What does it mean to be “influential”? For the Women In Wellness we’ve had the honor of highlighting this month, it’s clear that all of them have great impact on those around them.  They’re all driven by helping and supporting others.  They all care about employee wellness and each has a strong message of empowerment.  With 22 years of experience, this influential woman has driven real change throughout her career.  Meet Cassie Buckroyd from Columbia Sportswear; she wants you to take chances and get outside your comfort zone!

Tell us about yourself.

I was born and grew up in Oregon’s Willamette Valley. I spent my formative years in McMinnville and went to college in Corvallis at Oregon State, where I earned my degree in psychology and minored in community health. After college, I moved to San Diego for three years, and then to Las Vegas, where I lived for several years. During these years I worked in healthcare and decided to return to Portland to earn my Master of Public Health at Portland State. 

When I was in graduate school, a friend of mine told me that one of her friends worked for a large grocery chain where she ran wellness programs for employees. I had never heard of a role like this and thought it sounded like a dream job. Not long after graduating from PSU, I began working for a small tech start-up company that developed population health and wellbeing solutions for employers and health plans. This was in 2006 and this type of solution and employer-based programming was just emerging. I learned so much, wore many hats — I got to work with clinicians, human resources professionals, and a group of very smart and driven people.

I would tell my younger self that there are going to be things you want to do that will seem scary, but you should do them anyway. Take the chance, get outside your comfort zone and go for it.

Cassie Buckroyd

Columbia Sportswear

Over the next decade, I worked for two other wellbeing technology platforms in client-facing roles. I worked on wellness program strategies for employer clients with less than 100 employees all the way up to health plans with more than 5 million members (and everything in between). In 2014, I was ready for a change and was hired at Columbia Sportswear Company to start their first employee wellness program. I took a risk on my role at Columbia — it was part-time at just 25 hours per week. Within 6 months, my hours were increased to 30 hours, and I remained at 30 hours a week for 4 years by choice – it was great work/life balance. 

At the 4-year mark, I felt it was time to take my role and wellness at Columbia to the next level. To make a long story short, I created a wellness program model that was adopted globally and became the Total Rewards Philosophy at Columbia. Since that time, I have been promoted into leadership roles within Total Rewards. I have recently created a team responsible for Total Rewards program delivery to our diverse, global workforce. And wellbeing is still our Total Rewards philosophy.

I have been at Columbia for almost 8 years, and they have been some of the most rewarding, fun and challenging years of my 22-year career. Other fun facts: On weekends, and when I’m not working, you can find me spending time in the outdoors, hiking, backpacking, or cross-country skiing. My creative outlet is making jewelry, and I have a small business making and selling my handcrafted jewelry. I have two nieces, age 11 and 13, and I love spending time with them.

What is your WHY?

Growing up, I was involved in several school-based community service organizations, and I loved the feeling of helping and connecting with people through these activities. In high school, I spent a lot of time in leadership, academic and community service activities, but I was never an athlete and never participated in sports. I was sedentary and didn’t have a healthy diet (I was a teenager!). I am not sure I knew it at the time, but I didn’t feel great.

My senior year in high school, I joined a women’s gym with a few friends, and we started taking step aerobics classes together. The music, meeting other women, and movement — I was addicted! I learned how to lift weights at this gym – they gave every woman who joined the gym a one-on-one consultation on how to lift weights and designed a circuit for them to follow. A gym rat was born! I cleaned up my diet and continued my fitness routine in college. This is how I discovered how life-changing healthy behaviors can be – and how hard they are to maintain.

In college I began taking health promotion and public health classes and subscribing to magazines like Prevention and Fitness. I had a passion for learning as much as I could about health and wellness, and I liked the idea of helping others feel and be at their best. I think this is how I realized what I want to do with my career. I’ve always known I wanted to help and impact others, and I found a way to do it by channeling something that I enjoy and had a profound impact on my own life.

What advice would you give a younger version of yourself?

I would tell my younger self that there are going to be things you want to do that will seem scary, but you should do them anyway. Take the chance, get outside your comfort zone and go for it. An example: I was in college and I didn’t take a class because I was uncomfortable with some of the requirements, one was public speaking. I dropped the class! I wish I had taken that class. 

Another example is in middle school and high school, I loved choir and singing, but I was terrified to perform solos. This held me back from even trying out for the advanced jazz choir. I would go back to a young age and encourage my young self to do things, even though I may feel scared. As I’ve gotten older, I do things that push me outside my comfort zone, and it always pays off. I wish I had learned that at a younger age!

There are a lot of women in the health/wellbeing space.  Do you think women are uniquely positioned to drive wellness/wellbeing? Why?

I’m not sure. I have known several men in this field who are talented and great at what they do. I think women are encouraged to seek “helping” careers like teaching, nursing, and counseling (as examples). And our helping, servant and empathetic skills are nurtured from young ages. Yes, I think women are well suited for this career path, and we have unique characteristics that make this so. But I pause to ask “why” that is.

What women have been influential in your life/path?

When I think of women who have impacted me and inspired me, it’s the women I know personally. First, of course, is my Mom. My Mom is that perfect blend of soft and strong. She taught me the importance of being able to stand on my own two feet and be independent, while still loving others and allowing myself to be loved. She shared life lessons with me as I was growing up, and they have stayed with me.

She taught me personal finance and the importance of being financially independent. To know that no matter what happens, “you’ll be okay”. That wanting a partner in life is different than needing a partner. I’ve watched her do things outside her comfort zone and overcome some big challenges. I’ve seen her be a good friend that can be depended on. I have GREAT parents – I am very lucky. 

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