Candace A. Burns: Leading the Workforce of the Future

By Princess Jones Curtis

Boston, MA—“I’m a born and raised Dorchester girl,” laughs Candace Burns, Director for Workforce Development at Boston’s Dana Farber Cancer Institute (DFCI). In her role, she leads a team responsible for creating and managing initiatives that are designed to increase access to career and career advancement opportunities at Dana-Farber. She says that growing up in the Boston community has inspired her work.


Candace A. Burns, Director for Workforce Development at Boston’s Dana Farber Cancer Institute (DFCI) (courtesy of DFCI)

“What really drives me and motivates me is the idea of being able to serve individuals who come from the community that I came from. Many of the opportunities I was afforded when growing up was because someone (often my parents) paved a way. I want to do that for others. I believe that when doors are open and people are given resources and tools, their potential and possibilities are endless.”

Burns holds several leadership positions, including serving on the boards of Youth Enrichment Services and Fenway High School. She is also a member of the Boston Healthcare Careers Consortium. She believes that leading others starts with working on yourself.

“It’s really about modeling the behavior you would want to see in others. I think [it] is also about being a good listener.”

She says that being a good listener leads to a better understanding of the needs of the situation, leading to a greater chance of putting the right solutions in place.

The Babson College graduate credits a lot of who she is to the lessons she learned on the court. “I played basketball all four years and the whole idea of being able to work with a team–the discipline that comes with being an athlete, focusing on a goal, being able to work with different people of different backgrounds–that has really helped me in my professional career.”

2019 is shaping up to be a busy year for Candace Burns. She is determined to grow DFCI’s programming and find ways to better serve its mission.

“I am constantly thinking about how to keep the programming relevant and how to leverage technology to ensure that we are helping to fill the pipeline with prepared, highly skilled, and diverse talent,” she explains. “It’s all about the workforce of the future and determining the where the greatest needs exist. It’s collaborating with other leaders in the organization to identify those needs and then working together on a strategy.”

As for being a person of color in 2019, Burns says that self-awareness is key to her success. “For me, it’s about knowing oneself—knowing your strengths and the contributions that you have and continue to bring to the table. It is leveraging your strengths and your gifts for the betterment of others.”