34, Community Risk Reduction Coordinator for Virginia State Fire Marshal’s Office
How do you see your generation (millennials)? How do you think older generations define millennials?
To some, “millennial” is a negative word as we can be perceived to have unrealistic expectations and a sense of entitlement. However, I would like to categorize myself and those in my demographic as passionate agents of change. We dream big and want to the change the world. Our biggest flaw is that we are not always patient (myself included) enough to wait for the change to happen.
In what ways does having younger employees add to a company’s success?
Our generation grew up on a computer and are not intimated by the use of technology to improve our daily lives. Younger employees can bring a new energy and efficiency to the workplace. Also, millennials tend to challenge the status quo and question the reasons behind policies and procedures. This mindset and approach helps organizations and businesses reevaluate and improve their core mission.
What have been a few keys to your success so far?
I have found success in my career through building relationships with my colleagues and outside stakeholder organizations. Through the art of collaboration and delegation, we have achieved more together than each one of us would have individually. Besides, you just never know where those relationships may take you.
On a more personal level, my success can be attributed to my strong support system. My husband encourages me to be the best version of myself and supports me when I fall short of success. Without him, I would have likely given up a long time ago.
Is there anything that you would change about your generation as a whole? If so, what?
Most Americans are equipped with at least one smart device. Our cell phones keep us connected with our friends and family through text messages, social media and video chats. However, many millennials have become too dependent upon their cellular devices that they miss some of life’s important moments. We often spend time trying to capture that special moment, but we don’t experience it. I would encourage my fellow millennials to put the phone down and fully experience this crazy, beautiful life.
What do you look for in a job/company?
It is important for me to have a job that I am passionate about. I am fortunate that I get to work with firefighters and fire service organizations to reduce the devastating rate of fire in our society. This mission keeps me motivated daily to work a little harder and be a little more creative to advance our collective goal. You spend a significant amount of time at the office; it is important that you enjoy what you do and the people you work with. To retain good employees, a company must foster an atmosphere that encourages professional and personal growth.
As a mother of two, I truly value a working environment that fosters a healthy work-life balance and understands my responsibilities at home. The ability to telework and work a flexible schedule can improve overall morale and productivity. The work will never truly stop, but you have to step away sometimes so you can get a fresh perspective on the project.
What kinds of digital platforms do you feel you have benefited from in your career?
Technological advices have made us a very digitally connected society and one that tends to learn best visually. This has generated the growth of digital platforms such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to be a part of daily life. My professional experiences have benefited from the digital marketing platforms that bring news and information directly to my inbox. Platforms such as MailChimp and Constant Contact keep me informed daily simply by opening my email inbox.
What do you feel are some of the biggest perks of living in Coastal Virginia? What changes do you think the region should implement to continue to be a draw for millennials?
For me, one of the biggest perks of living in Coastal Virginia is the natural beauty and outdoor recreational activities the region has to offer. Our geographic location uniquely positions us to be an economic driver for the Commonwealth of Virginia through the Port of Virginia, our military installations and sophisticated railway system. However, our transportation infrastructure has not modernized with the needs of our residents. While improvements to the Midtown, Downtown and Hampton Roads Bridge Tunnels have alleviated some of our traffic congestion problems, more needs to be done to interconnect the residents of the seven cities in Coastal Virginia. Millennials in other metropolitan areas have a variety of mass transportation opportunities available. Our region needs more options to travel throughout the region including expanded light rail, reliable bus services and more commuter lots.
Tell us about some of your favorite ways to do worthwhile networking.
I have enjoyed the Table for 10 opportunities from tHRive. These events provide for candid conversations with leaders in our region. Additionally, I feel the networking opportunities provided by the Hampton Roads Chamber has helped me to learn more about our region and the wonderful people that call Coastal Virginia home.
How are you contributing to life/community outside of the workplace?
Since 2014, I have been a dedicated member of the Junior League of Norfolk-Virginia Beach. I volunteer my time on the board of directors as the community vice president, continuously striving to expand and strengthen our impact on the lives of women and children throughout South Hampton Roads. This has been tremendously rewarding as I have gotten to work alongside other passionate young professionals and other nonprofit organizations serving our region. Additionally, I am involved in the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation of Virginia and was nominated as a 2017 Hampton Roads Finest Honoree.
What advice would you offer to other millennials or recent graduates about getting their careers to take off?
After my graduation from Virginia Tech, I traveled to Richmond to work in the Virginia Governor’s Office. This was a tremendous opportunity, and I was surrounded by some of the best and brightest individuals in state government. The best piece of advice that I received during my first days on the job was to be patient, stay focused and do not get discouraged. Change and growth does not happen instantly. Organizations valuable consistent and dependable employees.
Additionally, your first job may be just that, a first job. However, every situation and every job you have can teach you and prepare you for that next great opportunity. So, work hard, and you will be rewarded down the road.
From her nomination:
“People like Erin are the backbone of this area. They serve and sacrifice, not because they want the recognition of the glory; they do it because they realize that it needs to get done. Erin leads by example in her work as well of what a person should aspire to be. She does all of this while raising two children, ages 1 and 3. She’s Superwoman.”
—Chris Rice, husband