For someone who claims to have gotten into staffing “by accident,” Joanie Courtney continues to blaze trails and achieve milestones in the industry like someone who was meant to be there. Joanie is currently CMO of EmployBridge, the largest industrial staffing firm with $3.1 billion in revenue, as well as President of their professional staffing division, RemX Staffing

When she applied for her first job in a newspaper ad (yes, a newspaper ad!) for an “employment counselor” role, she wasn’t sure exactly what she wanted to do, but she knew she wanted to help people and improve their lives. Fast forward 25 years, and she’s proud to be a confident staffing leader who makes a difference in people’s lives; whether it’s her own employees, job candidates, or customers. 

Family values

Joanie shares that she is incredibly grateful and owes a lot of her success to her parents, who raised her and her three sisters with strong, hard-working values. Her parents supported her in countless ways, but she likes to call out three things they did to shape who she is today:

  • Unconditional love – no matter what, Joanie knew she had her parents’ backing, and each and every day they were there for her and her sisters.
  • Education – not going to college was not an option for Joanie and her sisters, and she’s forever grateful for her parents’ commitment to making sure she got the schooling she needed to succeed.
  • Confidence – perhaps the most important value her parents instilled in her, Joanie’s parents taught her to believe in herself, and that she could even be the President of the United States one day.

Joanie goes on to say, “When I look back at it, the confidence piece was key. It’s the best gift we can give our children and I try to do it with my children every day. My mother made me feel that if I wanted to be the President of the United States, I could really do it. It gave me such confidence!”

That confidence has driven Joanie to be her own passionate career champion, paving the way not only for herself but for future staffing leaders. 

Diversity, inclusion, and acceptance 

Joanie’s path to the c-suite of an industry-leading organization wasn’t easy. Early in her career, she worked for companies that tended to be very male-dominated. In fact, she recalls one where about 90% of the sales and recruiting team were men. Joanie shares that it made her feel that the organization valued men more than women but she tried not to take it personally. Instead, she framed it as a challenge. She was ambitious and wanted to climb the ladder but she knew it probably wasn’t going to happen where she currently was. 

“I didn’t have to blow a whistle or make a big deal about something, I chose to make a different decision. I own my career. I own my destiny. If I don’t feel like I’m going to be able to achieve what I want to achieve here, I’m going to find a place that is the right environment for me. I made the change.” 

She took that passion and embraced challenges in her next role, where she experienced her career-defining moment. She was a new Area Vice President and one of the youngest in her current organization, and she tells the story of how she won an annual award as the top-performing AVP. She didn’t even know she was up for the award, but sure enough, she ended up winning!

According to Joanie, “It defined me for many reasons. Number one, I felt like I had kept my head down and done my job, which I just love to do. It spoke to the fact that when you do something you really love and put yourself into it, and build a great team, the rewards are there. We were super successful as an area.”

Joanie then goes on to say that a male colleague came up to her and said, “Let’s see if you can do it again next year,” in a sarcastic tone. This lit a fire underneath her that she channeled into her future achievements.  

Mentorship matters

Joanie and Leslie also touch on the importance of mentorship. Joanie comments, 

“There have been so many mentors and leaders that have shaped my career. Both male and female, direct bosses, people that I’ve looked up to. What I loved the most is the opportunity to get advice from them and I really take that advice and keep it. It’s like picking the best flowers of each of them!”

She states that she would not be in the role she is today or have achieved what she has achieved without her mentors. 

Leslie and Joanie close their conversation with their top pieces of advice and how you can be your own confident career champion.