April 22, 2019
Lucia Downton, better known around the office as Lucy, isn’t your average United Way employee (although we might argue that no United Way employee is just, “average!”). With over two decades of service to the organization, most recently as United Way of Central Indiana’s vice president of technology and operations, Lucy brings quite a diverse skillset to the United Way family. Originally an engineer, she has a knack for problem solving, tackling new challenges, and sees change, specifically in the tech sector, as an opportunity to connect employees and strengthen the ways in which we communicate with each other.
We chatted with Lucy about her journey, passions, and why she has dedicated her career to making an impact on central Indiana.
How long have you been with UWCI? What keeps you here?
I’ve been with United Way just over 21 years. I started working here back in the fall of 1997. I’d say what keeps me here is the people. The people are so passionate about what they do. I know what I do is making good things happen. It makes me feel good!
Describe some of the ways you’ve seen technology evolve in the nonprofit industry. What excites you the most about the future of technology and why is it important?
It’s amazing, really. Technology is evolving so rapidly, but I think we’re headed to a good place with more collaboration tools and software that are more integrating and compatible. It has encouraged cross functional virtual working groups which has brought people closer together.
What’s most exciting is the collaboration piece for me. Event though people don’t communicate in person as much anymore, certain programs and software have made it easier for us to work together.
What advice would you give to a young professional who is interested in either working for or volunteering with United Way?
I started as a volunteer with United Way, so I would say get to know the organization, whether that’s here at United Way or somewhere else. Learn as much as you can but just know that whatever you apply for you need to be passionate about. Understand the organization from the outside, from how they operate to the type of people they attract. Fall in love with the staff and the team.
For someone who is already in the United Way network, get involved as much as you can. Volunteer when opportunities arise and continue to do your work and do it well — it makes you more valuable. Knowledge is something that nobody can ever take away from you.
What groups or organizations are you involved in outside of work?
I volunteer with Women in Technology. They do a lot of STEM events with young girls in high school and get them excited about the STEM curriculum. I also volunteer with Indy PRIDE. But honestly, a lot of my volunteering is in the United Way network. Every fall, we have a forum that focuses on finance, human resources, and technology. Each track creates their own curriculum and this year we are building several collaborative sessions. We hold it over three days and there’s usually around 250 people who attend.
Walk us through your United Way journey. How did you eventually land the position you have now?
I started off as a volunteer on the auction committee for an annual event called Wine, Art, and Roses. At the time, I was working for a winery. That eventually led to United Way’s Day of Caring, where I volunteered by handing out shirts and breakfast. At one of the events, the regional director at the time started talking to me and asked me to join the team. At the time, they only had temporary positions, so I began in business development and did a lot of cold calling, which I enjoyed! After that, I was asked to join full time.
I came in at an entry level position and left my engineering career at a director level – but it felt right. I needed something more in my life that I could be passionate about. I later became a senior manager and continued in business development. Then the opportunity to become campaign director came up. You learn a lot about the financial side of things as campaign director. I then oversaw the work in software and got familiar with the technology of the organization. In 2015, the CFO at the time realized there was a need for a technology position on staff and recommended I step into that role. The position kept evolving and then we eventually became a team. I’m a problem solver, and I tack that up to engineering. I generally always see a better way of doing things.
What is on your Spotify/Apple Music/Pandora playlist?
I use iHeart Radio! But I love 60’s music. I’m an old soul.
Favorite spots in the city?
Newfields (or what used to be the Indianapolis Museum of Art). I love going there and walking around. It’s beautiful. I used to go Penrod every year as well. And I’d have to say I enjoy visiting Monument Circle, especially around Christmas.
Any last tidbits of love or words of wisdom you’d like to share?
Through my whole career, my supervisors have always cautioned me about the work life balance. In my younger years, it was easy to spend 80+ hours a week working. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized how important that really is. Finding that balance is something you can do right now.