Position: Chief marketing officer, the Optical Society of America, a Washington-based association for advancing the science of light.

Career Highlights: Vice president, membership marketing, Cable & Telecommunications Association for Marketing; senior strategic communicator, American Chemistry Council; vice president, marketing and communications, Personal Communications Industry Association; director of membership, John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.

Age: 45

Education: BA, history, Bethany College; MA, organizational development, George Mason University

Personal: Lives in Falls Church with husband, Paul.

How did you get to where you are?

It's been a nice, fun road. I started in association work in 1984. I had a wonderful connection with a man named Dave Roland. He was responsible for hiring me in my first association job, at the National Telephone Cooperative Association. Before, I was working and taking law classes and decided that it wasn't the right track. Keep an open mind because you never know what opportunity may come your way. . . .

I felt lucky to be at the association when wireless had the potential to really take off. We had the opportunity to launch an industry trade show that grew from 6,000 to well beyond 20,000 [attendees] after the third year.

My work at the Kennedy Center when I was managing membership programs was very exciting. We were growing the membership through fundraising. We grew the organization from 8,000 to more than 40,000 members through campaigns and outreach efforts. And that's when I knew that was something I wanted to do with my career. Innovation, creativity and the ability to grow something with great potential is really what motivated me and still does. That's why I'm here.

Challenges? Time and ability are always limited and sometimes you have to identify where to really put your energy to get the most bang. How to be selective in where to really apply yourself, where to put your effort or the organization's efforts or staff's effort. You can't do it all, so you really have to pick and choose where best your time and effort should go.

-- Judith Mbuya