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Goodwill’s Chief of Staff plays critical role supporting women leaders; shares advice to achieve career success

Posted by Goodwill Staff on March 26, 2021

liz-w-dogsElizabeth McNally pictured with her nine-year-old chocolate Labradors.

Elizabeth McNally knows how important it is for women to cheer each other on and support one another in the workplace. In her newly appointed role as chief of staff & vice president – president’s office, she does just that and is honored to serve in a critical role supporting Goodwill’s President & CEO, Jackie Hallberg.

Tell us about your career path at Goodwill.

I had been working at a local museum after five years in the southwest attending graduate school and working in archaeology. One thing I really liked about archaeology is that I needed to have multiple skills (excavation, photography, identifying artifacts, writing, geology, crossing barbed wire fences without getting snagged, etc.). My career path at Goodwill has been very similar--I love that every day of my 22-year career here has been a variety of experiences requiring assorted skills and abilities that fit with my values as a lifelong learner.

My career with Goodwill started as a projects specialist in 1999 where I was recruited to add value as a writer and researcher. Having come from academic work, I struggled at first with the corporate setting and business concepts, so I went back to school in 2000 for an executive MBA. Investing in additional education helped me get better acclimated to my new work environment. I was soon after promoted to director – corporate planning, and then to vice president – planning & strategic initiatives. I supported our strategic planning process for about 15 years. In 2017, I shifted to a public policy and research role and then added responsibility for board relations in 2018. In late 2020, I was promoted to my current role, chief of staff & vice president – president’s office.

What advice would you share with young girls about their future career journey?

My best advice is that you don’t have to have it all figured out. I know people who have been clear from childhood what they wanted to be/do… I am not one of them. I finally realized that, for me, it’s not about an industry or a particular job title but rather doing work that I find interesting and that makes a contribution to the greater good. Every single job you have along the way makes you a more well-rounded and capable person for the work you decide to do next. It helps to be interested in everything—that makes it impossible to get bored. 

How can women better support each other in the workplace?

Reflecting on Women’s History Month, it’s sobering to realize that within my lifetime women were not able to get credit cards in their own names and we named our first female Supreme Court justice and astronaut. I was lucky to have two very strong grandmothers and be surrounded by a lot of smart, independent women growing up. I also had parents who set the same expectations for their daughters as their sons, although I didn’t realize at the time that not everyone had that.  

It can be tough for women in the workplace so we should cheer each other on! When one of our colleagues accomplishes something, she is representing what we can all achieve. A great thing about Goodwill is that people are here for the right reasons and are motivated by the mission, which makes supporting each other pretty easy. Even when we don’t see eye-to-eye on details, people’s intentions are good. 

Tell us about a woman at Goodwill who inspires you.

There are so many women at Goodwill who inspire me, picking one is impossible. During the past 12 months, I have been inspired by our front-line teams who made sure that Sailors and Recruits got fed, hospitals had clean linens, seniors received home-delivered meals, essential services were staffed, our facilities were clean and safe, virtual services launched, and that retail operations reopened as quickly as possible. A lot of women in those roles were juggling huge disruptions during the pandemic shut-down with kids out of school/daycare, transportation challenges and uncertainty, and they still did amazing work. I celebrate all women at Goodwill during this special month and every day!


Written by Goodwill Staff

Mission Support Center
Tel: (414) 847-4200

James O. Wright Center forWork & Training
Tel: (414) 353-6400

Metropolitan Chicago -
Tel: (312) 994-1440