said. "Everybody wants to know where Wally is."
In April 2020, he made the journey back to his birthplace — Louis Paul Jonas Studios — down Route 7 South through Pittsfield, Lenox, Stockbridge, and Great Barrington before crossing the border to New York. The museum published Wally's route and estimated travel times so that fans could get a glimpse of the local celebrity in his travels.
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