Meet the Expert: Virginia Hamilton
Virginia Hamilton is the organizational lead for design thinking and innovation and has extensive policy experience in a variety of workforce topics, including job training, unemployment, and economic development. Her previous experience includes a regional administrator position at the U.S. Department of Labor’s Employment and Training Administration.
POSITION: Senior Advisor for Design Thinking and Innovation
AREAS OF EXPERTISE: Workforce Development, Human-Centered Design, Large-Scale Systems Change
YEARS OF EXPERIENCE: 40
Q: Of all the things you’ve done so far in your career, what are you most proud of?
Virginia: I’m most proud of the customer-centered design initiative I conceived and launched at the U.S. Department of Labor. We trained over 2,000 workforce development professionals in human-centered design to improve the experience and outcomes for people who were unemployed. In addition to improving government services, learning human-centered design reconnected many of these workforce professionals to their passion for their work. I’m excited to use this experience in my work at AIR and with our clients.
Q: What motivates you to improve employment services?
Virginia: I believe that in America, your job defines so much of who you are—and everyone deserves the opportunity to work in a good, well-paying job. But lots of people need help. Current government employment programs were essentially designed during the Great Depression. I think they can be redesigned now to reflect the way current labor markets work, to better help vulnerable populations get and keep good jobs.
Q: What would you say to someone currently considering a career in social science research and consulting?
Virginia: If you are fascinated with how people behave (individually and in groups), if you like trying to figure out how systems and organizations can work better, and if you want to make the world a better place, this is a great career.
Q: What’s your go-to professional resource?
Virginia: I often go to the website www.liberatingstructures.com to find new ways to engage groups of people. I’m a process geek.
Q: If you didn’t get into this field, what would you have done instead?
Virginia: I still have fantasies about going back to school, learning art history, and working in a museum.
Q: What’s the last great book you read?
Virginia: My current favorite book is The Art of Gathering by Prya Parker.
Q: If you could have dinner with three people, living or dead, who would they be?
Virginia: My grandfather, who was in early aviation, practiced sustainable farming in the 1940s, and helped found the United Negro College Fund (UNCF); Frances Perkins, who established the U.S. Department of Labor; and George Harrison, because he was my favorite Beatle.
Q: Where can we find you on a typical Saturday afternoon?
Virginia: Either unpacking a suitcase to repack for my next trip or building wooden block towers with my three-year-old granddaughter.