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Powerful Women: Let's Talk - 106: Dr. Vicki Harris

Dr. Vicki Harris
Vicki Harris
Dr. Vicki Harris

Jennifer Moss welcomes Dr. Vicki Harris from Our Daily Bread Ministries to the podcast

Dr. Vicki Harris is the Chief People and Culture Officer at Our Daily Bread Ministries. As a global human resource professional, Vicki travels around the world sharing her passion to help and train leaders and staff members in team effectiveness, human resource disciplines and Diversity Equity and Inclusion among other things. She's today's Powerful Woman.

Full Transcript:


Produced by women, about women. Powerful Women: Let's Talk is a series of interviews with women who are trailblazers and have helped shape our world; transforming who we are and how we live.


Jennifer: Hello, everyone. Time for powerful Women: Let's Talk. Thanks so much for joining us today. I'm Jennifer Moss. It is a pleasure to bring you today's powerful woman Doctor Vicki Harris. Doctor Harris is the chief people and culture officer at our Daily Bread Ministries. She joined the organization in 2013 and she holds a dual master's degree of human resources and business administration. She received two honorary doctorate degrees in Global Humanities for Africa and Latin America. Our Daily Bread Ministries is a global ministry with 38 offices around the world and distributing resources and 150 different languages and countries. And they are noted for their mission to make the life changing wisdom of the bible, understandable and accessible to all. And so we welcome you Doctor Harris. So a little bit more about you before we get into our conversation for real. As a global human resources professional doctor Harris travels around the world, literally sharing her passion to help and train leaders and staff members in various topic such as team effectiveness, human resource disciplines, diversity, equity and inclusion, as well as other organizational and leadership development programs. And before joining our Daily Bread Ministries, Doctor Harris served in human resources for over 20 years with another Christian publishing house and legal search firm. She's also the president of Global Women Who Lead. A program designed to train and inspire female leaders to pursue their God given gifts and talents to the world. And I know she's been the recipient of many awards over the years as well. And so glad to welcome you, Doctor. Vicki, here is today's powerful women. So let's talk.

Vicki: Thank you. It's great to be here.

Jennifer: So you, you know, in earnest and to be honest, full disclosure, we haven't talked in a bit in ages. But I know Doctor Harris, I of course, follow you on Facebook as well and have seen all the wonderful places that you have an opportunity to visit literally around the world. But those visits aren't without a purpose. Tell us about the vision and purpose behind what you do and what you're doing.

Vicki: Thank you. Well, as the chief people and culture officer for our Daily Bread Ministries, we visit each of our region's. We have offices in the UK, Asia Pacific and Latin America, and Africa, India, and Canada. And so I have the opportunity to visit all of those regions to really help them to set policy, to make sure that we're making an impact in the region. To make sure that HR is functioning well, and that we're meeting the needs of our people. Our motto is that we want to make sure that all of our employees are thriving. And so when it relates to diversity, it relates to just employ issues, want to make sure that our leaders are caring for our employees well.

Jennifer: And again, to at the heart of the work is to make sure you all look at making sure people are well taken care of and also purposing yourselves to give them the Word.

Vicki: Yes. Spreading the gospel is number one. Number one for us. And our employees are committed to doing that. We make sure that not just in the region, so we do that. But all around the world, our products are just translated into 150 languages. We also have audio that we do radio because some places don't have the opportunity to read the actual written word. And so we make it available in all types of different format, digital as something that's huge for us now with a lot of people are on their phones. And so we have digital apps for the daily devotion that goes out to people that only have a source of their phone. They don't have a TV. They don't have anything else. But they have their phone, and they can read the Our Daily Bread.

Jennifer: You’re also trying to broaden it to a younger audience. A lot of places are doing that.

Vicki: Yes, younger, more diverse audiences is what we're trying to do. We really want to make sure that we get God's word out there to people so that they can grow in the word of God, especially the next generation.

Jennifer: But you have quite the accomplished career. One of my big questions always is, are you enjoying the journey?

Vicki: I am enjoying the journey. It's been a long journey. I have been doing HR for over 30 years now and I still enjoy it. The global work is really satisfying, it's fulfilling. The travel gets a little difficult sometimes because of the length of travel. But I thoroughly enjoy it and being able to meet the different cultures to being able to learn about their culture and being able to find out how we can help them better to grow and to develop into who God really wants them to be as a leader. Or just as a citizen and it's very fulfilling.

