Emily Sarmiento: Lessons Learned Along the Way to the Corner Office

“I need wise counsel, like from my husband or a boss or a board chair or whoever, just to help me kind of monitor myself [and avoid burnout].” -Emily Sarmiento

Our guest today is Emily Sarmiento, the President and CEO of Tearfund USA.

My experience on the Next Gen Nonprofit Leadership With Tommy Thomas podcast is that it’s rare for a guest to be as candid with us about some of the realities of being a young leader as Emily has been on this episode. 

She recounts her struggles with deciding if she could be a mother and a leader, her recognition of testing the boundaries of burnout, and her difficulty with seeing herself beyond her professional capacity. 

These are things that all leaders struggle with whether we like to talk about them or not. 

I hope that each episode of this podcast is helpful to people in our listening audience. But if you’re mentoring a younger leader or know some younger nonprofit leaders in your network, I believe this particular conversation is one they will want to hear. 

Thanks again for listening to Next Gen Nonprofit Leadership with Tommy Thomas and be sure to share this episode with the nonprofit board members you know.  

And don’t forget to leave us a review wherever you’re listening.  It really helps us!


“If someone can’t own their own mistakes, can’t recognize it, and can’t reflect a desire to change and be teachable, I don’t find that to be someone I can work with.” -Emily Sarmiento

Show Notes

[0:53] – An introduction to today’s guest, Emily Sermiento.

[3:16] – Emily reveals the formative experiences from her early life that led to her becoming who she is today.

[4:45] – Emily’s first job out of undergraduate school.

[7:51] – We look back over Emily’s career path and learn whether it’s been fairly deliberate as she moved from responsibility to responsibility.

[9:05] – The difference between the corner office and the previous office at Compassion, according to Emily.

[11:48] – This is how Emily transitioned into the fundraising aspects of the corner office. 

[12:42] – Moving from one of the largest NGOs in the US to something much smaller was an adjustment for Emily.  Here’s why.

[15:36] – What Emily looks for in her executive team.

[16:44] – The interview process that Emily uses.

[18:37] – Emily explains her stance on giving someone who’s committed an egregious act a second chance.

[20:27] – We hear Emily’s thoughts around the most dangerous behaviors that can derail a leader’s career.

[21:49] – Emily shares what themes she’s been challenged with in her life and how she’s overcome them. 

[23:29] – What Emily’s colleagues would say is the toughest part working for her, according to Emily.

[24:40] – This is what Emily wished she learned or heard earlier in her career.

[27:03] – The one piece of advice Emily would tell a younger version of herself or someone following in her footsteps. 

“I was so hungry to lead and [an HR professional] had to tell me, ‘Bloom where you’re planted.’ I would’ve told myself that sooner if I had known that and I certainly use it with younger leaders today. Be faithful in the small things.” -Emily Sarmiento

Links and Resources

JobfitMatters – Website

Tearfund USA –Website


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