DECA job has been great fit for Jackie Schiller

When Jackie Schiller was attending college in the 1980s at what is now M State, she had plans to go into retail. Instead, she got involved with DECA, and took a position with the organization she's happily been with ever since.

Jackie Schiller
Jackie Schiller got involved with DECA as a student and now gets to help students as leader of the Minnesota DECA program.

When Jackie Schiller was attending college in the 1980s at what is now M State, she had plans to go into retail. Instead, she got involved with DECA, and took a position with the organization she's happily been with ever since.

"Never in a million years" did she think she'd be working the job she does now -- which she said shouldn't even be classified as a "job" -- and even though she has the deadlines, stress and meetings like most other jobs, this one is different.

"I'd do it again in a minute -- no regrets."

After being involved throughout college, in 1987, she received a call to go to work for the Minnesota organization part time. In 1996, she was also hired part-time to head MN Secondary Business Professionals of America organization as well. Though she works part time for both, she is the sole staff person for both Minnesota career and technical student organizations.

It was an instructor at college, Mike Campbell -- who was an "awesome motivator" -- who got her involved.


"I don't know why I got involved, I just did. I can't imagine my life without DECA," she said from her home on Pickerel Lake.

From the beginning, Schiller has worked out of a home office, which back when she started, "it was so unheard of at that point. People said, 'wow, that's really different.' I proved them wrong."

Yes, she tends to take more days off in the summer, and it's easier to work on a rainy day, but it's never been an issue to separate work from home, she said. It's actually been very nice.

It was nice for Schiller, mother of Claire, now 17, and Maddy, 15, to be able to see her girls grow up and attend all games and events, rather than having to get them off to daycare and miss many of their firsts.

"We have a very non-traditional lifestyle because we can make our own schedules."

When her daughters were younger, her mother came to the house to watch them while Schiller worked, and they formed a close bond with their "Granny" because of that.

"That's been an added bonus," she said.

She also got to expose her daughters to a lot of travel from a young age because of her job.


"They got to see the world is much bigger than Detroit Lakes, bigger than Minnesota."

There are 60 DECA chapters in Minnesota, which Schiller oversees all of them. She works directly with the chapter advisors in the school districts, but said she wishes she got to work more directly with the students. She does get to know the state officers and other students well though. Since she is a staff of one, Schiller serves as a jack-of-all-trades. She does all the promotions for events, plans and implements the DECA events within Minnesota, and takes care of the financial aspects as well.

Larger organizations have staff members to take care of all those departments. She doesn't.

In fact, she just won first place for her 2010-2011 annual report she created and put together.

Being without co-workers, Christmas parties and socializing after work with co-workers is the lonely aspect of working from home, but that doesn't outweigh the benefits of being at home either.

"Most of my close friends live across the country," she said. "I only get to see them a few times a year."

Just one of those times she gets to see friends and advisors is during the biggest event, the International Career Development Conference. About 14,000 attendees from all 50 states, Guam Puerto Rico and Canada come together for the conference.

DECA focuses on marketing-based students, and BPA focuses on business-minded students.


While the two programs are similar in that they are for students, "they have their own identity and type of student attracted to each organization."

Both though can provide "career exploration, develop strong leadership skills, and develop a sense of pride and confidence."

She said it's rewarding to know "the work I have done changes young people's lives."

Besides working with students on the state level, she's influencing them on the nation level as well. Schiller serves on the national board of directors, which she has also chaired in the past. The success of the organization over the past 60 years, she said, is "because people like myself that stepped up to the plate and served."

In her extra time -- "and I never have enough time" -- she enjoys golfing, Zumba and quilting.

"I can't imagine doing anything different," she said of her job with DECA. "It provides me a wonderful opportunity."

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