Everybody’s career path is unique, but there are some common threads for people who climb the ladder quickly. Ambition and resolve link these four executives who have achieved high-level positions at a young age. Here they share discuss the pivotal moments that helped them become standouts in their fields.
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All-American Home Care
As a rookie in the human services field 15 years ago, Marco Altieri’s employer at the time asked him to play a role in the in-home care of a stroke survivor with brittle bone disease. The man could not speak or move most of his limbs, and therapists doubted that he would improve.
Yet Altieri was undeterred. He began asking the man questions in a booming voice from the other side of the room and helped him use stretch bands to build back his strength.
“Fast-forward nine months, when my engagement with him was done, he could roll himself over,” says Altieri, now CEO of Rochester-based All-American Home Care. “He could talk; his voice was shaky, but … you could understand what he was saying. He could actually write his name again.”
He adds: “He ended up passing away a few years after that, but in his funeral services, there was note in his program that said (the man and his wife) wanted to thank ‘Marco, their son.’”
Even in childhood, Altieri seemed destined for a hands-on career. When an aide did not show up at his family’s home to provide wound care for his mother while she was recovering from surgery, Altieri and his brother took on the task themselves.
As All-American Home Care’s recent strides show, the human services field is not a fleeting interest for Altieri, who lives in Penfield and collects hot rods. The agency, which he co-founded in 2015, recently cut the ribbon on a new administrative office in the South Wedge.
Executive Vice President
Baldwin Richardson Foods Co.
On the evening of her graduation from Spelman College, Erin Tolefree had two job offers: one with an international food and beverage company and one with an international media communications agency. Working at Baldwin Richardson Foods Co., which her father had recently purchased, was not on her radar.
“My father, Eric, put it on the table as something that he was interested in seeing me pursue,” says Tolefree, now executive vice president at Baldwin Richardson Foods. “For me, I was a little bit anxious,” so Tolefree came on board as an intern in 2001.
“After the first week here, I just knew that I was never going to look back,” adds Tolefree, a Chicago native who lives in Victor. She was particularly intrigued by the prospect of helping the company secure its position as a custom-ingredient manufacturer.
Opportunities to be an agent of change have helped shape Tolefree’s career. In the past 18 months alone, Baldwin Richardson Foods has created a new innovation team and set an expansion plan in motion.
“It’s exciting and the most rewarding thing to watch people evolve and grow, all while helping the company to succeed and reach new levels of success,” Tolefree says.
When it comes to advice for young professionals, Tolefree recommends embracing fear.
“It’s OK to get comfortable with being uncomfortable,” she says. “That is where the real growth and learning happens.”
Complemar Partners Inc.
As a kid growing up in the Rochester area, Jason Aymerich enjoyed taking apart objects around the house to see their mechanical guts. Tinkering with fish tanks, fans and bikes eventually led him to earn a packaging science degree from Rochester Institute of Technology and accept a job at Henrietta-based Diamond Packaging.
Though Aymerich enjoyed working in the engineering group, transitioning to a sales position at the company four years later satisfied his interest in using his communication skills.
“That (change) allowed me to take what I learned from engineering and describe it at the table to all the stakeholders,” says Aymerich, now president of Complemar Partners Inc., a Rochester-based fulfillment services firm that handles more than 75 million packages a year.
Strategizing for Complemar’s continued success is one of Aymerich’s top priorities.
“We are establishing ourselves as the highest-tech e-commerce fulfillment provider in the industry,” says Aymerich, a West Irondequoit resident who sails in his spare time. “So I want to continue to grow our company.”
United Way of Greater Rochester
When she was 21 years old, Jaime Saunders helped establish a food-rescue nonprofit that would collect leftover food at the Rochester Public Market. A local newspaper ended up running a front-page story about the effort that also included some succinct feedback from the late Tom Ferraro, then the leader of Foodlink, the region’s food bank.
“He was quoted as saying, ‘Programs like these duplicate and perpetuate the problem,’” says Saunders, who became president and CEO of United Way of Greater Rochester in January. “So I called him and asked him who did he think he was. I’m trying to do good here.”
She adds: “He was 100 percent correct. … In my hubris and my deep desire to help the community, the first step should have been looking around to partner with those who have done and were doing incredible work.”
Eventually, Saunders went to work for Ferraro and soon regarded him as mentor. The skills she acquired at Foodlink ran the gamut, “which is the wonderful thing (about) the nonprofit sector,” she says. “You get thrown in with a lot of responsibility and a lot of room.”
She adds: “Having the inclination to reach out to a leader to get the information—and that leader to take a chance on me—(was) really the beginning and where I go back to the whole trajectory of my career.”
Sheila Livadas is a Rochester-area freelance writer.