Here’s the latest Q&A from our blog desk to give you insight into the members of RBLP’s terrific faculty; today we’re speaking with Maria Hamelers, RBLP-T!
Hi Maria! Thanks for chatting with us. Tell us a little about who you are and where you’re from.
First, thank you for this opportunity, I consider it a privilege to be part of this great organization. I was born and raised in Bolivia, and immigrated to the U.S. right out of high school. As I reflect on my years growing up, what I remember the most is my parents instilling in myself and my brother values such as: dedication, perseverance, hard work, honesty, and integrity. Those are the values that got me thru four years of college; I started college less than a month after I arrived in the States. My English was considerably basic, thus understanding what the professors were saying was a challenge to say the least. To overcome this, I started recording all of my classes, and at the end of the day I would spend hours translating and understanding the material. I tell this story because resilience – though I did not know at the time – has always been part of me. During college I joined the Air Force Reserves, but later changed to the Army and went into active duty afterwards. I was in for 25 years, during which I deployed twice and was stationed on every large Army installation you can think of. My family and I now reside in the Dallas area, where we have found our forever home.
What can you tell us about your education and career background before you started working with RBLP?
I have a Bachelor’s in Biology from West Virginia University and a Master’s in Emergency and Disaster Management from Trident. After graduating from WVU, I joined the service; I wanted to travel the world and get to know myself but didn’t expect to serve 25 years. Throughout my service, I did get to travel but the best part was getting to know and make so many great friends. As a career counselor I got to mentor, coach, and develop soldiers, the most rewarding part was helping them achieve their goals and realize their potential. There is nothing more fulfilling than when you get a phone call, and at the other end is one of your soldiers saying, “I made it I got picked up for, SGM!”. The pride you feel for them and their families is beyond me.
After retirement I started working with Attitudes & Attire, a non-profit that works with women. I have to say working at A&A has been extremely rewarding, teaching these ladies how to become more resilient by giving them tools and skills they can use everyday to get back into the workforce. I consider myself a lifelong learner; I am always looking at opportunities to improve myself, be that by attending seminars or taking courses online. I believe there is always something to learn, to see in a new way – it enhances your quality of life.
What drew you to the role that you’re fulfilling with RBLP as a certification instructor?
I found RBLP as part of the Giving Back program; A&A is a proud RBLP partner, but what really drew me to becoming a certification instructor is the concept of team resilience. As you gain knowledge and leadership experience within the military this concept is almost second nature: Build your team in a way they can overcome any obstacle, any hardship, and as they face adversity together the team can learn and be successful. I love to be able to teach this to the corporate world, small and large organizations alike. I believe if I can install the concept of team resilience with any organization, there is a benefit company-wide as well as with individuals.
Who is a role model that you’ve interacted with in your life that inspired you toward this career trajectory?
Throughout my career in the Army I had several role models, but the one to whom I will be eternally thankful who put me on the path of being a Career Counselor was SGM Merle Henry (retired). When I enlisted, I joined as an Administrative Specialist – a jack of all trades, master of none, and because of the unpredictability and slow promotion it was driving me to consider separating after five years. SGM Henry asked me to work for him as a Reenlistment NCO; later, he asked if I wanted to change to a Career Counselor. At the time, I did not see what he saw. Having someone that genuinely believes in you is inspiring and motivating, it forces you to go beyond and do your best not to disappoint.
In your mind, what is the best definition of “resilience” for those who might be unfamiliar with the program that RBLP offers?
Resilience to me is being able to overcome hardship. This does not mean avoiding or thinking that you come out untouched, but instead learning and striving to be your best self. Although what I just described is considered personal resilience, just imagine what can be accomplished if this is applied to a team. Teams are the nucleus of any organization, the heart and the matter from which any company can thrive, not just survive.
What are the three most important components, in your opinion, that you try to convey to every team that you train under the RBLP certification program?
One of my favorite topics of RBLP is teaching Providing Purpose. I believe this is the glue that holds a team together. When leaders ensure and show that an organization takes care of their employees, then people are more willing to go the extra mile. This is done by 1) Making sure people have a sense of purpose; 2) Understanding their “why”; and 3) Allowing them to grow personally and professionally. You do this and your employees will never want to leave. My hope is that my students can take these concepts and apply them, so employees can flourish and become an asset to the organization.
What is one of your own best, personal experiences in your career that has influenced or inspired you in your certification training?
There are several examples, but one comes to mind: When I got assigned to the 1st Cavalry Division, Fort Hood, TX. I got there during a time of major changes – at the time the Army was starting to build back up, drawdown was coming to an end and complacency was rampant among my career counselors. Thus, my challenge became providing them purpose; I helped them see the reason why they called themselves career counselors, the influence they can have within the command, due to their position as well as the benefit they bring to soldiers and their families. That helped them see the bigger picture, to see how and why end strength was important to the Army, their efforts matter not just to the retention mission of 1st Cavalry Division but to individuals. During my coaching sessions, I always share this story because it embodies the reason why it is necessary to provide purpose.
In your time as an RBLP instructor, what is one of your best memories of a training program that you’ve accomplished with a company and why?
What I love the best about my coaching sessions is when I see in students the excitement, eagerness to talk about the subject, or when students say, “Wait, I have an example…” Those type of expressions tell me that the folks that take the RBLP certification are those who want to learn, understand the importance of leadership, want to develop their skills and just be a better version of themselves.
Pivoting a little bit from the program – tell us a little about yourself outside of work! What other activities or hobbies do you love?
Outside RBLP and A&A, I volunteer with FourBlock as a career coach. I have also started dabbling in writing: I am a co-author of Latinas 100, a book that was published in December of 2020. But what I really enjoy is spending time with my family; my husband and I have an 11 – soon to be 12 – year-old daughter, who thinks she is a teenager. We are just trying to slow down time as much as we can. We do our best to be out in nature, going on walks or camping. Now due to COVID, we spend more time at home watching movies, having our tea or hot chocolate, and just spending time together.
Can you give us a quotation that you feel really inspires you to continue inspiring others?
“If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader” – John Quincy Adams
RBLP leadership certifications are about Building Resilient Teams™ that overcome adversity and then can adapt and grow together!