20 Under 40: Ross Kanaga

Financial Innovation Manager, DevNW

Age: 37

I’m inspired every day by the people I see taking small steps to make a big impact on their lives. At DevNW, I might see a young adult aging out of foster care who opens a Roth IRA after securing a first job one day, while the next I’m working with an aspiring entrepreneur who finds savings within a limited budget to create a new startup. To me, being a good leader is akin to mentoring – provide a sounding board and then get out of the way. When clients have goals, staff have solutions or partners propose collaborations, I have learned to help equip them with tools and resources and then step back. Magic will happen.

I believe leadership starts and ends with intentional listening. There are many ways to lead effectively, but an ability to listen is always a common ingredient. In my experience, some of the best collaborations, innovations and program developments trace their roots back to clients’ feedback or colleagues’ observations. In leading staff, active listening with the intent to understand and not just respond is empowering and fosters collaborative problem solving and better results.

I feel fortunate to have grown up and continue to live in a place where local business and nonprofit leaders alike care so deeply about our community and its future. It is in this collective spirit that I am excited to continue working to tackle new challenges toward making Eugene-Springfield a place where everyone can thrive.