Next Up Columbus 2024: Erica S. Howard

Erica S. Howard
Erica S. Howard

Photo courtesy of Erica S. Howard

Interview by Derek Grosso

Name: Erica S. Howard
Pronouns: She/Her/Hers
Age: 40
Profession: Vis-a-Vis- HR Director, CYP Club- Director of Leadership
Neighborhood: Hilliard
Education: B.S. Human Resource Management, SHRM-CP
Community Involvement: HRACO, CYP, NAWBO
Motto: What would you do if you weren’t afraid?
Connect: LinkedIn | Instagram

Give us a snapshot of your path
From a young age, I displayed a keen analytical mind, a strong sense of empathy, and a natural inclination towards advocating for others. I was always drawn to creating new programs and events, finding joy in bringing people together and making a positive impact. As I transitioned into adulthood, these attributes remained deeply ingrained in me.

My upbringing in a STEM-focused environment laid a solid foundation for my analytical skills and problem-solving abilities. However, as I pursued my academic and professional journey, I discovered my true passion for people. This realization led me to pivot towards Human Resources, where I found a perfect blend of my analytical mindset and my desire to make a difference in people’s lives.

While I’ve had many opportunities to work in various industrial sectors, my passion for serving others has always been my driving force. Whether it’s advocating for the underrepresented, creating new initiatives to support community growth, or simply being a source of support and guidance to those around me, my commitment to making a positive difference remains unwavering.

What gets you up in the morning? And what gets you through the workweek?
What gets me up in the morning? The opportunity to connect with others. Whether it’s linking them to valuable resources or engaging with them directly, it’s incredibly rewarding to know that I can play a part in helping someone reach their next milestone. The chance to make a meaningful impact in someone’s life is what drives me every day.

What gets me through the workweek is a combination of my passion for community service, my dedication to working with nonprofits, and the fulfillment I get from creating leadership programs. Engaging in these activities allows me to contribute to positive change and support others in their growth journeys. Additionally, I find joy in reading and writing books, which fuels my growth mindset and provides new insights. Pursuing entrepreneurship challenges me to innovate and think creatively, while mentoring others gives me the satisfaction of guiding them towards their goals. All these elements together inspire me, keep me motivated, and ensure that each week is both meaningful and rewarding.

What advice or mentors have helped guide you along the way?
Throughout my journey, I’ve received invaluable advice and guidance from mentors who have played a crucial role in my growth. One key piece of advice that has helped me immensely is the concept of “failing quickly.” Embracing failure as a learning opportunity rather than a setback has allowed me to adapt, grow, and move forward with resilience.

Another important lesson is that it’s okay to say “I don’t know.” This honesty opens the door to learning and collaboration, fostering a culture of continuous improvement and mutual support.

Having mentors with diverse perspectives has been instrumental in my development. They’ve offered different approaches and solutions to challenges, broadening my understanding and equipping me with a variety of strategies to tackle problems effectively. Their guidance has not only helped me navigate complex situations but also inspired me to become a better mentor to others.

What do you do or where do you go to unwind?
To unwind, I prioritize rest and relaxation to recharge my energy. Prayer and meditation are integral parts of my routine, helping me find peace and clarity. Reading is another go-to activity that allows me to escape into different worlds and gain new perspectives. Staying connected to my community and spending time with a close circle of friends also play a significant role in my well-being. These relationships provide support, laughter, and meaningful conversations that help me decompress and stay grounded. Additionally, engaging in creative activities allows me to express myself and find joy, whether through writing, crafting, or exploring new hobbies.

What are a few of your favorite local spots in Columbus?
Wyandotte Winery: The perfect place to enjoy a wine slushies, live music and food trucks, where you can unwind in a cozy setting. Bridge Park: A vibrant area with a fantastic selection of restaurants and markets, ideal for exploring new flavors and shopping local vendors. Budd Dairy Food Hall: Great for entertainment and socializing, offering a variety of food options and a lively atmosphere. Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens: A serene spot to connect with nature and appreciate the beauty of plants and flowers. Ohio Theatre: A stunning venue where I can immerse myself in the arts and enjoy captivating performances.

When you were a kid, what did you say you wanted to be when you grew up?
I started attending a STEM program from 7th grade until I graduated high school. During those formative years, I harbored ambitions of becoming either a Marine Biologist or a Biomedical Engineer. However, after my second year of college, I felt compelled to pivot and pursue Business Administration. It was through this journey that I discovered my true passion lay in Human Resources, where I could leverage my skills and dedication to empower others in their professional journeys.

What books or podcasts are you reading/listening to right now?
I’m an avid reader and have already devoured nearly 100 books this year. Some of my recent favorites include:

“Symphony of Secrets” by Brendan Slocumb
“Black Girls Unbossed” by Christ Lauren Adams
“As the Wicked Watch” by Tamron Hall

As for podcasts, I’m currently listening to:

BiggerPockets: Offers valuable insights into real estate investing,
Books-N-Brothas: Provides guidance on writing, marketing, and selling your book
The His, and Her Money Show: Offers tips on managing your finances and becoming debt-free.

What does it mean to you to be chosen for the Next Up Columbus award?
Being chosen for the Next Up Columbus award is an incredible honor and a humbling experience. It signifies recognition of my efforts to contribute positively to the future of Columbus and to be seen as a connector and cheerleader within our community. This award not only validates the hard work and dedication I’ve put into my endeavors but also inspires me to continue striving for excellence and making a difference. It’s a testament to the collective impact we can achieve when we support and uplift each other, and I’m deeply grateful for this opportunity to be part of such a vibrant and forward-thinking community.

If someone were to ask you what the “pulse” of Columbus is, what would you tell them?
If someone were to ask me what the “pulse” of Columbus is, I would describe it as a dynamic blend of innovation, community spirit, and inclusivity. Columbus thrives on its diverse and forward-thinking population, where people from various backgrounds come together to create a vibrant and supportive community. The city is characterized by its entrepreneurial energy, a strong sense of collaboration, and a commitment to fostering growth and opportunity for all. From the bustling arts and culture scene to the booming tech and startup ecosystem, the heartbeat of Columbus is its people—passionate, resilient, and always looking to make a positive impact.

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” »


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