Although she’s not yet 30, Anne Pham has more on her resume than many people amass in a lifetime. So what does adding the designation of being a Forty under 40 honoree add?  

Pham answers that question without a moment’s hesitation. It’s another opportunity to mentor and model empowerment. “I think a lot of the things I do is in hopes of being a good role model for people who might be struggling to have a voice of their own,” she said.

Pham, who was born in a refugee camp in Malaysia after her family of seven fled Vietnam, was 2 when they arrived in Iowa. From that moment on, her life was filled with people who mentored, encouraged and helped her. Rudi and Sigrid Thill, the Des Moines couple who sponsored the family, were the first. “We consider them our grandparents and we’ve spent every holiday with them,” she said. The Grand View College history professor and librarian instilled in Pham a love of books and education.

Actually, the hardest thing Pham had to do was to choose just one mentor to name for this article. She said she tends to pick the characteristics of different people that she admires to learn from. “I would say that I’m a conglomeration of a lot of different mentors,” she said.

One of those, Linda Mattes, helped Pham when she was young and the only female engineer in her division of Alliant Energy Corp. in Cedar Rapids. “She really took me in and realized that I was unique and I was feeling like a fish out of water,” Pham recalled. “She told me: ‘Take your differences and take what makes you unique and own it. Don’t feel like you need to act like everyone else.’”

Reasons she’s a Forty:

• She’s the youngest program supervisor ever in the Iowa Department of Natural Resources.

• She has a masters degree in business administration.

• She volunteers in ways that help empower underrepresented populations.

• Multilingual, she founded Spanish Speaking Circle and she’s a dance instructor for Salsa Des Moines.

• She completed the Des Moines Marathon and summited four mountains.

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