Name: Melanie Berman
Hometown: Little Rock
Title/Position: Program Director, Arkansas Procurement Technical Assistance Center (PTAC) at the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture, Cooperative Extension Service
Briefly describe your role: As Program Director of the Arkansas PTAC, I manage a team of professionals responsible for helping Arkansas small businesses understand how to sell to the government. As part of my role I plan and implement more than 70 trainings a year serving over 800 small business clients throughout our state. I work with local, state and federal stakeholders informing the community of the resources the PTAC provides with the overarching goal to keep jobs and dollars in our state.
Q: Is what you’re doing now what you always pictured you would do?
A: I have always wanted to give back to my community and have had various jobs in the public sector that have allowed me to achieve my goal. I went to school thinking I wanted to report the news or work for an elected official. That morphed into wanting to work for an international non-profit or the government. The long and twisty path that I have taken has allowed me to find the job that I have now, which I enjoy greatly. I was hired because of my past program management experience as well as my knowledge of federal grants and contracts.
Q: What do you see as the greatest challenges for women in your chosen industry? What are the greatest opportunities?
A: I am lucky enough to work in an industry that supports female leadership. I believe that is because women are drawn to serving their communities. While there are more women than men in my industry, top level leadership continues to be mostly male. I have not ever felt constricted by my male counterparts. With that said, I am very vocal and have been taught from a young age to speak up for myself. This life lesson has served me well, along with a lot of hard work. There is great opportunity for women to lead in the public sector. When an opportunity presents itself, apply YOURSELF. If an opportunity is not there, then create one!
Q: Who has inspired you in your life/career?
A: Both my parents were public servants – my mother still is, although I wish she would retire already! My mother has worked in health education and now in emergency management. She instilled in me at an early age to give back to your community. Money is not the most important thing – just have enough to take care of yourself, be happy and most importantly help those in need. In high school, I oversaw the volunteer service projects for my youth group. That service mindset ultimately led me to volunteer throughout college and after to serve as both an AmeriCorps and Peace Corps volunteer. I currently serve as a commissioner on the Little Rock Sister Cities Commission – promoting cross-cultural understanding while creating economic development opportunities. I believe as long as I am employed, I will give back in some way shape or form through the work that I do.
Q: What advice would you give to an aspiring professional?
A: Choose a job that makes you happy – don’t work to live – live to work. If you can’t see the greater purpose of what you do, maybe it’s time to switch your line of work.
Q: What’s been your secret to success?
A: I don’t think there is a secret to success. I do believe you should find a job that makes you happy, life is too short to not be happy. Surround yourself with great people – from the top down – they will make you look good! I don’t believe anyone gets into the public sector to make lots of money. We do what we do because we see the greater purpose, helping those that need help, as cheesy as it may sound – that is payment in itself.