SEMINOLE – Most people know Nancy Giles as the hard working and devoted board chair of the Seminole Chamber of Commerce and vice president of business development for PARC.
But what many probably don’t know is the direction her life has taken to get her there.
Giles, a native of Ohio, has taken a winding road through careers as a sheriff’s deputy, a community relations spokeswoman, a security position with the Eckerd Corporation, a private investigator, an executive with Home Shopping Network and a business analyst/consultant.
Through it all, she has learned a valuable lesson and that is not to have tunnel vision when it comes to a career.
“It’s about recognizing risks and opportunities and being willing to take chances,” said Giles. “If you have your career planned out for yourself, I’m worried about you.”
Giles’ trek began in the late 1960s after two years as a pre-med major at Ohio State University. About the same time she was beginning to recognize medicine was not her strength, she landed a full-time position working in the administration of the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office in Columbus, Ohio.
“Then, when I turned 21, they approached me about becoming an officer,” she said. Giles landed in a community relations role and thrived there.
“I really liked it and got to work with training and recruiting of new officers,” she said.
She also learned to do public speaking. One occasion sticks memorably in her mind when she was assigned to give a group of U.S. Air Force airmen at Lockbourne Air Force Base (now Rickenbacker Air National Guard Base) a pre-holiday address about the dangers of too much alcohol on their holiday furloughs.
“I’ll never forget all the cat calls I got,” she recalled.
About the same time, Giles got married and gave birth to her daughter Mindi shortly thereafter. After a leave of absence, she was reassigned as a community deputy in her hometown of Westerville, Ohio.
“It was kind of like being in Seminole,” Giles said. “I did a lot of work in theft-prevention, did a weekly radio show and spoke to a lot of civic groups. I loved the connection with business and helping them to be safe.”
At the same time, she also was teaching law enforcement-related classes at Columbus Technical Institute.
Life was good, she said.
“Then one day in December, after a school bus had turned over at an intersection, it was 4 degrees below zero and I was directing traffic,” said Giles. “That’s when I started thinking ‘what am I doing here?’”
A few weeks later, she was in St. Petersburg visiting relatives and decided that was where she wanted to be.
“So I rented an apartment and decided to move here,” Giles said.
Since she had a small child, she knew conventional law enforcement wouldn’t fit into her schedule, so Giles accepted a position in security with the Eckerd Corporation.
“It was bottom line, entry level,” she said. “I think I made about $3 an hour. But I saw the opportunity for growth and it developed into a corporate position.”
As the company’s corporate loss prevention liaison, Giles traveled a minimum of three days a week to check security procedures at Eckerd drug stores throughout the Southeast.
“I didn’t supervise anyone, but I had to influence and show people what works,” she said.
Giles also traveled regularly with Jack Eckerd and his right-hand man, Stuart Turley.
“It was a great experience to know Jack Eckerd,” she said. “What a great way to be introduced to business. He was just a great person. He treated people the way you would want to be treated.”
Her employment at the Eckerd Corp., led to an opportunity to take free classes at Eckerd College where Giles finished work and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in business administration and management.
“By then, I had determined I really like this,” she said. “Then I decided I’m going to use this. So I decided to start my own business.”
It was about 1985 when Giles launched Accountabilities Inc., a private investigation firm that was based in an office on Seminole Boulevard.
“It was a commercial shopping business,” she said. “I would test the security and honesty of employees for companies.”
Her clients included Burger King, Kash ‘n Karry, Kroger and Universal Studios.
“It was a lot of fun but it was challenging,” Giles said. “This was before the Internet. So it was a logistics nightmare to get reports faxed in and meet deadlines.”
Then, after Burger King was sold to other international interests, her business began to slow down. Giles took a part-time job at Home Shopping Network to save enough money to go on a cruise and that was the beginning of the next chapter.
After she returned from the cruise and continued to work at HSN, Giles decided to close down her business and work full time for HSN.
Gradually, she was given more supervisory responsibility and was working as much as 70 to 80 hours per week.
“Then they let me go when I was at a high salary level,” Giles said. “There was so much pressure there. I always thank them for giving me my life back.”
Next came a brief stint as a business analyst/consultant where, through networking, she was approached by Sue Buchholtz, the former chief executive officer of PARC, who later hired her for the position of special projects director at PARC.
Giles excelled with her networking skills and finding new partnerships, which led to her promotion to vice president of business retention and later her current job, vice president of business development.
“It (PARC) has been fabulous and so rewarding,” she said. “It’s just an amazingly great place to work.”
For Giles, the last 45 years have been an adventure but more importantly an educational experience at each stop.
“All of it was a great experience,” she said. “I am one of the most fortunate people in the world to have had so many interesting jobs.”
And her advice to anyone entering the work force?
“Roll with it,” Giles said. “When something interests you, go for it. When there’s a chance to learn something new, try it.”