Attorney, Relationship Manager, International Relations major, and TV buff; these are just some of the titles by which Zachary Wilcha has gone. The title he is proudest of though, is one he never considered–Executive Director.
Wilcha’s makeup is comprised of the wit of David Sedaris, the subtle brilliance of Mitch Hurwitz and the demeanor of Tina Fey. He is a complete sponge whose geeky qualities come from his obsession with books and television, which he developed during his childhood.
His mother, a middle school librarian, would lock him outside during the summers to force him to play. Still, he turned to books. To date, he still averages roughly 50 books per year. As a child of divorce, the television also spent many hours babysitting him. Ask him about any television show or televised sporting event and he will likely be able to tell you about it in great detail.
Zach grew up in Peckville, PA, a town he describes as “a Friday Night Lights kind of place where everyone follows the high school football team and other athletics.” He is an avid runner and sports fan but, as a child, his extracurricular activities included marching band, chorus and student government.
He grew up in the place that housed his family business, a funeral home. To that, he attributes his “morbid sense of humor and perceived emotional detachment.” It may have played a role in his professional interests as well.
“I’m one of those weirdos who enjoyed the academic rigor and exploration of human mind in law school more than the actual practice of law,” said Wilcha, who has a law degree from Villanova University and spent a number of years working a handful of different jobs within the legal spectrum. “I never found a job in pure law practice that suited me, though I collected a bunch of great stories over the years.”
Unhappy and depressed, Zach eventually left law behind. Without any job prospects, he fed himself for months by winning various pub trivia nights before Habitat Philadelphia took a chance on him, naming him the organization’s Relationship Manager.
“I did a bit of desk jockeying, writing a load of grant applications,” said Wilcha. “But mainly my job as a Relationship Manager was to be out in the community and engaging people with the work that we did at Habitat. It could lead to any number of interesting situations. Sometimes I was with business executives and corporate partners, sometimes I was moving furniture for our ReStore, and sometimes I found myself standing around a piano with Mormons, singing hymns.”
Recently he left the work he loved behind to take a dream position that became available. A few weeks ago, he was named the Executive Director of the Independence Business Alliance which is the chamber of commerce for the LGBT community. His duties will include growing membership and making connections in the community.
He’s always wanted to work with the LGBT community and this position was the perfect combination of his law and business background with his grassroots fundraising skills. He’s excited to be the first person in this position as the board transitions from a working board to a governing one.
He says, “I never dreamed growing up that there could be a place for an out gay man to be successful professionally without compromise. I’m so excited to be part of an organization that champions and creates success stories for the LGBT community.”
His position distances him from the perceived detachment and morbidity of his youth and provides the satisfaction he could not get from law. Part of Zach’s personal evolution comes from his sexuality as well.
“As I grow older, I realize that being gay is a vital part of who I’ve become and who I am,” said Wilcha. “It’s made me more sensitive to prejudice and discrimination of others and the struggles they face. It’s made me more open-minded and empathetic. It’s made me work harder to prove myself – because I’ve often had to. Viewing life through a gay prism has made me more knowledgeable about people and power. Coming out helped me make sense of relationships and how people view me. The freedom to be myself is a gift I don’t take for granted.”
Zach Wilcha is always happy to share book recommendations and talk about 30 Rock, Arrested Development, running marathons and more. You can find him on Twitter fighting the good fight and doing his damnedest to provide a voice for the voiceless.