Next Up Columbus 2024: Ciara M. Walker

Ciara M. Walker
Ciara M. Walker

Photo courtesy of Ciara M. Walker

Interview by Derek Grosso

Name: Ciara M. Walker
Pronouns: She/Her/Hers
Age: 34
Profession: Procurement Administration for Central Ohio Transit Authority (COTA)
Neighborhood: New Albany
Education: Bachelor of Science in Communications
Community Involvement: Long time supporter of United Way of Central Ohio, the MId Ohio Foodbank
Quote: “Don’t sit down and wait for the opportunities to come. Get up and make them.” Madam C.J. Walker.
Connect: LinkedIn

Give us a snapshot of your path:
I grew up on the North side of Columbus and am a proud graduate of Columbus City Schools. I pursued my passion for communication at Ohio University, where I earned my communication degree. Inspired by my childhood idol, Yolanda Harris, I initially aspired to be on the news. However, my adventurous spirit led me to a different path in the public sector.

I began my career as a Housing Advisor at the local housing authority in central Ohio and was later promoted to management in the finance department. My time at the housing authority was marked by active community involvement, volunteering, and serving the residents of Columbus. This passion for community service inspired me to start my own company, The Housing Resource Center, where I am the Founder and CEO. My company provides comprehensive resources, guidance, support, educational workshops, and helps streamline application processes for those seeking affordable housing.

In addition to running my company, I am also fully employed at the Central Ohio Transit Authority (COTA), where I manage the procurement processes for IT, Innovation, and the Infrastructure, Engineering & Maintenance department. I truly enjoy the work I do for COTA. Being able to serve an organization where the mission is “Moving Every Life Forward” is a sure sign that I am in the right place in my career, as that directly correlates with my personal mission in life, to to help propel people from all walks of life, forward.

What gets you up in the morning? And what gets you through the workweek?
What gets me up in the morning is the opportunity to be a positive influence and a role model for young African American girls, particularly my beloved nieces: Aryanna, Ariel, Naiyana, Leona, and Lola. I adore them and strive to be the best role model I can be. I want them to know that with hard work and dedication, they can (and will) achieve any goals they set for themselves. I aspire to be an inspiration for young girls who dream of becoming successful entrepreneurs and those who aim to thrive in corporate America.

Knowing that their little eyes are watching me and that people in this community are relying on me in all the roles that I play is what gets me through my work week. The responsibility and privilege of serving as a guiding light for the next generation and making a difference in my community fuel my passion and dedication every single day.

What advice or mentors have helped guide you along the way?
My mom is one of my biggest supports and has taught me so many life lessons. The best advice I have ever received is “keep showing up.” I remember times when I wanted to give up and throw in the towel, but I’ve come to understand how crucial it is to consistently show up and bring your best contribution to the table. Hard work truly does pay off.

This simple yet profound advice has been a guiding light throughout my journey. It has taught me the importance of persistence and resilience, especially during challenging times. Every effort, no matter how small, contributes to the bigger picture and moves you closer to your goals.

I’ve also been fortunate to have my sisters, who have reinforced this mindset and supported me along the way. Their wisdom and encouragement have been invaluable, helping me to stay focused and motivated. Whether in my career or personal endeavors, the principle of showing up as authentically as I can, has been a cornerstone of my success and continues to drive me forward.

What do you do or where do you go to unwind?
To unwind, I love visiting local record shops or taking a stroll in the Short North or along the Scioto Mile. These activities help me relax and enjoy the vibrant atmosphere of my community.

After a long day or week, the best way for me to unwind is to turn off my computer and say, “Alexa, play Erykah Badu radio on Pandora.” Her music gets me in my zone and allows me to zen out. Music itself is so soothing and helps me to decompress and recharge, creating a peaceful and relaxing environment. Fun fact about me: I love how music makes people feel. I am “secretly” learning to be a DJ and can’t wait to surprise everyone with my first set!

What are a few of your favorite local spots in Columbus?
I love Press Grill! Their wings and wedge salad are the best in the city, hands down. Another local favorite is Hound Dogs. I have been a long-time supporter, so much so that I have made lifelong friends with a few of the servers and have even attended their weddings. I love the local places that make you feel like you’re at home or hanging out at a friend’s house. It’s the best feeling ever when you’re out and about.

When you were a kid, what did you say you wanted to be when you grew up?
When I was a kid, I wanted to be like Yolanda Harris and be on the news. She was a young, beautiful black woman on TV, and I didn’t see many young, black women on the local news at that time, so she instantly became my inspiration. Although I didn’t grow up to be on the news like her, she remains a role model and inspiration to me. Yolanda is very active in the community and still tells the news, continuing to be a positive influence in my life.

What books or podcasts are you reading/listening to right now?
I love anything true crime. I’m always captivated by shows like First 48 and 20/20 True Crime. As for podcasts, some of my favorites include Serial, Accused, Undetermined, and Sistas Who Kill. These podcasts offer compelling stories and deep dives into intriguing cases, keeping me hooked and always wanting more.

What does it mean to you to be chosen for the Next Up Columbus award?
Being chosen for the Next Up Columbus award means that I am on the rise, and to be considered an emerging leader within the community I come from is such an honor. This recognition is a testament to the hard work and dedication I’ve put into my journey, and it inspires me to leave a lasting impression on all those I encounter. This award will help me be a trailblazer in Columbus, identifying, creating, and implementing ways to improve our communities as we continue to grow. It is truly an honor, and I am eternally grateful for this recognition.

If someone were to ask you what the “pulse” of Columbus is, what would you tell them?
I believe the pulse of Columbus is what keeps this city alive, much like a doctor checking a patient’s pulse for signs of life. The heartbeat of Columbus consists of the leaders and policymakers who help us survive and function, but the pulse is made up of those who signal to the community that there is something here for all of us. We are the change agents, the event coordinators, the ambassadors—the people you want to be connected to, who will introduce you to what it is like living in Columbus. The pulse generates the life in the city. Without a pulse, there is no life. Columbus thrives because of the vibrant, dynamic individuals who continually breathe life into our community, ensuring it remains a place where everyone can find their place and flourish.

The Next Up Columbus Awards highlight emerging leaders who are connectors and ambassadors in central Ohio and who are making a positive impact on the future of Columbus. The Columbus Young Professionals Club would like to offer special thanks to our 2024 co-presenters, Discover Financial, Columbus Chamber of Commerce and Edison Brewing Co. for their support of this year’s awards program. Meet the entire “Class of 2024” »


Comments are closed.