Nora's Story

Nora Reissig / 5 min read

A career transition journey into non-profit leadership.


As a child, Nora and her parents immigrated from Argentina to the US to escape the military dictatorship, an experience that shaped her drive to make the world a better place and led her to pursue a career in public services. 

After over 25 years in various departments of the New York City Government, she realized the limitations in effecting change from within . 

In the government positions that I held, what became perfectly clear for me was that we needed deep systems change and it wasn’t going to happen from within a government position."

Consequently, she transitioned to Exodus Transitional Community (ETC), a New York-based nonprofit supporting individuals transitioning from incarceration to integration, where she now serves as VP of Development and Programs.

Throughout this career shift, Nora faced numerous challenges, prompting her to take part in the American Express Leadership Academy. 


“I knew nothing about fundraising or development, I had to unlearn a lot of things, learn new things, and I struggled a lot with that. I also felt that I needed to expand my network and I was hoping to meet people who were in a similar place professionally and personally.” 

Building a sense of belonging

80% of our staff are people who have been directly affected by the justice system. At first it was very intimidating for me to be in the company of individuals who have had such transformative change, and I struggled with some of that,” Nora explains of her early days at Exodus Transitional Community.

Being new to the nonprofit sector and lacking direct experience with the justice system, Nora found herself feeling like an outlier among her colleagues. This sense of being out of her depth affected her self-confidence and her sense of belonging within the organization and the sector, an unfamiliar feeling compared to her previous career.

I found myself losing confidence in me, staying quiet in meetings for fear of thinking I might say the wrong thing and non-profit was still new a thing for me. I wanted to learn from non-profit leaders and what better opportunity to do that than have 77 non-profit leaders in one space.

While on the programme, Nora felt “seen, valued and like I belonged, and people got so real, so fast”. These elements, coupled with insights gathered from peers, contributors and the 360-assessment helped her rebuild her self-confidence.

My participation helped me bring my voice back to the table for the direction and strategy of Exodus, to have more honest conversations around our culture. I also have greater confidence in myself from the conversations I had with participants who shared similar types of personal and professional transformations.


Learning, unlearning and relearning

It was only when Nora joined ETC that she realised she’d lived in a box professionally and that it was time to “let the sides of the box drop”. The Academy provided the environment and the network for Nora to practice doing so in a safe space.

Through the programme, Nora got to reflect on the skills she used to get her to where she was, what to keep, what to unlearn and which skills would be needed for her to better serve Exodus. From it she recalls the modules on leading beyond authority and leaning into uncertainty, behaviours that were rarely encouraged in her previous career. 

“Dropping the sides of that box meant that I could become the leader that I wasn’t sure I could be, that I wanted to be, and that Exodus needed me to be.”

Leading into Healthy Growth mode

Adapting to change, resilience, innovation, storytelling, those are Exodus’s superpowers, but we also tend to function in crisis mode, and it can feel very chaotic. The programme helped me step out of that chaos to gain perspective because when you’re in the chaos, you’re too busy reacting to it,” says Nora.

Due to growing demands triggered by COVID, ETC’s rapid growth became harder to manage and the organisation went under scrutiny, resulting in a financial gap that needed addressing.

As Nora continues to steer ETC towards healthy growth, she’s intentional in applying lessons learned from her time on the programme.

"When you’re part of a leadership team, you talk about strategy a lot and, in the context of what you want to achieve as an organisation, one of the speakers Butch Trusty (Partner at Bridgespan) said two things that I brought back to Exodus: long gone are the five-year plans and make sure you stick to no more than three priorities.

In addition to implementing our corrective action plan, we worked on developing a lessons-learned document with our board. The document doesn’t have ten priorities areas, it has three. It almost feels like we’re going back to basics, which is sometimes what you need to do.

The AMEX Academy played a pivotal role in building Nora's confidence, bringing her a stronger sense of belonging, and equipping her with valuable insights for leading in uncertain times. As she now guides ETC towards healthy growth, Nora's consistent application of program learnings exemplifies the enduring impact of Common Purpose in shaping resilient and adaptive leaders.

Nora Reissig is VP of Development and Programs at Exodus Transitional Community.
She took part in the American Express Academy in 2023.

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