Discovering a public service career with a New York State of mind
This interview is the third installment in the Maximus Impact 2020 series, a collection of profiles and articles introducing some of our best and brightest leaders — individuals who are making tremendous impacts in the government sectors we serve.
Awilda Martinez, Vice President, U.S. Health Services
Ms. Martinez manages a broad portfolio of Health and Human Services programs for New York and New Jersey. These programs help Medicaid eligible individuals and families across the states access the healthcare they need by delivering eligibility and enrollment services, conflict-free assessments, and provider services.
She took a moment to share with us how her Maximus journey began over two decades ago, what inspired her life in public service work, and her advice for balancing professional and personal priorities.
How did you get your start with Maximus, and what was your first role?
My first role in Maximus was Manager of Community Relations for the New York Enrollment Broker Program. My transition into this position was relatively easy; having spent the previous three years at a large, highly respected community advocacy organization. In that precursor role, I was responsible for the development of a citywide community outreach and training program for local community-based organizations. It was at one of these training sessions that I met Dr. John Boyer, who now serves as the Maximus Foundation Chair. John approached me at the end of my training session to talk about upcoming opportunities to work for Maximus in NY.
It was around that time when Maximus had begun its partnership in New York to introduce managed care to four million Medicaid consumers. I had the opportunity to help build the foundation for a program that continues to experience growth and it all began at that chance meeting more than 21 years ago.
What inspired you to go into this line of work?
I had the opportunity to attend college in the New York State Capital District region and took advantage of an internship that allowed me to work at the New York State Senate. During that internship, I had the opportunity to see firsthand the importance of governance, policy development, and the direct impact policy and programs have on the lives of vulnerable citizens.
That experience cemented my decision to further my studies in public policy and administration. Following graduation, I worked for a high-ranking state senator who represented the district my parents first lived after migrating from Puerto Rico. While working in the senator’s district office, I began my graduate education in public policy and public administration and have remained in this space for nearly three decades.
Leaders have to lead by example. You cannot ask someone to go above and beyond in their job if you have not done so yourself.
How do you balance work and life responsibilities? How does Maximus support work-life balance?
I strive to be equally engaged across all aspects of my life. Whether appointed to serve on my local community board, elected National President of my sorority, or serving as parent Co-Chair for an affinity group at my daughter’s school – I try to be fully present in activities that fill my heart. My team knows I make it a priority to attend special events like my sons’ science fair or my daughter’s softball game, and I encourage my team to do the same for their families.
My team knows I will always support them when they stay engaged in the aspects of their lives that give them joy and satisfaction. I firmly believe that we are all more productive when we stay successful both at work and at home. Maximus supports work-life balance goals by offering us the opportunity to telework and supporting time off to attend those special moments.
What is your approach to leadership and mentoring?
Many aspects of leadership are learned. My first example of leadership was my mom and dad. From an early age, I witnessed firsthand what a strong work ethic looks like. My mom worked the night shift as an ICU Nurse at a local hospital while also being an active member of local community groups. When I needed to talk to her late at night, I was allowed to call the nurses’ station to speak to her. My dad also showed me what dedication and commitment look like – working as a social service caseworker for more than two decades while working part-time jobs as a math teacher and driving instructor.
These early experiences taught me that leaders must lead by example. You cannot ask someone to go above and beyond in their job if you have not done so yourself. Mentorship becomes easy when you can connect with that person on a personal level and show them that you are willing to roll up your sleeves to get the work done.