Blog post by Whitney Harmel
Whitney Harmel is the director of strategic partnerships at the Maryland Chamber of Commerce. Through her career history and past role as chair of the Emerging Leaders United Council, she has over a decade of sales, leadership, and relationship-building experience.
Diversity is crucial to the success and sustainability of any organization. Whether it’s a cultural difference, a fresh perspective or an unmatched skillset, each person brings their own unique value.
I’m fortunate to work for a business where diversity comes in many forms. We have a staff of all ages, experiencing different stages of life. We have a staff from various ethnic and religious cultures; first generation Americans and veterans. We have a staff of proud mothers, step-mothers, fathers and grandfathers.
We also come from various career backgrounds, as there is no straight path to working at a chamber of commerce – it’s not a degree at colleges yet. So, when I think about my coworkers and our very different backgrounds, I’m always impressed by the diversity of our paths – in both our education and careers.
My educational background does not directly relate to my role at the chamber – or any job I’ve ever had for that matter. During college, I always assumed that I would become an engineer, and in many ways, it was expected of me. Upon graduation, I decided that a career in engineering was not my path and I pivoted. I took the best parts of my engineering skillset and channeled it into sales.
My experience as an engineering student, where women only accounted for 10 percent of the population, taught me that hard work, tenacity, perseverance and grace are necessary to thrive in any environment. This experiential diversity is what set me apart from others in my field and continues to influence my approach when it comes to sales and strategic partnerships.
As you can see, we’re a bit of a melting pot at the Maryland Chamber. We are a group of journalists, marketers, Navy veterans, thespians, IT workers and engineers. And if we really went back in time, we would add dog walkers, tour guides, camp counselors, waiters, retail associates and line cooks to that list.
It may seem like I’m just listing off jobs – and I am – but I’m also sharing how the culmination of our experiences can be broken down into countless life lessons, learning moments, setbacks and successes. Reflected in our identities, it’s what we bring to work with us each day, and it’s why diversity in the workplace matters so much.
Looking to diversify? Join the Maryland Chamber for MD Spotlight: Veterans in the Workplace on April 24, 2019 and hear from military personnel, employers, educational institutions and workforce development professionals on how veterans are an asset in the civilian workplace.