As Edythe Hatter-Williams, CEO at Capital Area Michigan Works! (CAMW!) stands outside the CAMW! building awaiting the end of her photo shoot, she casually opens the door for an unsuspecting patron pushing a stroller. The simple act speaks to her very nature as a sweet and humble woman. She notes several times in conversation how fortunate she has been to have received so many opportunities to better educate herself and share that education with others. This is the basis of her entire life. The Flint native’s career aspirations started early when she chose a different path than that of her friends in high school. “At that point most of the kids I went to school with went to work in the automotive industry and I knew, even then, that wasn’t what I wanted to do,” Hatter-Williams said. “In high school I wanted to be a secretary. I took all the business ed classes and I did really well. I even took classes at the skill center.” She knew, after high school, as most of her friends entered the workforce, she would pursue additional educational opportunities. She was motivated and had the support of her parents to carry her through. “It was instilled in me by my parents at a young age that it was important to continue post-secondary school. I was always told I could do whatever I wanted to do, but I would need education to get there,” Hatter-Williams said. Hatter-Williams found her first professional inspiration when working her co-op job at the GM Institute. She learned the importance of encouragement and managerial skills she values still today. “I was fortunate to get a co-op job. I was placed at the GM Institute and worked in the student services department. My manager really helped me to broaden my horizons. I learned what I could be and what I could do. They gave me tasks that really pushed me to think outside the box and I was able to work on my own unsupervised. It really gave me the opportunity to learn about what a good supervisor did,” said Hatter-Williams. Building on her past experience, Hatter-Williams worked to find the next step in her career, which ultimately lead to the next step in her education. Hatter Williams went on to receive both her bachelor degree and masters degree from Eastern Michigan University. “My wheels started turning and I thought to myself, ‘I am going back to school,’” Hatter-Williams said. “While I was in school, I actually started my career in the Flint schools. It was a summer job and when I graduated I was hired. I started out as a secretary and worked my way up to program facilitator.” Hatter-Williams ended up leaving Flint schools, not to pursue further education, but instead to share her education with others. She ran her own company and taught teen parents who had dropped out of school. Though she enjoyed her time as an educator, she found a role more suited to her at CAMW! when a friend mentioned an open position. Michigan Works! has 24 agencies across the state that provide services to businesses and help job seekers who are looking for employment. During her 17-year-career with CAMW! Hatter-Williams moved up through the ranks ultimately taking over as CEO last November. She works to better prepare the workforce in the greater Lansing area for today’s jobs and tomorrow’s booming industries. “I have been so blessed to be in an organization that allowed me to stay and grow. My favorite part is knowing we help job seekers and businesses find the right fit. We help people get additional training or even help someone become self-sufficient. It makes me feel really good helping people and businesses be successful,” Hatter-Williams said. Hatter-Williams’ dedication to her career and love of education is something she felt strongly about passing on to her three daughters. As a single parent to Edythe, Roneshia and Courtney, she worked to teach her girls by example that hard work pays off. “My daughters always understood that the expectation was they were going to graduate and then go beyond that. It didn’t have to be college but I told them they weren’t going to live with me forever,” Hatter-Williams said with a laugh. Each of her girls found educational success in different ways, but all share the same ambition and drive as their mother. Hatter-Williams is most proud of the women her daughters have become and the independence they have found. “I lived in Flint and I commuted for 13 years while the girls were in school. I think it made them very strong females. I think it made them appreciate things more. They didn’t take stuff for granted. Being a single parent and then working and being an hour away from them, they would cook and clean and I think that helped them grow into young adults and independent women,” said Hatter-Williams. Hatter-Williams has had a long career and shows no signs of slowing down. The spunky and outgoing woman shared her tips for juggling all the different aspects of her life. “I truly believe you have to find a way to have balance so you don’t burn out or neglect your family. My children are grown now, but I do try to make sure we all get together two or three times a year. My sister and I are really close and it’s those relationships that are important. I have been so blessed to be able to do what I love and travel because I have good people around me. That is important,” said Hatter-Williams. Though Hatter-Williams doesn’t have any plans to seek out more formal education at this point in her life, she believes you never really stop learning and some lessons apply to everything. She shares her advice to those who are just starting out and those who are looking to start over. “Be truthful. Give creative criticism to help correct someone. Be honest and be true to yourself. Don’t put down other people. Don’t let anyone tell you what you can and can’t do,” said Hatter-Williams. “The only person who can stop you is you. That may be cliché but being female in the corporate world, you have to figure out who you are, what your brand is and you have to shine brighter than everyone else. Just remember nobody can take your education away from you.”
Ami Iceman-Hauter is the Brand Manager at M3 Group in downtown Lansing. Iceman is a graduate of Michigan State University with a bachelors degree in creative advertising.