Cultivating a rewarding career in a helping profession
This interview marks the second installment in the Making an Impact 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.
Tracie Hinds, Statewide Director, Idaho Employment and Training Services Program
Tracie oversees Idaho’s statewide employment and training program, which delivers both in-person and remote services to SNAP and TAFI (Idaho’s TANF program) participants seeking self-sufficiency. Joining Maximus in 2000 at our Orange County CalWORKs program, she has risen through the ranks, embracing opportunities and always making time for professional development. We caught up with Tracie at her office in Boise to talk about the strategies that have helped advance her career, people who’ve inspired her, and her secret to building successful teams that can reliably produce outstanding outcomes — even in challenging times.
You started at Maximus nearly 20 years ago as a quality assurance coordinator, and now you're the director of the Company's first statewide E&T program. What advice do you have for those who want to follow in your footsteps?
Be very open to opportunities. I have been given so many at Maximus and have said yes to most. It really has been a springboard in my career, giving me so much experience! The big thing I’ve learned is to stay committed to lifelong learning and always challenging yourself — and never hesitating to push outside your comfort zone. Stay open to learning from people with different styles than your own — it can help you figure out your own best ways of leading and solving big problems. Some things I embraced; some I didn’t. I took on a growth mindset and adapted what worked best for me.
Actively find a mentor. I was fortunate enough to have someone take me under her wing who had a lot of confidence in me and worked on developing me. To that end, I’ve always known and embraced the fact that as we grow professionally, we grow personally. And vice versa. I really find this exciting! Honestly, I never thought I’d be in the leadership position I’m in now, and I'm tremendously grateful. I’ve developed a better sense of self-confidence and awareness. And I’ve learned so much, like how to express myself better and to improve team dynamics through diplomacy. I’m big on personal development.
My last piece of advice: don’t be afraid to ask questions. Don’t feel you have to know everything. Asking for help shows our personal, human side. Find your own leadership style. Understand that there are any number of leadership styles, and remember that you don't have to copy anyone else to achieve success. Find your own way. Maximus has always supported and promoted this truth, and I think it helps explain why our teams make such significant impacts.
When looking back over your career, who has inspired you?
My mom. She has the most amazing work ethic. She’s a nurse, and I love that both of us are in a helping profession. Mom retired a handful of years ago and decided to volunteer at the Audubon Society, where she took care of baby birdies. She loved doing it, but after a while decided she wasn’t done with her career and went back to being a nurse. She has such a passion — I really admire her! She has worked since I was born and did so well at establishing a work/life balance we never felt like she wasn’t there. My mom is a public health nurse, so she sees patients in their homes, and she often worked through holidays. But we never saw her hard work and long hours as negatives. She instilled in us the value of taking care of the community and others.
Work-wise, I remember a time years ago in Reston gathering with other Maximus workforce leaders to collaborate on a proposal. I was so proud and honored to work with a team of intelligent, confident women, including Kelly Blaschke Treharne, Colleen Moska, Holly Payne, and Katie Conrad. It was very inspiring!
What’s your approach to leadership and mentoring?
Build a solid team around you. Identify people’s strengths and allow them to develop. Empower them in their roles. I tell my team, "This isn't my project; this is our project.” I strongly rely on my leadership team, tapping into their expertise for support with issues such as IT, policy, and QA. I enjoy helping people develop and find their strengths and purpose on projects. As we have tackled the unprecedented challenges stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic, I’ve been tapping into my managers and supervisors, and we’re all pulling together to get big things done.
What most excites you most about working in workforce services?
Being part of a solution! One of our project’s mottos is, “Changing ONE life EVERY DAY!” Working with other institutions and partners to provide opportunities and assistance for our participants to start down the road toward self-sufficiency is very exciting to me – and being a of a project that pulls all of those resources together for our participants is rewarding. I feel like our project is not only helping out individuals, but we are making a positive impact in our communities and in the state of Idaho.
What do you think about the role of technology in improving government programs?
Necessary! While technology will never replace the power and importance of human connection, it provides a way for us to stay more connected and to more easily connect – supplementing the human touch. Our Idaho project started out with a good-sized technology footprint, and we have grown it and continue to improve it. As we assess different solutions, we ask three questions:
1) How can we best benefit our participants?
2) How will this solution impact our service-delivery model and program performance?
3) How will this help our partners in government to bridge their gaps and advance policy priorities?
Any investment in technology must answer those questions in a way that aligns to support the needs of all stakeholders. Short-term cost savings are attractive — but a holistic approach that focuses on policy priorities and the mission of the agency has to guide that assessment.