August 17 2022

Advice from a Step Up alum (and data expert): “Never doubt that you should be in those spaces”

Step Up alum Camille Maddox smiling at camera

Camille Maddox credits her experience as a Step Up high school intern for helping her build the foundational confidence she needed to climb the corporate ladder to a senior director position before her 30th birthday.

“Being one of very few people of color in upper-level corporate spaces is difficult. I don’t know that I would be where I am today if my Step Up mentors hadn’t taught me not to doubt whether I should be there. I don’t feel the necessity to prove why I’m there; I know I deserve to be.”

The summer before her senior year at Patrick Henry High School, Camille did her Step Up internship at Mortenson Company, a Twin Cities builder and developer, where one of her first lessons was learning company cultural cues.

“I was invited to a company lunch. I was very nervous and had no idea how to act or what to expect. Thinking I was going to have to pay for my lunch, I just ordered something to drink. After hearing my order, my internship mentor explained that the company was paying for it because it was a business lunch.” 

As a shy high school student, Camille was initially afraid to talk with people at Mortenson, but she grew to be comfortable. She learned how to use office equipment and the interoffice mail system, and how to write a resume. She also gained valuable interviewing skills.

“Step Up gives you a head start on getting the skills needed to set yourself up for success moving forward,” says Camille. “I came into the job market knowing how to do a resume, interview and engage with people. This put me ahead of some of my peers and made me feel confident and comfortable in corporate spaces.”

Later, as a student at Emory University in Atlanta, Camille landed an Urban Scholars internship at the City of Minneapolis, which supports college students of color in accessing public sector careers. Her first intern project was creating a financial literacy guide for Step Up interns, which was assigned by Step Up director Tammy Dickinson.

Camille says, “Tammy checked in with me and mentored me on the guide. We also worked on contract compliance and economic development projects that ended up being important in defining my career path because I learned that I liked data.”

This data project eventually led Camille to a data analyst position at Shine Early Learning, following her college graduation and a master’s degree in public affairs at the University of Texas. She quickly advanced to director of program design and management at Shine. From there, she spent a year as director of research and program evaluation in the Aldine School District in Houston before returning to Shine as senior director of program stats.

Drawn to technology, Camille is now a senior manager with Seattle-based Tableau Software. Working remotely from Houston, she advises businesses and state and local government customers to accurately implement Tableau’s software. She also trains them how to use the software, making sure they have the capacity to support what they’ve purchased.

Camille is grateful to the City of Minneapolis and Achieve Twin Cities for her Step Up internships. She says her professional network that began with Step Up has been critical to her success.

She also has a message for current Step Up interns. “Build your tribe, seek out mentors in the places you want to work, and never doubt that you deserve to be in those spaces.”

Learn more about Step Up.