2020 Millennial on the Move: Barbara Washer
33, Director of Development & Programming with Virginia Ship Repair Association, Norfolk
Business and Civic Involvement:
Hampton Diversity College Graduate; City of Hampton Citizens’ Unity Commissioner; Hampton Maritime Academy Co-Chair; Hampton Roads Workforce Council Youth Services Committee; TCC Shipbuilding & Repair Pre-Apprenticeship Advisor; Norfolk Technical Center CTE Advisor; Portsmouth Public Schools CTE Advisor; ODU VMASC Digital Shipbuilding Executive Advisory Board Member; TCC Workforce Solutions Advisor; Hampton Clean City Commission Volunteer
What is something that makes you stand out professionally?
I am motivated by a sense of community and passion and believe in unwavering dedication to the greater good. I am effective at my job because of the work ethic that was instilled in me through my upbringing and has been reinforced by my VSRA colleagues and leadership, and because I try to live by the creed ‘always do right by my neighbors.’ I have been able to harness this into creative programs and partnerships that benefit both the companies that my association represents and individuals in our community who are looking to learn new skills and find long-term careers. Beyond that, I think everything in life requires a sense of humor, and I like to believe that mine is sufficiently mediocre.
Who or what keeps you motivated or inspires you?
I am lucky to have the support of a very close family. Their many different voices and viewpoints have been a great motivator and inspiration for me throughout my life. My mom is the strongest person I know, and her selflessness and humility have taught me valuable lessons about the importance of striving to be, above all, a good person. I’m also grateful for my amazing wife, Juli, who just by putting up with me through the years has shown me the virtue of patience!
Tell us about an accomplishment that you’re proud of.
I’m incredibly proud of my efforts, through collaboration with the Hampton Roads Workforce Council and other partners in the region, to develop and implement workforce training initiatives such as the Women in Skilled Careers (WISC) program. WISC helps women who have overcome significant barriers, such as domestic violence, homelessness and human trafficking, to gain the soft skills and technical skills necessary to find a stable, high-paying career in the Ship Repair Industry. Helping other women to find their passion and improve their lives is extremely rewarding and I’m so proud of the inspiring individuals who have taken on this difficult but ultimately rewarding journey.
How do you feel your industry can best respond to the effects of COVID-19?
The Department of Defense and Secretary of the Navy have reiterated many times that Ship Repairers are mission-critical, essential workers. The workers in our industry are getting up every day and going to work to ensure our nation’s Navy and commercial fleets can continue to operate at maximum readiness. The top priority for our industry, right now, is to ensure the safety and health of these workers while making sure they know they’re enormously appreciated as they carry out that brave mission and continue to provide efficient, high-quality maintenance and modernization work aboard these vessels.
What new idea or development are you excited about in Coastal Virginia?
As a Peninsula-to-Southside commuter, I am excited about the upcoming HRBT expansion, and hopeful that it is just the first step in aiding the traffic situation in our region. I am also excited about the strides the City of Hampton has made to promote diversity, unity and civic leadership across our community, such as the Hampton Diversity College (of which I am a proud graduate) and the Academies of Hampton.
What’s the most important aspect you look for in a workplace?
Open lines of communication and a culture of respect, equity and active listening. We are at our best when we’re all at our best, and I’m very lucky to work in a place where camaraderie is a top priority and there is a strong emphasis on achieving a healthy work-life balance.
What would you be doing if you weren’t in your current position?
I would like to think that I would be using one of my old-school typewriters to develop the next great American novel, but more realistically, I would be happy anywhere that I could continue to be engaged in supporting workforce development efforts across the region and helping employers find and develop great talent.
What’s your favorite spot to relax in Coastal Virginia?
Downtown Hampton is an underrated gem in Coastal Virginia. There are plenty of great restaurants, a historic distillery, nice brewery, cozy used bookstore, unique shops and a relaxed waterfront vibe that just helps you slow down and enjoy life. It’s a great place to find yourself on a weekday evening, a Friday night during downtown block parties or a sleepy weekend afternoon. There’s truly something for everyone!