10 Notable Philadelphians Share the Secrets of Their Success

Tamala Edwards, Bart Blatstein, Sister Mary Scullion and more on the keys to making it in the City of Brotherly Love.

Left to right, from top: Bart Blatstein, Sister Mary Scullion, Tamala Edwards, Ralph Muller, Michael Schulson, Maria Quinones-Sanchez, Kenny Gamble, Felicite Moorman, Colleen Hanycz and John Saler. Illustrations by Meryl Rowin

Bart Blatstein, president and CEO, Tower Investments

The region’s most polarizing developer

What’s the best career advice you’ve ever gotten?
This was in 1978, and I had just bought my first little trinity rowhouse in Philly. It was in Queen Village. I was working a full-time job in sales for an industrial chemical company. The seller of the house, when I told him I was going to work that job and work on the house on the weekends, told me, “No. You have to pick one thing and be the best at it.”

Sister Mary Scullion, president and executive director, Project HOME


What’s a piece of career advice you always like to give?
Seventy-five percent of your career should be doing what you love and value. The other 25 percent is taking the long-term view of addressing financial responsibility for you and your family. Both are essential.

Tamala Edwards, weekday co-anchor, Action News Mornings

Our guiding A.M. voice

What’s one part of your routine that you couldn’t be successful without?
Humor. My alarm goes off at 1:45 a.m. — not much funny about that. But then I get to laugh all morning long with the folks here. It’s a key part of what makes me love this job. If you can still laugh, even if it’s gallows humor, you can get through anything.

Ralph Muller, CEO, UPenn Health System

The city’s hospital king

What’s the key to success in Philadelphia?
It’s a city of Quaker values that wants the visible success of more aggressive cities, such as New York. These cultures have to be balanced.

Michael Schulson, the restaurateur behind the Schulson Collective (Harp & Crown, Double Knot, Izakaya, etc.)

The city’s It culinary mind

What’s the key to success in Philadelphia?
Working hard and giving people what they want. People want excellent service, great food and value. You can’t get away with missing one of these elements. Philly is a small city, and word of mouth travels fast.

Maria Quiñones-Sánchez, 7th District Councilwoman

The establishment-bucker in City Hall

What’s one part of your routine that you couldn’t be successful without?
I hate clutter. In an office like mine, between pushing our legislative agenda and serving constituents, just working hard doesn’t get the job done — we have to work smart, and you can’t plan with clutter everywhere. I’ll stay late or come in on weekends to keep the clutter off my desk, and I’m known for helping my staff clean theirs as well on occasion.

Kenny Gamble, Philadelphia International Records legend; founder and real estate developer at Universal Companies

Composer of our civic soundtrack

What’s the one piece of career advice you always like to give?
Find out what you’re good at, then perfect it. If you can do what you’ve been blessed to do and couple that with what somebody else has been blessed to do, then you can come up with something fantastic and exciting.

Felicite Moorman, CEO, BuLogics; co-founder and CEO, StratIS

The queen of the “internet of things”

What’s the best career advice you ever got?
My dad always asked me what work I wanted to do, not what I wanted to be — that subtle nuance shaped my willingness to try doing new things. When my first mentor recommended I go to law school, I was hesitant. I associated it more with “being” a lawyer than “doing” legal work. While I didn’t relish traditional legal practice, I certainly appreciate how the knowledge has enabled my passion for technology and innovation.

Colleen Hanycz, President, La Salle University

The feather-ruffling college head

What’s one piece of career advice you always like to give?
In the first five years of your career, you should always seek out a mentor — young professional women in particular, who are often reluctant to burden someone with a request. Beyond the first five years, my advice is to always seek out mentees. I have always had mentees in my life; it keeps me more current. In a college setting, you always feel old, but at least you’re current.

John Saler, chair, government and public affairs, Stradley Ronon

Powerhouse lobbyist, quintessential insider, ringmaster of the Palm

What’s the key to being successful in Philadelphia?
Philadelphia is a big small town. Everybody knows somebody who knows somebody. Be true to your word, give something back — to charity and/or volunteerism — and for heaven’s sake, be nice, even to your competitors, because if you’re not, people will know. Goodwill goes a long way.

» See Also: I Love My Job

Published as “I Love My Job” in the November 2018 issue of Philadelphia magazine.