Adriana, a Program Management Specialist in Washington, D.C.
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I grew up in Queens, NY where I went to private school. My parents are both in STEM careers; my father is a mechanical engineer and my mother a nurse. As immigrants from Jamaica, they both came to America with dreams of having successful children, but unlike many of my friends’ parents, they didn’t apply an insane amount of pressure on me. Which is why when I announced that I didn’t want to be a lawyer anymore after graduating college, they didn’t completely lose it. All they wanted to know was if I had a plan and if I could take care of myself. My sister, who was nearing the end of her doctoral program, suggested that I look into getting a Master of Public Administration. It was an intersectional field that would allow me the flexibility to work in public and nonprofit sectors within a leadership role. I got into a program, started my service year as an Americorps VISTA, and continued working in the nonprofit sector until I decided that it was time to move to Washington, D.C. and take my career to the next level.
How would you explain your job title to a child?
I get to work for the government to help them address some of their most important needs in order to keep the United States safe. I do this by bringing a lot of people together to work towards a unified goal – and I have to make sure they stay to their deadline.
What were important steps you had to take to be in your current position?
I prioritized education and maximized my experience in every role. Doing “just my job” would not have put me in a position to have the kind of transferable skills that are valued in a number of fields. After graduate school, I took a number of online-based courses, got industry-recognized certifications, and when it was time to broaden my horizons, I moved from New Jersey to DC.
Do you know the percentage of black women working in your field, if so how much?
Not exactly, my field encompasses a lot so it’s hard to say just how many. Within my specific department, I can say that 36% are female and 12% are black. It is a largely male-dominated department.
What are some things that you love about your job/career? Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
I love that my work is deadline-driven and the mission is clear. I thrive in pushing projects forward by coordinating with people and do really well with specific goals in mind. In 5 years, I see myself continuing to run my consultant firm while working in a Senior role.
What advice would you give someone trying to pursue your career?
First, do not undertake the kind of work I do (project/program management) if you don’t have patience and an ability to synthesize a lot of information quickly. You have to be able to manage a lot of relationships. Secondly, be prepared to do the work. The learning curve may be steep but you can reach the summit of this professional mountain by working hard, learning as much as you can, and not burning bridges. Lastly, know your worth. This goes for everyone.
What advice do you have for someone first coming into a professional space?
Don’t get too familiar with colleagues. I can’t stress this enough. Colleagues can become friends but in most cases, they are simply people that you are working with. Secondly, seize the opportunities around you. An office assistant can become the marketing coordinator by asking the right questions and taking on small projects. If you only view your job as a means of getting a check, you will remain in that role.
I enjoy dancing and writing. These creative passions of mine are necessary to fulfill that part of my personality. I encourage everyone to feed their passions, even if it means taking a day out of the week to write poetry for 15 minutes, or doing a friend's makeup, or playing your old instrument.
To reach Adriana:
Twitter: @theadrispeaks | adrispeaks.com
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