By Jessica Maldonado | Public affairs manager, PolicyWorks LLC

I recently lost my father, Tom Walter, after a long and courageous battle with cancer. No matter how much time you have to mentally prepare yourself for the grief, it’s not easy. Perhaps the silver lining in loss is getting to hear from all the people whose lives your loved one impacted. What stood out to me the most is how many people told me he was like a father to them, too.

The conversations made me realize that no matter how many wonderful female mentors and role models we have in our lives, there is no other relationship quite like that between fathers and daughters. It also reminded me that not everyone is quite as fortunate to have a dad like mine in their own life, which is why "borrowing" advice from him meant so much to so many. 

To hear all the stories from women in our circle of family and friends made me think that lessons I learned from my dad may be valuable to others as well. While there are far too many to completely cover, here are some highlights:

  • Be honest. Honesty and integrity were the top traits mentioned by my dad’s colleagues and friends at his visitation. Nothing means more than your word, and it was clear that many people throughout the community truly valued his.

  • Take the emotion out of it. His wise advice was to never take something personally if people simply tell you their opinion or stance on an issue, especially in the business world. His counsel was always to remove emotion from the issue to analytically think through it and formulate a response based on facts. It is always OK to be passionate about your opinion, but express it in a way that will be well-received on the other end.   

  • Tell people what they need to hear, not what they want to hear. My dad was famous for his advice, even when it was unsolicited. There was never an "elephant in the room" with him around; he made sure to speak up and say what others were likely thinking in a way that was never offensive. It helps me remember to make sure I am honest with a friend or colleague when they ask for my opinion on a professional or personal matter.

  • Never try to negotiate if you aren’t willing to walk away. My dad often said this about the purchase price of horses, which my sister and I thought were priceless, but he also applied it to other personal and professional situations. Whether it’s negotiating a purchase price, a salary increase or a new opportunity, my dad said you should never negotiate unless you’re willing to accept the fact it may not go your way. Asking yourself if you are willing to walk away from it is a good gut check before you start the process.

  • Don’t look through rose-colored glasses. From the time I was little, my dad always cautioned me not to look at things through a false lens that paints too rosy of a picture. The road to get where we want in life is usually bumpy, and we need to prepare for it.

  • But dream big. Although my dad told us not to look at things through a tinted lens, he was always supportive of our crazy dreams. As long as we were aware of the challenge and faced it with eyes wide open, he supported us in everything we did.

  • Live for today. This is the hardest lesson to learn, and I’m sure one he wishes he didn’t have to teach. Live each day to the fullest, and find a job you love because the golden years of retirement are not guaranteed. Sorry to all my financial planner friends, but I learned that although it is important to save for retirement, you should also order steak and lobster at fancy restaurants, buy the plane ticket, bid in the charity auction, always choose the good wine and buy the darn horse.

We hear a lot of stories about men who have been bad actors in the workforce, so I think it’s important to also recognize the men who have helped encourage and support women in their careers. Cheers to the dads and the many male leaders in our community who make it a place where women can advance and succeed. Thank you.


Jessica Maldonado is the public affairs manager for PolicyWorks, assisting clients with public affairs, advocacy efforts and events. Before joining PolicyWorks, she spent nearly 10 years at the Greater Des Moines Partnership. Maldonado is a 2016 Forty Under 40 honoree, a member of Lead Like a Lady and a 2013 graduate of the Greater Des Moines Leadership Institute. She serves on the Community Connect Mentor Council, is a member of Variety's Polo on the Green committee and is part of the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs Gala Committee.