Becky Sarwate uses wide array of communication skills to lead Illinois affiliate

One of the many things I admire about Becky Sarwate is she volunteers and gets things done. If she sees something that needs to be done and she has the skills, she steps up and accomplishes it. In six short years as a member of the Illinois affiliate, she is already the president of the group. At the NFPW Conference in South Carolina, I had the honor to recognize her as the Illinois Communicator of Achievement for 2014. She is another valued, unique and unbelievable NFPW member.

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Becky Sarwate

Name: Rebecca (Becky) Sarwate

City and State: Chicago, IL

Affiliate and any leadership positions: Current first-term President of Illinois Woman’s Press Association, former PenPoints quarterly newsletter editor and social media strategist.

Years a member of NFPW: 2015 will be year six.

Tell us a little about you.

Becky Sarwate is a Communications Manager at HUB International Limited, the world’s eighth largest insurance brokerage. She is also the 49th President of the Illinois Woman’s Press Association. Found in 1885 and celebrating 130 years in 2015, IWPA is an organization of professionals whose objective is to improve opportunities for members in mass communications.

In addition to her work at HUB and IWPA, Becky enjoys a vibrant career as a freelance writer, contributing to a number of publications including EDGE Media Network, where she reviews Chicago theater productions. She also publishes a weekly column for PoliticusUSA.com. In addition, she’s written for RootSpeak magazine, NewCity, Make It Better, StreetWise, and authors a personal blog on the Open Salon platform. She is a multiple IWPA Mate E. Palmer Communications Contest winner, as well as a five-time National Federation of Press Women award recipient.

In May 2013, Becky was diagnosed with pompholyx eczema, an incurable autoimmune disease also known as dyshidrotic eczema or dyshidrosis. It is characterized by recurring, painful pompholyx (“bubble”) eruptions on the fingers, palms, and soles and is often progressively debilitating. Its historical unresponsiveness to treatment can be frustrating for patient and doctor alike. Pompholyx’s cause is unknown, and the disease most commonly afflicts young adult women. Becky has written about her condition extensively, and is an outspoken advocate for pompholyx awareness and research.

Any career advice you would give?

When I first joined IWPA as a young writer struggling to build my name and portfolio, I proved my work ethic, creativity and leadership by not waiting to be asked to take on responsibilities. Rather, I saw holes where my skills could be used and I raised my hand. I created IWPA’s social media presences on Twitter and Facebook, redesigned the newsletter template, eliminating the need for a designer and saving IWPA $800 annually in the process. I leveraged my alumni network to help grow membership. I wrote PR materials and press releases. In the 21st Century world of creative frenzy, do not wait to be noticed. Put yourself out there. And the volunteer work you do to build your local affiliate or burnish the NFPW brand pays dividends – in resume building, networking and the development of your craft.

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Becky Sarwate

Which talent would you most like to have?

I wish I were a hip hop dancer. I am not being facetious. I’m just too clumsy.

If you could live anywhere, where would it be?

London, England or Vancouver, Canada.

What book are you reading?

The Glass Castle, a 2005 memoir by Jeannette Walls.

What would people be surprised to learn about you?

Before I became a writer, I had singing ambitions. I was a member of the Chicago Children’s Choir in high school and toured the world performing in Russia, South Africa and London, among other locales.

Why is your affiliate and NFPW important to you?

Are you kidding? I’d be nowhere in my writing career without IWPA and NFPW. Fellow member, IWPA Past President and current NFPW Contest Chair Suzanne Hanney gave me my first “break” in 2009, giving me the opportunity to write six cover stories for StreetWise, where she works as Editor-in-Chief. Two of those stories won me a first place NFPW journalism award, proving to myself and others that I could do this. And it was also Suzanne who invited me to IWPA”s 2009 holiday party. The rest, as they say, is history.

Way to follow you on a website, twitter, Facebook, etc.

Facebook: Becky Sarwate

Blog: http://open.salon.com/blog/becky_boop

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