Check out the “EA Professional Spotlight” section for a Q&A with our Manager of Field Operations, Tim Sumiec:
EA Professional Spotlight
Name and position
Tim Sumiec, Manager of Field Operations with Empathia, Inc.
What do you like best about working in the employee assistance field?
The best part about working in the EA field is the people. I have limited client contact, but I have the privilege of connecting with providers from across the country and sometimes throughout the world. I work hard to find providers that have a strong EA background or are doing EAP work themselves. It is exciting to “speak the same language” with these providers and share experiences and best practices. In more remote areas, it is harder to find providers with EAP experience, so I love having the opportunity to talk with them about how EAP work differs from their private practice, and the different learning opportunities that EAPA has to offer. But regardless of whether they have EAP experience, I am amazed at the work these counselors do, whether it’s seeing a difficult client, providing trauma response or giving training services. Whether I talk to them once or multiple times, I build a connection with many of the providers in our network. I consider many of them friends and greatly appreciate their willingness to respond urgently to the various difficult situations that we face.
What was your first EA job?
I started at Empathia, then known as National Employee Assistance Services (NEAS), as an EAP counselor in 1990. In that position, I handled client phone intakes and made referrals to providers, legal and consumer credit counseling cervices. At first, it was just a job that allowed me to move back to the Milwaukee area. I had no idea what an EAP was. I had to learn how to talk to clients and how the workplace impacted them and the services we offered. Although NEAS initially wasn’t actively involved in EAPA, they did support the CEAP, so I received that certification as soon as I became eligible. I also was one of the first employees to attend EAPA chapter meetings on a regular basis. I remember feeling a bit out of place at first, until a union brother, Joe Kraus, gave me a big hug and took me under his wing and encouraged greater involvement. It wasn’t long before I was the Treasurer and then the Vice President of our chapter. At NEAS, I accepted a job as the Manager of Field Operations in 1994. In this position, I supervised and grew our affiliate network across the country. Back then, I was the whole Field Operations team. Fast forward to 2016, I am still in the same job, very much enjoying myself and the providers we work with, as well as managing a Field Operations team of employees. I don’t have the longest tenure at Empathia (we changed our name around 2010), but there are now only a handful of employees that have been around as long as me. So, my first EA job is the same one that I currently find myself in. I am not as green as I was in 1990, but I am still learning every day.
What is the most challenging part of your job?
The first challenge is to keep up with the push to continually make things easier, better, and faster, while striking a balance with protecting confidential information. The staff, my team and some wonderful IT people are a great help in this area. The second challenge is to build the best “EAP” network I can and keep them happy with at least some EAP referrals. Unfortunately, the industry that we live in thinks that bigger is better and doesn’t value quality as much as quantity.
When you are not busy working, what inspires you?
My incredible wife, Jen, and my children Abby, 16 (adopted from Russia), Molly, 12 (adopted from China) and Leo, who just turned one! My family keeps me young and teaches me life lessons every day. My family means everything to me, having given me an appreciation of the beauty both inside us and in this wonderful world that we live in.