Laura Duda never thought she'd leave Florida.
That was until she received a cold call shortly after being named to the Business Observer's 40 under 40 list of top business professionals in 2008.
This wasn't the typical recruiter call. Duda, director of communications at Teco Energy Co., was asked to apply for vice president of communications at Exelon Corp. — the nation's largest energy provider. “I wasn't looking to leave,” says Duda, a Buffalo, N.Y. native who grew up in St. Petersburg. “I didn't even have an updated resume.”
Just a few months later, Duda decided to leave the job she loved at Teco and take a big step up to work for Exelon in Chicago. “I never had this plan,” Duda says. “The biggest surprise in my life was that I would move.”
But jumping from a director level position to the VP of a big company, says Duda, was “an offer I couldn't refuse.”
Duda, now 45, remains vice president of communications for Exelon. She manages internal and external communications for the Exelon parent company and its multiple affiliates.
Chicago-based Exelon had $27.4 billion in revenues in 2014 (symbol: EXC) and has more than 26,000 employees. About 40 people report to Duda.
She admits she was a little intimidated when she first moved to Chicago. It took a while to realize she was “capable of success in a larger market, a larger company, a larger job,” she says. But after successfully leading communications through a couple acquisitions, Duda realized, “You can bloom in other places than where you're planted.”
Moving to Chicago wasn't the first big jump she made in her life. Her best career decision was pursuing an opportunity to manage a department at Teco. Even though she was less experienced than other candidates, Duda was selected. She learned, “while I love writing and media relations, I love managing people and being a performance coach even more.”
Because she was only in her early 30s, TECO gave her two-thirds of the department to start. Once she proved herself, she was named director of communications. Says Duda: “They didn't want to hand the keys over to an untested supervisor.”
To share her experiences and help mentor others, Duda graduated from Leadership Greater Chicago, something she knew she was interested in after participating in Leadership Tampa. And now that she's invested the majority of her career into learning the specifics of the energy industry, she doesn't see herself changing paths.
“I really love my job,” Duda says. “In 18 years in the energy industry, I've never had a boring day.”
Blast from the PastA glimpse back at Laura Duda's answers from the 2008 40 under 40 issue.
First job: Mr. Donut
Business person you most admire: Dee Brown, TECO Energy's vice president of regulatory affairs and customer service, my mentor and a true role model for women in business.
Most inspirational book: City of Joy by Dominique Lapierre. I could read it over and over. It moves me beyond words, reminds me of how truly blessed I am and inspires me to be a better person.
Favorite movie: The Breakfast Club
Three words that describe you: Funny, extroverted, impatient