On May 7th, YPN gathered at the National Museum of American Jewish History for Success in the City featuring a panel comprised of the region’s business leaders, economic developers and decision makers. The panelists were each asked what books they would recommend a young professional to read. For more book recommendations, be sure to check out the full PD Bookshelf!

Anthony Bartolomeo, President & CEO, Pennoni Associates Inc.

That’s a good question because I had a career change, in a sense, when I was fired from a job. I worked for the Environmental Protection Agency for eleven years out of college. My father worked in engineering, my brother did, and my ambition was, as they, to retire from the government. That was my ambition. When I was 32 years old I worked for the administrator here in Philadelphia. I took interviews to go back into operations for three jobs. I didn’t get any of the jobs. I went to him and said, “You know, Jim, you’re supposed to help out a little bit here. Listen, everyone before me got a temporary promotion and then a permanent one.” He said, “I’m not going to do that for you.” I said, “Well, why not?” He said, “You don’t belong in the government.” That was sort of my career flashing before my eyes because I intended to retired from the government at 65 at GS-14, 15. He said, “The best advice I can give you is read a book called What Color is your Parachute? You all may have heard of it. I know I did a good job for him and didn’t ask why he thought I didn’t belong in the government, it kind of hit me, but I took it seriously and read the book.

It’s basically, write an autobiography. Once you do that, describe the events that made you happy, which ones didn’t, and what about those events made you happy, what about those that didn’t? You boil your essence down to these four or five things that made [you] happy. These two or three things don’t. [From there] it says, build on that, design a career, a job, that will get as many of these and as few of these as possible. I followed the book and I went out and created it. [The book] said, “You won’t compete for the job because it won’t exist. You’ll create it. You’ll be the only candidate.” And I did that with Chuck Pennoni, founder of Pennoni Associates in 1986. When I got with him for breakfast – I didn’t know him that well – he said, “What makes you think you can be successful in business? You only ever worked for the government.” And I said, “I think there’s good people in government, there’s dead wood in business and I think I’m one of the good people.” And he kind of smirked so I said, “What’s so funny?” He said, “Well, before I started this company I used to work for the government.” He said, “I’d like you to start a practice at my firm in environmental engineering and we’ll give it a year and see where we are.”

The fellow who fired me, essentially, from EPA, every year after that I saw him and thanked him for doing what he did until 1999, I said, “Jim, you’re getting tired of me telling you this and I want to let you be the first to know that I was made President of Pennoni Associates.” He felt terrific about that but I didn’t question him – maybe I should have learned why he didn’t think I belonged in the government – but it worked out well for me and I love what I do, as I said before. It’s been a great career.

Honorable Renée Cardwell Hughes, CEO, American Red Cross Southeastern Pennsylvania

I would actually recommend two books for you for different reasons. I read Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln, yes, it’s massive but it’s a really good read. Why was it a good read? Because it made me really think about how you build a team, how you build complementing skills to you, how you work with people who are different from you, and how you master the art of compromise without losing your values. Team of Rivals is a really good one to help you navigate challenging relationships whether they be in the work environment or the community or wherever.

I would also recommend Gain the Edge!: Negotiating to Get What You Want or any kind of book about negotiating. Life is all about negotiating but I would start with something that helps you figure out the essence of who you are and what you like. Once you do that you need to learn how to negotiate to get what you want.

Marc Brownstein, President & CEO, Brownstein Group

Since this is a business crowd I’ll recommend two business authors: Malcolm Gladwell and Jim Collins, they’ve each written a serious of books, pick up anyone at any time and you’ll learn a ton. I read fiction, there’s a lot of great fiction out there, but this is a business audience and if you’re looking for books to help you in your career, help round you out, shape your vision, your identity in your career, I think these two authors really get it right.

Kathleen Kinslow, President & CEO, Aria Health

I agree with all of the authors that you mentioned. The other day was the kickoff event for the World Meeting of Families that’s coming to Philadelphia in 2015, and as you know there was a delegation from our state which went to the Vatican. At the kickoff they provided a book for us, Pope Francis: Why He Leads the Way He Leads, by Chris Lowney. It’s truly a book on leadership. I’m sure many of you have read many books that are great, this is really one of the most profound books I’ve ever read. It takes [leadership] from a really different vantage point than the traditional books I’ve read in the past. I’d highly recommend that you go out and get it.