Here’s a compliment from Tiffany Tauscheck, the first recipient of the Business Record’s Emerging Woman of Influence, to this year’s honoree, Emily Abbas.

“There is simply no other young woman in our community who has achieved the career success, as well as the quantity and quality of community leadership results, as Emily Abbas,” Tauscheck wrote.

That’s almost the complete nutshell in one quote. Suku Radia, who created the position of chief of staff at Bankers Trust Co. specifically with Abbas in mind, seals that nutshell with his comment.

“She is wise beyond her years,” Radia said. “She provides great leadership by setting an example. What a delightful and affable young lady.”

Delightful and affable are the two qualities you pick up first when talking to Abbas. What you don’t see at first blush is the determination to make a difference in anything that she considers worthwhile.

The list of accomplishments takes some research. She doesn’t dwell on them and she doesn’t find her career path all that interesting, although many people seek her advice on how their careers can follow a similar trajectory.

Abbas credits her stint with the Greater Des Moines Leadership Institute in 2003 and 2004 with directing her focus on things that really matter, stuff like mentoring and helping others make a difference in the community, the Des Moines Playhouse, Drake University, Gov. Terry Branstad’s STEM initiative.

“That opportunity challenged me to make a conscious effort to narrow down my focus and say that you can’t do everything for everyone,” she said. “I look for the opportunities to really dive deep and make a difference and take on leadership roles.”

The list of those boards is long and includes Greater Des Moines’ premier organizations. But if she had to make a choice, what are the three things she could not walk away from? Here’s the list:

Exploring and learning through travel. “I love Des Moines, I choose to live here, but I enjoy learning about other cultures and pushing yourself outside of your comfort zone to learn new things.” 

Her kids. Whether she is watching her sons play sports or watching them participate in Playhouse productions, “it’s important for me to carve time for my family.”

Meeting and mentoring others. “I think I learn as much from them as they can learn from me.”

Chances are, the people Abbas touches every day are learning a lot from her.

“I think my purpose in life is enhancing the lives of the people around me, friends, family, colleagues, people I volunteer with,” she said.


Three areas of influence:

  1. Youngest person named president of Drake University’s National Alumni Board.
  2. Chairwoman of the Greater Des Moines Partnership’s newly formed communications board. 
  3. Bankers Trust Co. President and CEO Suku Radia created the first chief-of-staff position in the history of the Des Moines institution with Abbas in mind. The position was created as Radia prepares to retire in 2017, also the year of the bank’s 100th anniversary. Abbas later was named the bank’s chief marketing officer, while also retaining the chief of staff title. 


Words to live by:

“Leadership begins with your own commitment to bringing out the best in others.”