Monthly Spotlight – Tamara Dews

Tamara has been championing OBT since 2011 as a board member. Now on the Executive Committee, and as Board Secretary, Tamara continues to go above and beyond in her commitment to OBT and the NYC youth and adults we serve. We asked Tamara a few questions about why OBT is close to her heart..Here are a couple of her answers:.

OBT: What attracted you to OBT and why did you join OBT’s Board of Directors?

TD: Having attended an all-women’s college, I was the recipient of an education and environment that not only empowered me, but it also assisted me with articulating and actualizing my goals. Being the beneficiary of such an experience, I believed it was and still is my duty to give back and equip others with the tools they need to succeed. An area that I am particularly passionate about is youth development and education.

I was seeking to work with organizations that targeted underserved youth and equipped them with the tools necessary to realize success and permanently escape poverty. The Robin Hood Foundation nominated me for OBT’s Board of Directors. I was drawn to OBT’s approach as it balanced discipline with support and preparation for the real-world. When I visited the site, the students held their heads high as they were dressed for success and happy to acquire the skills needed to aide their advancement. There was also a nice interlock between OBT’s leadership and the Board. This model of engagement really appealed to me and has kept me engaged.

OBT: What are the three things you like most about working with OBT, and why?

TD:

OBT is a Trendsetter: While other good Workforce Development (WD) programs exist, OBT leads the pack because it is unafraid to take a different course. For example, OBT is the only organization that I have seen whose approach involves discipline in attire, attitude and participation. Moreover, OBT has always focused on organic growth, which enabled it to persevere through industry fluctuations. OBT is well positioned for continued, targeted growth and often the first called on by the city and state governments for WD best practices.
OBT has a Go-getter Spirit: OBT is always focused on how we better serve our target population. This often involves engaging the community directly as well as community-based organizations to better understand the changing needs of the larger community and more specifically who we serve.
OBT promotes Camaraderie & Collaboration: OBT is a close-knit, passionate group. The organization, including the Board of Directors and Junior Leadership Board, work in tandem to ensure we continue to help our students achieve great outcomes.

OBT: Is there a particular moment or memory that stands out to you?

TD: Debate Day has always resonated with me. It has effectively served as the capstone to our training programs. Hearing the stories about what the students had to overcome before they entered OBT’s doors and the confidence and tools they have received since, is truly amazing. It is also a constant reminder that what we do really matters.

OBT: How do you feel your personal experience, both as a woman of color, and professionally through the variety of job positions you’ve held, has shaped you and your involvement with OBT?

TD: Being a woman of color from the Bronx has certainly impacted my commitment to give back to the community, and specifically, OBT. I, like many people of color in my generation, were the first to go to college. While I was always a strong student and never doubted that I would go to college and graduate school, I did not have all the information needed to make this a reality. I was blessed to receive the support of mentors and advocates that helped me achieve my goals, ranging from offering career advice and internship opportunities to exposure to different types of colleges and universities. With their support along with my family, I graduated High School valedictorian; was accepted to 11 schools; and had three full-year internships to build my resume prior to entering college. Moreover, I took away a great lesson – I mattered! My presence, voice and abilities were unique to me and therefore a value add to any environment I stepped into. Their commitment to supporting me was sealed with a promise on my part to empower individuals by offering them the same. Through board service and mentorship, I have had the opportunity to fulfill that promise.

Having worked in both the public and private sectors, I recognized the importance of identifying and leveraging my transferrable skills. I realized early on in my career that I was adept at coalition building, synthesizing information, and developing strategies that drive innovation and effectiveness for both people and organizations. In any role that I have taken, I have had the opportunity to make a great impact because I was clear on my personal strengths.

My professional experience has taught me that having the right skill sets and leveraging them appropriately is incredibly important. On OBT’s Board of Directors, we try to recruit people who are not only passionate about OBT, but also can contribute the thought leadership and sweat equity necessary to help us achieve our vision for the organization. For example, last year, as the Chair of the Search Committee for OBT’s next CEO, I wanted to ensure that the next leader would not only guarantee our students received the best training, but that the training they received would be reflective of future demands of the workforce. In essence, we wanted someone who could prepare our students for the jobs of tomorrow and that is what we found in Liliana.

OBT: Who is one person in your life who has directly shaped who you are today, and why?

Hillary Clinton coined the phrase “it takes a village” and I believe that would be the best and only way to describe my development. While I was always incredibly motivated, there were several individuals both in my personal life and from afar that influenced me. Here are my top three:

In my personal life, my mother helped shape me by not only removing the word “can’t” from my vocabulary, but also for letting me know that I was not meant to play a small role in this world, but rather I was destined to do something great! In addition, she taught the importance of keeping the door open to ensure others can follow and exceed my accomplishments.

Professionally, I admire both Carla Harris, Managing Director at Morgan Stanley and Ursula Burns, CEO of Xerox: Carla Harris has taught me the importance of cultivating meaningful relationships and being vocal. Ursula Burns has proven that women are just as astute and effective as their male counterparts. She is one of a few female leaders of a Fortune 500 company and has demonstrated her strength and ability to understand the power of technology and innovation, which is incredibly important in today’s workforce.

OBT: What is one piece of advice that you would like to share with a young person entering OBT’s training program?

Start developing your personal mission statement. This involves clarifying WHAT you do, HOW you do it and WHY you do it. As the students matriculate through the training programs, they will be exposed to lessons that uncover strengths and abilities they did not know existed before. As they step out into the world, it’s imperative to be clear on who they are. By answering the three questions noted above, they will be able to articulate what drives them to do their best work. This then becomes both an elevator pitch for the next opportunity and a filter for determining the right opportunities to pursue and achieve their goals.

OBT: Now for a fun one, with spring finally here, what’s your favorite spring-time activity?

I am a bit of an adrenalin junkie. Despite my petite stature, I love heights. So generally, during spring-time, I am engaging in some sort of heights-oriented activity. This can vary from zip-lining at the Bronx Zoo or taking an outdoor flying trapeze class. Later this month, I will be going on a hot air balloon ride in Scottsdale, Arizona.