Jamie Harrell 16MBA is Business Intelligence & Analytics Lead at Goizueta Business School.
Merissa Cope 17C sits on the Communications Committee of GALA and recently interviewed Jamie for this newsletter.
MC: What was your favorite course you took during your time at Emory?
JH: Strategy – my very first course ever in the MEMBA program. I loved that class as much for the course content as for the professor. As a matter of fact, I think my great experience at Goizueta was largely driven by the amazing faculty and my classmates. Losing Dr. Rich Makadok to his alma mater, Perdue, was exceptionally unfortunate for Goizueta Business School. His approach to strategy was intense yet he made it accessible to all of us. I think if you polled our entire cohort, most of us would say that was our favorite class.
MC: Before you started there, what did you anticipate would be most challenging about your time at Emory, and what actually was? The most rewarding?
JH: Balancing work, family and school was certainly demanding, and I had expected the time commitment to be the most challenging. But I think the hardest period was actually when I was laid off about 6 months into the 2 year program. There’s no displacement quite like being unexpectedly unemployed, and I believe it’s much harder to find a good position when you’re barely surviving on unemployment. It’s very difficult to keep a schedule, and emotionally very hard to keep writing cover letters and submitting your resume into “the void”. The most satisfying part though, was becoming the first openly transgender graduate of the MBA program, and receiving the MBA Core Value Award for Courage.
MC: You’ve said before that you strongly believe in being visible as a trans woman, so that other trans folk will know that they’re not alone. This often means educating others, or prodding them to take initiative to be more inclusive. How do you combat the burnout that can come from being a knowledge and idea base?
JH: There is no “time off” from being transgender. While some of the best days are those when I actually do forget that I’m trans, I remind myself at times that visibility itself can be a form of activism. So many people still haven’t met a transgender person – that they know of. I don’t make every day or moment about activism, and I don’t want people to think of me as a trans activist, but just being openly transgender and president of the PTA at my daughter’s elementary school, for example, is activism. So I give myself a pass when I don’t have the energy to engage in more active work. And when I do have the energy, I focus it on the business community which is for so many transgender people our “final frontier”. Because 25% of transgender people get fired for coming out at work. 50% have an adverse job outcome, such as getting passed over for a promotion, not getting the high profile project, or getting put in a “time out” position. And more than 90% of us report some form of harassment on the job related to our gender.
MC: In your speech at the Atlanta Business Chronicle Diversity and Inclusion Awards, you spoke about how people can be doing good, but can still not be doing enough. Can you elaborate on that?
JH: The context of that remark is that we typically see all of the same companies and frequently many of the same people at so many of the Diversity and Inclusion events in Atlanta. And while I think inclusion of transgender people is still a nascent topic within that group, we’re largely speaking to and amongst those who already agree with us. It’s a bubble of sorts. And in that context, we can say we do this because it’s the “right thing to do” and that we’re doing good. But we really need to be out in the general business community away from our safe spaces, talking about Diversity and Inclusion, speaking at conferences that have nothing to do with diversity. That’s where the real work needs to be done. That’s where the business case for diversity and inclusion is important; because to make progress in more conservative industries and companies, they need to understand the benefits before they will be willing to address inclusion as a strategy.
MC: This question isn’t related to your many awards, excellent business record, or your amazing push for diversity and inclusivity, but I was wondering: if you could fill a swimming pool with anything, what would you choose?
JH: Water? It keeps the kids from getting hurt when they jump in. Plus a swimming pool isn’t very fun without it!