In 2012, when Palm Beach Atlantic President William M.B. Fleming, Jr. was looking to form the President’s Lyceum, a speaker’s series in which visitors who have distinguished themselves in various professions come to present their insights and experiences in a discussion with PBA students, he began to call on business leaders in the Palm Beaches. One of them was Kerry A. Diaz, an outspoken and savvy business woman with multiple titles to her name.
“I’ve known Diaz for 18 years, and I knew she had the intellect, insight and directness to engage our students in thoughtful conversation,” Fleming told the 45 students participating in last Tuesday night’s President’s Lyceum. “What’s interesting to me, and I know it will probably be interesting to you, is that she has experience and expertise in several different walks.”
Then president of Quantum Foundation, Diaz led the grants committee and served on the board of directors. Up close, her resume read like a Forbes Business Insider list, with job descriptions such as executive director of OMEGA, director of the California Center for Assisted Living, director of Policy for the California Association for Health Services at Home, regional director of the National Environmental Advisory Task Force, and legislative analyst for the Juvenile Justice Committee for the Florida House of Representatives and congressional campaign field director.
As one who welcomes every season of her life with a direct approach, she’s recently entered the retail business in the North Palm Beach area, where she lives. In every circumstance, her role as attorney and her progressive business tactic has helped open a series of doors in states like New Jersey, California, Pennsylvania and Florida. She’s served in numerous local boards and charities, including the executive committee of the Economic Council of Palm Beach County, Community Alliance Board, and chair of the Health Founders Group of Florida Philanthropic Network.
So how does someone prepare for one career and then, as fate and faith would have it, begins to change their career? That was the subject of discussion, and one of the many things that Diaz talked about that night.
Diaz has always been a philanthropist, but she grew up with a sense of community service, and she learned that from her father who was also an attorney.
“As you can see from my bio, I’ve had a lot of jobs,” said Diaz candidly. “So you’re probably asking yourself, what do all those things have in common?”
Her requirement for each position she held had to positively impact people. It had to change the world, even if it was only one person at a time. And, she could never let doubt ever stand in the way of taking a job.
“Self-doubt was not part of the equation if I felt that I was in the right place, at the right time, had the right experience and something new and different to offer to whatever that opportunity was,” she said. “The third thing is a skill that is hard to describe: honing understanding to what make people tick, being really observant about what’s going on in their lives and in their situation, has made me successful in a lot of different arenas.”
Having the right work environment is also crucial, and a “Just go for it!” attitude. “As Generation Zs, you probably already think this way. I encourage you to keep thinking this way,” said Diaz.
“Think of your life experience, your jobs, your positions and what you have to offer as a collection—because there’s tons of different places where you could use your talents and skills. And, it may not all look the same from decade to decade, or season of your life.”
For her, there’s been many seasons. A season for school, working hard and having crazy hours, to fighting laws and building a family. But because of that “can do” attitude, she’s been able to navigate in and out of seasons surprisingly easy. Community service has been at the forefront of it all.
“You would think that if you give your life over to service that you wouldn’t have some of the comforts of the world,” she said. “I live in a warm, comfortable home. I feel blessed that I’ve been able to provide that with my husband for our family, and through my work, I’ve traveled a lot. So, doing what you think is right and being able to provide for yourself in a way that’s comfortable while doing interesting things are not really exclusive. And I didn’t realize that when I started this journey.”