By Molly Snyder Senior Writer Published Sep 15, 2023 at 7:44 PM

Alverno College, for over 135 years, has strived to educate and empower women to realize their leadership, strength of voice and potential to lead in the working world. Alverno’s support of “The Future is Female” continues to showcase and exemplify these efforts by supporting the stories of grit, resilience and strength of character of present, past and future leading women in the Milwaukee community! #AlvernoStrong

Alexis Dahmer is the Senior Legal Director of Compliance, North America at Johnson Controls. So what does that mean?

"At its core, my job is to drive ethical corporate culture. I'm an ethics and compliance attorney, which means that I develop and implement strategies to ensure that my company and its employees do business with integrity," says Dahmer.

"I remember a time, many years ago, when a friend and I were both looking for new jobs and she mentioned that she might be interested in Compliance. I made gagging noises at her and told her that sounded super lame. Now, I'm a total Ethics and Compliance nerd!" 

Dahmer is also an adjunct Professor of Law at Marquette University Law School, where she received her law degree.

"I've always loved teaching, training, and public speaking. I try to participate in conferences, panel discussions and continuing education opportunities whenever I can," says Dahmer, a lifelong Milwaukeean who was born in Riverwest and later became a graduate of Milwaukee Public Schools, UW-Milwaukee and Marquette law school.

"I get to work with really smart, talented people that I genuinely like and I feel good about my work. We're all rowing in the same direction," says Dahmer.

OnMilwaukee recently had the chance to chat with Dahmer, and ask her the eight questions posed to all women in this series. The women chosen for this series are from many different walks of life, but have numerous things in common, including vision, passion, compassion and contribution.

1. What does active listening mean to you? Do you consider yourself a good listener, and if so, how has this helped you in your personal and professional relationships?

Active listening is focusing on the speaker instead of on your own response, which is sometimes much harder than it seems. What are they trying to convey? What are they not conveying? Any good lawyer will tell you that you don't typically get the full story without some digging, and you can't solve a problem you don't fully grasp. From both a professional and a personal standpoint, it's not easy to effectively support a client, a family member or a friend if you don't understand their perspective, their challenges and their goals. The first step is being a good listener.

2. What was the last subject you were curious about and then pursued to learn more? How did you pursue it?

My husband and I recently started growing tomatillos in our garden, completely by accident. We're not sure whether they are the result of a mislabeled or misplaced starter plant (we meant to buy ground cherries, one of our favorites) or whether an animal gifted us some seeds randomly, but they’ve now taken over about half of our garden space, so we are embracing them! I love a good salsa verde, but have never grown or cooked with tomatillos myself, so I've been asking friends for tips and doing a lot of research online. I wasn't even sure how to tell whether they were ripe or not until about a week ago. Now I've got more recipes and ideas than I'll be able to realize before the season is over. Spoiler alert: I can't wait to try pickling them!

3. If you can’t figure something out yourself, what source or person do you turn to first? How long do you wait before you ask for help? As a woman, do you think you wait longer to reach out?

I'm a big fan of collective problem solving and really value a diversity of opinions and perspectives. My husband, friends, mom, sister and colleagues are all excellent – and heavily used – sounding boards. I think my book club critically evaluates as many personal conundrums as it does books!

At work, I never hesitate to reach out to my colleagues for assistance or a second opinion, but that wasn't always the case. Early in my career, I struggled to ask for help because I worried it would give the impression that I couldn't handle things or didn't know what I was doing. This is common for a lot of young professionals, but I think it's more prevalent in women, and it can be such a hindrance.

Problem solving is so much easier when you surround yourself with smart, trustworthy people and have faith in the wisdom of your community.

4. What are your personal values? Who and/or what inspired them and how do these values affect your decision-making process? 

"Happy, healthy and kind" is my mantra. It started when I was pregnant with my first kid. People say all sorts of weird stuff to pregnant women, and I got a lot of "he's gonna be so smart!" or "he's gonna be so handsome!" Stuff like that, which is very sweet, but I remember thinking to myself "so long as this child is happy, healthy and kind, we're golden." I reflected on those three qualities a lot, and came to the conclusion that those are really the three things that matter most to me and that I wish for myself and for those around me. Other qualities can contribute to – or detract from – them, but "happy, healthy, and kind" are of core importance in my mind.  

5. Technology and on-line communication/meetings/social has definitely changed over the years. Do these things help or hinder your growth – or both?

I'm part of an international team at work, so the increased prevalence of video calls and virtual meetings has been amazing in terms of building personal connections with my colleagues overseas. Where I used to spend hours and hours on conference calls every day, I now get to see my teammates' faces and I love it. I've found that it makes it easier to communicate across language barriers – facial expressions and other body language can convey a lot – and it has brought those of us who live in different parts of the world closer.

On the flip side of that, the cost savings and convenience of being able to conduct meetings and trainings virtually has drastically reduced the number of in-person events I lead or attend, and I find that disappointing. Over time, I've found ways to effectively deliver virtual training and drive engagement, but it's still not quite the same as being in a room with people. Plus, I am a textbook extrovert: being around people really energizes and inspires me and I don’t get the same effect from a video call.

6. Where is the farthest you’ve traveled and what is a thing or two you learned from the experience? And what surprised you?

I've traveled quite a bit, but Phuket, Thailand is the farthest I've been from Milwaukee, mile for mile. During that trip, I remember giving my husband a really hard time about constantly taking pictures. "Just live in the moment!" I chided him constantly. Half the pictures of me feature a scowling face or rolling eyes because I thought he was spending too much time behind the lens of the camera. But now, I really cherish the photos he took. I'm notoriously bad at documenting my travels. I'm getting better at it now, especially since having kids, so I guess it taught me the importance of balancing "living in the moment" with creating a record to revisit.

7. What are your favorite art forms? How do you challenge yourself to actively engage in the arts?

As an avid reader, writing probably takes the No. 1 spot for me, but theater is a close second. I absolutely cherish my monthly book club, both because it gives me a reason to regularly hang out with some of the raddest women I know and because it helps me prioritize reading for pleasure. I dabbled in theater a little as a kid – the apex of my short-lived acting career was playing Carmen in my middle school's production of "Fame" – but some of my fondest theater memories involve the now shuttered Pink Banana Theater Company here in Milwaukee. Pink Banana was founded by a good friend of mine and I was on their board for several years. We were a tiny company, but I like to think we made a big impact on the theater community here in town. Now, I try to get out and see as many live performances as I can, though it's never nearly as many as I would like. I'm also a big supporter of First Stage Milwaukee. My kids and I have been attending their productions for years, my son participates in their summer academy and loves it, and I just joined their board of directors.

8. How do you/your work move Milwaukee forward?  

I'm a big fan of young people and I try really hard to have a positive impact on younger generations where I can. I love teaching at Marquette, I'm on the First Stage Milwaukee Board of Directors and I manage our legal intern program at work.

Finally, I'm a big supporter of Milwaukee Public Schools (#MPSProud) and will gladly talk to anyone who will listen about the importance of public education and the positive impact MPS had on my life and now on my kids'.

Molly Snyder started writing and publishing her work at the age 10, when her community newspaper printed her poem, "The Unicorn.” Since then, she's expanded beyond the subject of mythical creatures and written in many different mediums but, nearest and dearest to her heart, thousands of articles for OnMilwaukee.

Molly is a regular contributor to FOX6 News and numerous radio stations as well as the co-host of "Dandelions: A Podcast For Women.” She's received five Milwaukee Press Club Awards, served as the Pfister Narrator and is the Wisconsin State Fair’s Celebrity Cream Puff Eating Champion of 2019.