To hear big sister (and KinderCare District Manager) Janice Handrahan tell it, Robin Blais has been outspoken and outgoing since birth. Sure, she may have cried for the first two years of her life, but that was probably because she lacked the ability to share her plans and ideas with others. But since her high school days of earning state and national speech competitions, this Dedham, Mass., regional assistant has used her skills to connect her KinderCare colleagues, giving advice, organizing anything and everything, and just generally helping to make sure things are done right.
Ask Blais about her job and she’ll tell you she likes the variety and being part of a team.
“The biggest part of being an EA is that you’re supporting other people,” she said. “You’re constantly changing your approach. I appreciate the challenges that come with that. It’s best described as organized chaos – that’s if you can stay organized! My goal is to help my team be successful.”
Of course, it helps to have a plan. And a plan B, just in case. And a plan C (better safe than sorry). A big part of Blais’ success is her personal drive to do well and her ability to plan for nearly any contingency.
Blais began her KinderCare career about 20 years ago when she was still in high school. Students at her school (a vocational school focused on preparing students for a future career) had 12 majors, and students were encouraged to try each one before deciding on a focus area. A natural giver – “I really enjoy taking care of people,” Blais said – nursing or early childhood education seemed like a natural fit. Blais felt ECE offered her more opportunity for creativity and decided to focus on education. She applied to the KinderCare center around the corner from her high school and spent her afternoons teaching. After graduation Blais took a short break to attend college in Florida, but she soon returned to Mass. and to KinderCare. She hasn’t looked back.
“In my 20 years with KinderCare I have been fortunate,” she said. “Fortunate to have great supervisors, amazing peers and some fabulous teams of teachers. I have done ever job under the sun from teacher to driving, cooking to Assistant Director, Center Director to recruiters, and finally my EA position.”
“Organizing us district managers is a lot like running a toddler class,” said Handrahan. “She has always been more organized and more thoughtful than most could ever be. She is the caretaker of our entire family and has always kept us close to each other. It’s no surprise that she approaches her job as an EA in the same manner; always connecting people, giving advice, and helping to get things done right. I can’t tell you how proud I feel when I see her in her element, taking care of this and organizing that.”
“Robin is the glue that holds our region team together,” said Karen Brimley, a Mass. District Manager. “Her ability to keep us on task and purposeful never waivers.”
For Blais it’s all about loyalty and respect.
“You need to be loyal to the company, loyal to the mission, but most importantly, you need to be loyal to your team,” she said. “You need them to always be successful because you’re part of that team.”
Organized to a fault, Blais’ goal is to end every day with fewer than 15 emails in her inbox. Of course, everyone has those “jelly bean” days but this sugar fiend is just as likely to bake several dozen cookies with her nieces as she is to spoil her own dinner with sweets and no matter how stressful the day, Blais will find something to laugh about.
“She is energetic, enthusiastic, empathetic to others, and has a killer sense of humor [that] makes her a joy to work for and with,” said Aisling McNally-Bergin, a Northeast District Manager.
Family is important to Blais. Although she and her now husband met in junior high it took six years of courtship before the two decided to marry. In secret. According to Handrahan, Blais planned the entire celebration – even purchasing dresses for her sister and nieces – without telling a soul. The family went to a rural barn for what they thought was a surprise birthday celebration only to find the celebration was for a wedding.
“She has been glowing since that day,” said her proud big sister.
When the newlyweds aren’t traveling or trying new restaurants they’re most likely to be with family – visiting his parents in Maine or watching her nieces in a KinderCare or school performance. No matter what, Blais makes sure to make time for family. After all, she is nothing if not a giver.