In November 2021, we interviewed Derik Holt, a current Human Resources Management student at Portland State University, and returning 2-time Emerging Leader, most recently interning in 2021 at Tillamook County Creamery Association.
Emerging Leaders Team: We’ve been grateful to have you in ELI for the past two summers. What attracted you to the program, and motivated you to return?
Derik: When I heard about ELI, I heard that it was a program that helps students get internships. It is really a lot more than that. ELI has helped develop me into a young professional. It has taught me to present myself on LinkedIn, prepare for interviews, and show up as my authentic self in the workplace.
EL: As an Emerging Leader, what are you passionate about?
Derik: As an Emerging Leader, I am passionate about Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI). This passion stems from wanting to make a change in the way that people interact with each other. No one should walk into a room and feel like they don’t belong in it. Everyone should feel empowered to be their authentic selves all the time without repercussions.
“No one should walk into a room and feel like they don’t belong in it. Everyone should feel empowered to be their authentic selves all the time without repercussions. ”
EL: Building and participating in intentional community with other Emerging Leaders of Color is a key value for many interns. You’ve been active in our cohort events. What has that looked like?
Derik: Networking with other Emerging Leaders/professionals was a highlight of the program. There were weekly virtual coffee chats where interns had the opportunity to chat one-on-one with each other. We also got to network with professionals in Portland who had positions in fields/jobs we were interested in. It was a space where we could all share our stories, and we all excited each other.
ELI also held a service event where interns could come together and write cards to residents in a retirement community. COVID-19 has negatively impacted retirement homes as people cannot visit at all or as frequently because of restrictions. We wrote letters to the residents to let them know they weren’t alone and had a friend to talk to.
EL: What highlight or takeaway would you share from your ELI experience thus far?
Derik: I have found [ELI’s] professional development workshops to be very insightful. It is nice to talk to professionals around Portland who care about making a difference within their organization regarding DEI.
I [was asked] what my DEI strategy was; how would I combat the issue of DEI in the workplace. I’m so passionate about it, and have learned all these different strategies, but I had never had anyone ask me to put it into words. I was stumped initially, as all these strategies were running through my mind, but strategies alone are not what brings DEI to life. It’s a combination of carefully selected strategies that make sense to coexist within the same plan.
You can’t just throw in every DEI strategy you’ve learned at a workshop. You need to 1. look within your organization, find the specific flaws it faces, 2. learn and develop new strategies based on said flaws, 3. implement such strategies, 4. and then act and continue to adapt as the world is changing.
I do not think there’s any plan for solving DEI as every problem is unique and should be handled. I think that is where the challenge of DEI stems. We have this idea that we will be okay if we construct a great DEI plan that incorporates all these strategies. In reality, these strategies are just the unfurnished house of changes that need to be implemented. It’s our job to furnish this house with things we see fit, which depends on what we are facing.
EL: As a successful 2-time ELI intern, what advice would you give to future candidates?
Derik: My advice to those thinking about applying or preparing for interviews is to be authentic as possible. Take some time to figure out what makes you passionate in life and run with that. People can be taught to perform hard skills such as Microsoft Office, but no one can be taught how to be passionate about something.
“Take some time to figure out what makes you passionate in life and run with that. People can be taught to perform hard skills, but no one can be taught how to be passionate about something.”