After 5 years as president, Sherry Rockey is passing the torch to Michelle DeFayette, who will become EnCompass’ new president effective July 1, 2020. Ms. Rockey will continue in an essential advisory role with EnCompass, focusing on a variety of strategic initiatives.
Ms. Rockey was chief operating officer before becoming president in 2015, and has been involved with the company since its founding in 1999. Under her leadership, EnCompass has more than doubled in size, growing from fewer than 50 employees to become an award-winning workplace, now with more than 120 staff members around the world—all committed to inclusive, country-led development.
“I’m excited about where we are and enormously proud of how far we’ve come,” Ms. Rockey said. “As we celebrate 20 years, this feels like the perfect time in the company’s history to pass the baton to someone like Michelle, while staying deeply connected to an organization I love and a mission I am passionate about.”
Ms. Rockey and Ms. DeFayette have been working side by side to prepare for this change. CEO/CFO and co-founder Tessie Catsambas said of the transition, “We owe so much to Sherry, and we are lucky to have Michelle DeFayette step into the role of president of EnCompass. They are both exceptional leaders devoted to our mission of service.”
Decades of Leadership in Development and Humanitarian Assistance
Ms. DeFayette has 30 years of experience in international development and humanitarian work and extensive expertise in learning, facilitation, and leadership development. She has been drawn to organizations and programs that aim to advance intercultural understanding and support those in need, from early experiences supporting international exchange programs for nonprofit organizations to curriculum design and training at the Peace Corps.
This commitment grew as she took on team leadership roles for USAID’s Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance, equipping humanitarian experts to lead and coordinate the U.S. government’s response to disasters overseas, and other challenging global response and capacity-strengthening programs. She has led award-winning teams, including the OFDA Training Unit for Iraq, Sudan, and Tsunami Disaster Response, which received a USAID Meritorious Honor group award for their rapid-response work to develop a curriculum for humanitarian responders deployed to these conflict- and disaster-affected locations.
“I’ve always been mission driven,” she said, “and EnCompass’ vision and values fit with my own. We want to have a positive impact in the world.”
Ms. DeFayette joined EnCompass in 2018. As vice president of business strategies, she has worked with Ms. Rockey and the rest of the leadership team to expand the company’s business development capacity and grow the portfolio of work across service areas. She first came to know EnCompass as a client, while leading teams for the USAID-funded Program/Project Management Training and Worldwide Training contracts.
Ms. DeFayette is an expert in the design, delivery, and strategic management of learning and leadership development programs, with additional specialties in cross-cultural communication and business growth strategies. In her previous roles, she has grown single training and learning projects into significant practice areas, drawing on her natural leadership, strong network across development and humanitarian assistance sectors, and self-described commitment to lifelong learning to help countries and organizations tackle some of the world’s toughest challenges.
Asked what she envisions for EnCompass in the future, Ms. DeFayette noted that this transition is “really a handing of the baton,” and emphasized the success EnCompass has seen as a result of Ms. Rockey’s leadership.
“It’s really about continuity and stretching,” she said, “building on the great work EnCompass has been doing and the truly solid foundation that Sherry has led us to create. She’s led the company through smart investments and successes. As we continue on that road, we want to hang onto the values and creative thinking that make EnCompass EnCompass. That organizational character has enabled us to immediately pivot to online operations and help our clients shift as well.”
Indeed, Ms. DeFayette takes up this baton in the midst of a global pivot as we all respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. She has been leading EnCompass’ COVID-19 task force—strategically supporting a global team of staff, clients, and partners to shift events and learning to virtual platforms, respond to rapid changes in operational realities, and support one another as human beings.
With the multifaceted challenges facing countries worldwide, her energy and deep experience are crucial assets for EnCompass. We invite you to join us in welcoming EnCompass’ new president, Michelle DeFayette, by sharing your reflections in the comments below, on our LinkedIn page, or on Twitter to @EnCompass_World.
This post was published on June 3, 2020.