'Feel the fear, and do it anyway'
Christine O’Malley, a 2016 Ohio State Glass Breaker, talks about elevating others through her work and not letting fear get in the way of progress.
This year, the President and Provost’s Council on Women recognizes five faculty and staff members whose efforts have improved workplace culture for women at Ohio State: They are Ohio State Glass Breakers.
Buckeye Voices presents question-and-answer interviews with each extraordinary honoree. The first is Christine O’Malley, a communications consultant in the Office of Human Resources who is known for her energy, innovation and thirst for adventure, as seen when she traveled to Ethiopia as a Fulbright Specialist to train staff at the University of Gondar in digital strategy.
Q: We tend to think of Fulbright grants as sponsoring researchers and students, but you received one as a staff member. Tell us about that journey and how you were supported along the way.
A: Three things combined to inspire me to seek a Fulbright.
One of the first things I did on the One Health Ethiopia project was to start a blog to capture all the activities taking place across the various disciplines involved. I looked for channels to promote it. I noticed that our two academic partners were already using digital and social media, and I wanted to help them develop their websites and social media channels.
Secondly, I knew that one of our partners, University of Gondar, would be celebrating its 60th anniversary the following year, a huge milestone and significant communications opportunity for our partner.
And third, the chair of One Health Ethiopia’s task force, Professor Wondwossen Gebreyes, was interested in incorporating the use of iPads to enhance long-distance research and teaching.
I began searching for a way to fund a communications project, discovering the Fulbright Specialist program. It matches accomplished professionals and artists from the U.S. with host institutions abroad. You don’t need to be a faculty member, though it is open to faculty as well. Professor Gebreyes and Dean Lonnie King, my supervisor at the time, encouraged me to apply, and the Office of International Affairs assisted with my application. Without their support, it would not have happened.
I had always entertained the idea of a short-term international assignment as part of my career. I just never knew how to make it happen in real life. The experience expanded my world view. I learned about Africa and Ethiopia, communications technology in a developing country and the success of a one-health approach in understanding the health of people, animals and the environment.
Working on the One Health Ethiopia project abroad and at Ohio State also gives me an appreciation for the real-world potential of the Discovery Themes approach: Focus the university’s core strengths on the world’s greatest challenges, and people’s lives will get better.
Q: What advice do you have for other women seeking leadership roles? Have you faced any challenges or bypassed any obstacles?
I encourage other women to get involved at Ohio State. There are so many ways to be a part of this university and let it be a part of you.
In my case, the Staff Leadership Series helped me become more self-aware, helped me see how others perceive me, provided insights into my strengths and connected me to other women I may not ordinarily have met when we are in our own silos. The Women’s Place also offers a safe space to just ask, “Is anyone else noticing this?” When looking for your own way to be involved, you don’t have to focus on the groups related to women, but those opportunities helped me.
In terms of challenges to avoid, I would say make sure you are not your own obstacle. Don’t make decisions through inaction, fear or guilt. One of my favorite sayings is, “Feel the fear and do it anyway.” You might not enjoy negotiating the salary for your next job, but no one else will do it for you.
Q: What’s next for you?
My current role in the Office of Human Resources offers opportunities to further develop my skills. For example, I hope to pursue further training in two areas, change management communications and implicit bias.
In addition, I will continue to be on the Fulbright Specialist roster until fall 2018 and eligible to work on one more project. While in my current position, I hope to find a relevant international project with great people working together to improve people’s lives through communication.
Read more about Christine O'Malley's career path to the leadership position she holds.