Jeff Sobel

Jeff Sobel

Candidate's Office: International Director

Region Number: 9

Toastmasters member since: 2005

Education: BA Mathematics, SUNY-Binghamton

Employer and/or position: NYISO, Senior Cybersecurity Specialist

Served as District Director of District number: 53

Term of service: 2012-2013

In term as District Director, District achieved: Not Distinguished


Toastmasters offices held and terms of service (international and regional level):

  • 2018-2020 Region 6 Advisor
  • 2013-2015 Chief Ambassador, Revitalized Education Program (renamed Pathways), District 53
  • 2012-2013 District Governor
  • 2011-2012 Lt. Governor Education & Training
  • 2010-2011 Lt. Governor Marketing

Toastmasters honors and recognition (international level):

  • 2019-2020 Presidential Citation

Relevant work experience and how it relates to Toastmasters and your role as a Board Member:

Board service draws upon many skills, including strategic thinking, teamwork and collaboration, a working understanding of policy evaluation and implementation, and a high level of integrity. Throughout my career as a software developer, IT internal auditor, and now a cybersecurity specialist in the power industry, I have been involved in the creation of many strategic plans, including the development and implementation of strategic initiatives. My work as an internal auditor and cybersecurity specialist regularly calls for evaluating and determining the impact of both internal policy and regulations imposed by state and federal agencies, as well as governance and oversight of policy implementation. Similarly, integrity and ethical conduct is critical; anything less could be disastrous for both my company and me. I have also worked on numerous teams, many of which were multi-cultural and international, where communication and collaboration under stressful conditions were very important.

What experience do you have in strategic planning?

In addition to my work experience mentioned above, my leadership in multiple volunteer organizations has provided many opportunities for strategic planning. As a Director on multiple volunteer ambulance boards, I was involved in creation, implementation, and revision of strategic plans. Currently, I am the president of my townhouse community’s Homeowners Association (HOA) and am leading the effort to develop our organizations first-ever strategic plan.

What experience do you have in the area of finance?

Part of my work duties include working with my manager to create our team’s budget each year, managing our expenditures, and collaborating with the entire IT department on overall budget management. I have been recognized for my exemplary efforts in this area. My volunteer board service for two volunteer ambulance organizations and current service as president of my townhouse community’s Homeowner’s Association has given me significant real-world fiscal experience.

What experience do you have in developing policies?

As a board member on two volunteer ambulance agencies, one of our major duties was to understand the regulatory environment in which we functioned, and then craft policies that met all regulations while supporting our mission. This included annual review and revision of policies. Additionally, I chaired a committee to revise and update the constitution for one of my ambulance agencies.

As president of my community’s Homeowners Association, I am leading the focus of our board from entirely operational to more strategic. This effort includes the creation of a strategic plan and creation of policies and procedures.

In my position as a Cybersecurity Specialist in the power industry, I not only need to understand the rules and regulations that govern our industry but ensure that they are adhered to. We are responsible for creating policies and procedures that support these regulations, communicating them to staff throughout the organization, and addressing questions and issues as they arise. In a previous position as an Internal IT Auditor, I worked closely with company policies and developed a deep understanding of how their implementation, and how policy changes affect company operations.

What lessons did you learn from previous leadership positions?

Of the many leadership lessons I have learned from my Toastmasters service, one rises above all: the value of listening. When working through a confrontational or complex situation, asking clarifying questions and then actively and deeply listening to the response often yields clarity and deeper knowledge of other positions and viewpoints. This deeper knowledge may lead to more questions, but ultimately helps me act more decisively yet with respect for all involved. I use this skill in many situations, from mentoring others to determining key strategic direction. From this came two phrases I live by, and often share with others: “Help me understand” and “How can I help?”

Does this mean that I always require time to act or make decisions? Absolutely not. When quick, decisive action is called for, I have learned to draw on my knowledge, and my gut, to make a decision, or work with others to do so, then develop a plan to execute it. Afterward, as more information becomes available, decisions and plans may need to be adjusted. I have learned this from many great leaders, both in Toastmasters and in industry.

What experience and key strengths would you bring to the Board of Directors?

Through my 15 years of experience as a Toastmasters leader, including my recent 2 years of service as a Region Advisor, I have gained a deep understanding of our organization’s operations at all levels and around the globe. I have spent, and continue to spend a lot of time studying our Governing Documents and have developed a deep appreciation for how our strategic plan, policies, and procedures affect our districts, clubs, and members. I am also acutely aware of the impact that changes to these documents bring. Combined with my strengths in strategic planning, conflict management and problem solving, I feel I can be an asset to our Board of Directors and our members.

Why do you want to serve as an International Officer/Director?

My service as a Region Advisor for the past two years was life-changing. While I felt I had a good working knowledge of our organization and solid leadership skills beforehand, serving as an RA helped me learn how to lead, coach, and mentor with love and empathy. It is this empathy, this deep understanding of our members’ challenges and desires that drives me forward to continue to help our membership in any way possible. I feel that pairing this deep knowledge of our members and our organization with my strategic skills and sensitivity to cross-cultural needs would be an asset to our Board and help our organization continue to move forward, as well as improve the experience of all of our members.

What volunteer experience do you have outside of Toastmasters?

I have been involved in volunteer service for about as long as I can remember. As a youth, I participated and led numerous community service activities through the Boy Scouts of America. I was also a junior member of my local volunteer ambulance corp. As an adult, I dedicated 20 years of service as a volunteer EMT for two different ambulance corps, including serving as a Director on both of their boards. Currently, I am serving as the President of my townhouse community’s Homeowners Association (HOA), where I have been able to use the communication and leadership skills learned through Toastmasters to help my community.

Have you worked with other Boards of Directors outside of Toastmasters? If so, describe your experience.

I am currently the President of my Homeowners Association and have served on the boards of two volunteer ambulance services. This service both sparked my passion to serve and was fueled by my Toastmasters service to date.

In your opinion, what are Toastmasters International’s major objectives and how would you work to achieve them?

Our Interim Plan identified four strategic pillars to guide us through the ever-changing challenges we face during this pandemic: Club Excellence, Member Achievement, Awareness and Engagement, and Operational Effectiveness. I see our Board of Directors as the group of leaders dedicated to promoting this plan and ensuring its goals and initiatives are met through our staff at WHQ, our Region Advisors and all our volunteer leaders across the globe. That said, as a member of our Board, I see us continuing to monitor situations around the world and respond with updated strategies and initiatives. The health, safety, and well-being of our members is our paramount objective.

Additional information about candidate:

Happily married to my wife, Donna, for 38 years. Donna is a DTM, currently a Division Director, and loves Toastmasters too! Father of two boys, three beautiful grandchildren. Very active in my local community. Avid runner. Third degree black belt in Washin-ryu Karate-do.