Jennifer: I was going to say you're entrenched. I mean, those trips I can't imagine on the regular because you do them so often. We're talking about Trans-Atlantic. I mean, you're going from Grand Rapids, Michigan. It's not a hard turn to go to Asia and then go somewhere else.

Vicki: That's correct. We go to Asia Pacific which is probably a 24 hour trip and then from there to Brazil or to the UK or to Indonesia, you know. It's far reaching.

Jennifer: And but you are enjoying it. So and we talk about when we talk about powerful women, you know, the idea is to encourage other women and with our stories with our journey. Have there been any barriers that you've encountered along the way as you travel along your career path?

Vicki: Definitely. People see that I'm chief officer now, but they don't know the story behind it. And so I like to share that and my sessions and in my mentoring relationships. That we all have had to overcome obstacles and barriers. My particular one has been in the area of racism, in the area of sexism, and my own defeating not knowing my own identity was probably a barrier that I've kind of put on myself because of the external things that were coming against me. And so to be able to overcome all of those things, I'm passionate about diversity, equity, inclusion as well as cultural intelligence because I interact with so many different cultures. I want to make sure that I have the empathy that’s needed to be successful. But still I had to overcome their idea of a woman in leadership. That was a huge thing.

Jennifer: Especially a black woman in leadership.

Vicki: Yes, especially a black woman and leadership. And I've had questions like, who are you? Where did you come from? What are you? Because it is hard to tell sometimes, and I've had to have, you know, conversations to just give them a little bit more information about my background and when I've been able to say, I'm actually African American. I do have some other nationalities in my DNA. But I recognize as African American and it’s so interesting that some people say, oh, no, are you really? Yeah, so well, why is that a negative for you? And it opens up the door for some good conversation about stereotypes and sexism against women and leadership or African Americans, especially in the different countries. They don't quite understand. And so it opens up the door for some great opportunity to discuss it and dialogue about it

Jennifer: And dialogue is key. And I would imagine that in some of the countries that you're traveling to being a female, number one for some countries, and then top it off being an African American female that could open up big discussion on so many levels. Because it's not a norm.

Vicki: It's not a norm. It's better than a used to be 10 years ago. But we still have a long ways to go. And so just being okay to not get upset with them, but it helped them understand, First of all, who I am and then it just opens the door for more dialogue. But what's so interesting is growing up, I did not know my identity because I was called albino. I was called half breed. I was called all of these different things that really I think impeded made to really grow and terms of my own identity and self-care and self-love. And so once I was able to get over those obstacles, then it's interesting that now God uses that and all of the different countries that I go to and it helps to break down those barriers between us and different countries.

Jennifer: Absolutely. And you see that. So as you face those challenges, those obstacles and barriers as you as you move through and along on your journey, what does it taken, as you kind of mentioned it in touched upon it, but to really to solidify and find your own voice to know who you are, be comfortable in your own skin, basically.

Vicki: It really takes, I think a lot of prayer for sure. That's my relationship. And that's Our Daily Bread. We actually come together quite often pray about different situations and issues that we face. The other thing is just making sure that you understand to have people around you that support you, people that build you up and not necessarily tear you down. And people that are encouraging and inspiring. I make sure that I have those people around me to make sure that helps me to say it's OK to be you. It's OK to bring all of you to the table. And the other thing is understanding diversity, equity, inclusion. It's for everybody. We're all unique where all different. But how can we really just grow and develop those differences but be able to really embrace them.

Jennifer: And to be okay with that.

Vicki: Yeah. And be okay with that. It's a great thing. It's not a bad thing. It's a great thing.

Jennifer: It would be a boring thing if we were all the same.

Vicki: Exactly would be very boring. Very boring. It's really good to see God's creation and all of the different cultures and nationalities and be able to glean on what do we have in common versus what's different?

Jennifer: I know you work with a lot of people. What are some of the leadership traits and styles that you like to see in the people that you work with and perhaps and those that you mentor?

Vicki: That's a great question. Jen, I think for me is shepherd leadership is huge for me. And most people you don't talk to people on talk about that anymore. And it's not really a trend right now, but it matters how you treat people. And I always tell people to make sure that you treat people how you want to be treated. So care and integrity and empathy and having strong character is important for me, integrity. All of those things are important for me. So I tried to really share that with others that I'm mentoring or that I'm teaching and training. The other thing is time balance, time management and balance. Those are things that are very important as well for leadership. especially women because we try to do it all.

