Early in her career, Monica Friedman took on her first major volunteer commitment when she joined the Greater Des Moines Partnership’s Diversity Committee. That opportunity led to her first board appointment, to the Willkie House board, and the many other board and volunteer positions she has since taken on. 

“The opportunities just continued to grow,” said Friedman, who joined Nationwide in 1996 and has been vice president of human resources for the past seven years. “One of the things I love the most about Des Moines is that it’s easy to get connected here.”

She currently serves on the boards of Mercy Medical Center-Des Moines, United Way of Central Iowa and Education Drives Our Great Economy (EDGE). A longtime volunteer and past board member and chair of the Red Cross Central Iowa Chapter, Friedman last year received the organization’s Clara Barton Award, its highest honor for volunteers. 

Born in Pocahontas, Friedman has lived in Central Iowa since she was 5, and she learned early on the importance of community involvement from her parents. “It was just what we did. We did a lot of volunteering at Living History Farms. It’s something that I’ve modeled to pass along to my four children,” she said. 

The most important leadership lesson she’s learned is the importance of relationships. 

“Understanding relationships helps you to help leaders think about the culture they want and need within our organization. It comes down to really getting to know folks and what’s important to them. So even when we may have differing positions, those relationships allow you to have the conversations that you need to have.”

Although she describes herself as driven, her co-workers tell her they consider her to be very authentic and approachable. “I’ve been blessed to be guided by good mentors, and I’ve had the chance to do the same,” she said. “I want people to be able to approach me for advice.” 

Friedman is proud that she was instrumental in helping to launch Nationwide’s Associate Resource Group program, which over the past 10 years has grown to become a key part of the company’s culture. “It brings folks together who have common interests, so people are able to connect with other folks they wouldn’t otherwise connect with in their day-to-day work,” she said. 

She also helped to start a high school internship program at Nationwide that has influenced teens who might not otherwise have thought of going to college. “We are viewed as an employer of choice because of the culture we’ve got here.” 

On summer weekends, she and her family often spend time on their houseboat on the Mississippi River. “We love to boat,” she said. 

Three areas of influence:

  1. She leads a team of human resources business partners that supports 6,000 Nationwide associates across six business units. 
  2. She is deeply involved on three key boards that influence education, health care and charitable giving in Greater Des Moines. 
  3. She has been instrumental in establishing mentoring, leadership and internship programs at Nationwide. 

Words to live by:

“I believe we are presented with opportunities for a reason, and that people are put in our path intentionally when we can positively impact them.”