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Clarkston Manager Talks About Belonging + Shares Her Career Story

In celebrating Women’s History Month, Erica Parks-Murray, Manager at Clarkston, shares with us what Women’s History Month and belonging at Clarkston means to her, and her career story below!

Women’s History Month 2023

What does belonging at Clarkston mean to you?

For me, belonging is about intentionally creating and germinating a space of welcome, invitation in all that we do internally (processes – hiring, promotion, comp) and externally (how we partner with our clients, and diversity in client background and vendors we do business with).

Those are just words coming out of mouth if we’re not transparent about those things and commit to measuring clear outcomes. Three quick examples:

1) We just made our DEIB goals public. Transparency = Accountability

2) Our culture, the core of who we are as a firm, is critical to Clarkston’s success. Recruiting mindset from culture-fit to cultural-add. Seeing the value that new people bring is belonging in action.

3) As a black woman, I’ve been wearing my hair natural for well over a decade. At Clarkston, wearing my Sisterlocks has always been accepted and valued.

The 2023 Women’s History Month theme is “Celebrating Women Who Tell Our Stories,” what does that mean to you and how have other women’s stories impacted your own?

Unfortunately, I didn’t have a chance to meet my life partner’s mom before she passed away, but I learned that something that she used to ask when she first met someone is, “so, what’s your story?”

I believe we all have a story and it’s through sharing our stories that we not only learn about others, but also ourselves. Especially as wome,n because we are powerful beyond measure. I believe that representation is key. When we shine our light on our stories, we give other women permission to shine there’s as well.

Erica’s Career Story

How long have you been with Clarkston?

This is my second time around at Clarkston – I’m a boomerang. All together I’ve been here for roughly 13 years, that doesn’t count the time I worked at our former adjacent organization – Rural Sourcing (RSI).

What is your role at Clarkston?

I’m in management and through the years I’ve worn many different hats. Regardless of my role, I believe we’re all responsible for making sure Clarkston remains a fulfilling place to work. I’m always looking for ways to ensure we’re creating/reinforcing processes, systems, structures, and ways of working that reflect this sentiment. My perspective also shows up in how I partner with my clients, particularly as it relates to our organizational health service offering.

Tell us about a new skill you’ve developed recently.

Digital marketing. I believe in the importance of storytelling and in many cases “how” we share our stories and communicate is equally valuable. I’m learning this more and more. I’m also using a throwback skill that is gaining more exposure recently – coaching. Clarkston invested in me earning my coaching certification over a decade ago, and I use those skills daily to partner with and guide our clients, as well as for growing our service offerings and mentoring others.

If you had to choose, which of Clarkston’s core values do you feel resonates with you the most?

I’m a huge fan of our core values. If I can only select one, it’s entrepreneurial spirit. Connection is a top strength of mine, so I’m always connecting ideas, people, experiences. When you couple that with me being a life-long learner by nature, working at a firm that values me having an entrepreneurial spirt to walk my “own” path is one example of why I feel like I belong at Clarkston.

Case in point, I’ve done ERP deployment strategy, configuration and implementation, project management, led an historical partnership between Morehouse College and our adjacent technology school, Momentum, where I’m a strategic advisor, developed and led Clarkston’s nonbillable management process, I’ve travelled internationally, and I’m a large proponent of ensuring we’re taking care of our people and clients by leveraging best practice organizational change management strategies and tactics.

How has your work changed post-COVID?

It hasn’t changed too much, minus the weekly travel to a client site. I find many clients have a completely remote or hybrid working model. That said, I’ve noticed the impact on people’s mental health and how burnout presents itself. I cannot highlight the importance of an organization having a pulse on its organizational health by recognizing how an organizations ways of working are providing a space to flourish and innovate, or the contrary.

Which internal initiatives, communities, or projects are you involved in at Clarkston? 

  • Initiative: Career and Performance Management where we appreciate and celebrate the differences in roles and functions within our firm while creating a consistent and equitable career experience for all stewards via new or improved processes, tools, platforms.
  • Community: Strategy & Innovation
  • Groups: Black Steward Network (BSN), Women Empowerment Network (WEN+), Organizational Change Management Interest Group

What advice would you give to someone starting at Clarkston?

Enjoy the journey and make it your own!

In your experience, what qualities make someone a good consultant?

  • Develop a roll-up-your-sleeves mentality. Our clients desire a partner that is right there, on the on the ground floor with them solving (and anticipating) their challenges. This is why we have an extraordinarily high, well above industry average, client satisfaction and net promoter rating!
  • Stay updated on industry trends and skills. This is why our client’s partner with us. Always invest in growing your skills.
  • Reach out for help, guidance, support. Don’t put unnecessary pressure on yourself to know everything because that’s a set up for stress, frustration, and fatigue. We’re very supportive of one another here.
  • Get comfortable with being uncomfortable. I learn something new every day. Often, we can be called on, or volunteer, to do something that we haven’t done before. I think this is exciting, albeit it can feel stressful. That’s when you fall back on my previous qualities. When we are uncomfortable, it means we’re growing.