Jennifer: I know I have another question coming up. So what inspired you as you look back and kind of take a glance on your journey, your career to do this work? I mean, I know your human resources background, you know, the places you go, we talked about they do look glamorous, but it's not always easy. And it's a lot of work. But what inspired you to do this to begin with? Because you had 20 years in another company as well?

Vicki: I think what started me and really I would contribute that to my mom. My mom was a strong black woman. She was one that was divorced when I was 10 years old. And so I saw the hardship of that. I saw the hard work and the diligence and the focus and the discipline that she had. And so that became part of my DNA. And so that inspired me to never give up to continue working to be in the role of human resources or diversity, our culture intelligence. It is not easy work. It is a work that takes somebody having some good resilience, some perseverance, and just not giving up but continuing on the journey. So that became a part of my DNA. And so that helps me and inspired me. I started volunteering. My mom was a social worker. And so I always had different people in our homes and foster care worker and all of that. And so that helped me to want to give back to other people to learn about different cultures. And it just inspired me to really just continue to just branch out and not stay in my comfort zone and not worry about all of the obstacles. But how can I keep pressing forward and doing what I feel passionate about.

Jennifer: Like you came full circle. So we talked about getting it all done. So many women feel the pressure of getting it all done. How are you balancing your professional life and your personal life nowadays? Your kids are grown?

Vicki: Yes, I have 3 adult children.

Jennifer: That's quite the accomplishment as well.

Vicki: And they're all doing well. They’re great citizens and doing well. I think what helps me is because I teach and train balance. I teach all of the principles of time management. So you practice what you preach it. Every time I teach it, I learned something more that I have to do with in my life is I make sure that I have good time balance. I make sure that I have things that are organized and very organized with my time and I I've learned to say no to what's not important in my life.

Jennifer: That's key.

Vicki: Yeah, that's key because otherwise use the end up saying yes to so many things, you don't end up fulfilling what's truly important to you.

Jennifer: So what are some of the ways that you now relax with family with friends?

Vicki: That's a great question. Need to find more time for relaxation?

Jennifer: Yeah, you’re always on the road. So I mean, how are you spending that time when you're not?

Vicki: I make sure because family is important to me and my husband we’ve been married 35 years as of November 28th.

Jennifer: Oh congratulations!

Vicki: So I still like him haha. But I make time for family. We are family oriented. My husband loves family. He loves hosting families. Whenever I return, then we always get together so that we have that family time. Whether it's evening, whether it's a Sunday afternoon, we make sure that we get together. We have a touch point to see how is everybody doing because they face some of the same obstacles that I've had to face. And I just want to be able to be a resource for them as well.

Jennifer: Absolutely so, coming off of that and being there for family and having that family time. Easy breezy question, my favorite question, what makes you laugh?

Vicki: A lot of things. I love joy and love peace. I love to be around different people. And what makes me laugh as I think I love jokes and I just like to have a good time. I really do. I enjoy having a good time with people. Yeah, I enjoy that.

Jennifer: That's key. And so much is happening Vicki in the world in which we live in today. And people are often looking for just that little bitty word of encouragement. Do you by chance have a favorite saying, a motto, anything or scripture that you use to encourage yourself or perhaps others?

Vicki: I think for me, it's always that this is such a time that there's so much going on in our world and because I'm in several different countries and people are facing just very different situations. I always encourage people to give thanks in all things. It's not that you enjoy what you're going through. But if you can find the positiveness of if you can find the lessons and it anybody can be encouraged throughout the process then that will help you is just simply to give thanks in all things.

Jennifer: Absolutely. I think that is a good word to end on. Doctor Vicki Harris I really enjoyed this conversation. Thanks so much. So nice to catch up with you again. And thank you all for joining us for another edition of Powerful Women: Let's Talk. I'm Jennifer Moss to enjoy the day.


>> Produced by women, about women, these powerful podcasts focus on powerful women and how their strength transforms who we are, and how we live. Want to hear more Powerful Women: Let’s Talk? Get additional interviews at wgvu.org or wherever you get your podcast. Please rate and subscribe. Powerful Women: Let's Talk is produced by WGVU at the Meijer Public Broadcast Center at Grand Valley State University. The views and opinions expressed on this program do not necessarily reflect those of WGVU, its underwriters, or Grand Valley State University.


Jennifer is an award winning broadcast news journalist with more than two decades of professional television news experience including the nation's fifth largest news market. She's worked as both news reporter and news anchor for television and radio in markets from Grand Rapids and Kalamazoo all the way to San Francisco, California.
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