BELOIT — Taking on a leadership role doesn’t always go as planned, Community Action Executive Director Marc Perry told a group of young adults recently during a virtual networking event.

Perry recalled at age 23 he found himself in charge of a summer camp near St. Louis, Missouri after his supervisor was bitten by a snake.

“Your attitude sets the tone for everyone else in the program. Match your energy and your enthusiasm,” Perry said.

Patience and calmness are key qualities in a good leader, Perry said, because when a leader remains calm during a crisis, so does their team.

Perry was one of four presenters Nov. 10 during a “Virtual Breakfast with the Big Cheese” hosted on Zoom. The Rising Professionals presented the event.

Roughly 40 people attended the event, which was geared towards sharing professional insight and leadership advice with young adults.

“Breakfast with the Big Cheese is a great event to learn more about leaders in our community. They tell personal stories about the successes and struggles they have had along their journey,” said Heather Dobson, a Board of Directors member for Rising Professionals and Chair for the Professional Development Committee. “Attendees walk away energized and inspired by what they heard from these amazing speakers.”

Karie Larson, Senior Finance Director of Strategic Pricing at Kerry Ingredients, said she has learned the importance of mentors, how to motivate herself and her colleagues and even how to be a frequent flier on airlines.

“You do get to choose,” Larson said. “We make choices every single day. You can choose to be around, but you also have to choose to get involved to make a difference in the world.”

No matter what, Perry said, a professional must always treat other people with respect and never look down on them.

“Not everybody in the world lives like you do or thinks like you do. I take all of those lessons to heart,” Perry said.

Kim Bliss, Vice President and Senior Advisor at Hendricks Holding Company, told the group about her journey from a thick-skinned high school athlete to broke college student, eager family business partner, non-traditional graduate student and becoming an experienced professional.

“This taught me that success is not always a degree,” Bliss said.

Among the lessons she learned through it all was to maintain a balance between one’s career and family.

Bliss said every person is their own greatest competitor, and the measure of success comes from finding a good fit for their personal values, taking thoughtful risks, trusting in their abilities and embracing challenges with a positive attitude. Some roles, she said, professionals figure out one piece at a time.

Mark Rand, CEO of the Stateline Boys and Girls Club, pointed out a sign in his office that reads, “Living the Dream.”

Rand added that investing in youth is very important because they will grow up to be community leaders in the future.