Redefining Success with Denise Miller

I  had the pleasure of interviewing Denise Miller, the Director of the New Professionals Program at Queens College.  Below, I have a profile on Miss. Miller.

Success is neither status nor wealth, it’s being comfortable in your own skin

Denise Miller, born on the eve of the New Year, sits in a purple sweater and black pants at Room 1 in the Honors Hall. She smiles and waves as I walk into her office. To her back, there’s a frame stacked with thank you letters and birthday cards.

Denise is an employee at Queens College, serving as the Director of the New Professionals Program, a lecturer of the BALA and SEEK Program. She occupies several leadership roles. She worked as a training professional for “Image Builders,” where she provided leadership training, career advancement and personal branding seminars for private groups. She now works on special projects such as “Elizabeth’s Embrace” where she trains a counseling team that delivers etiquette and self-esteem workshops to at-risk girls.

She was the first female from her family to graduate from college, having completed her college education at Pratt Institute. She studied fashion merchandising. During her junior year in college, she decided that fashion was not the industry she would pursue. After college, she received an offer at NationalGrid.  For 22 years, she continued to advance her career at “NationalGrid,” a multinational electricity and gas utility company, previously known as “KeySpan Energy Delivery” and before that, “Brooklyn Union Gas.” She started as an Assistant Customer Service Supervisor, then became the Account Manager, then rose to the role of the Director of Sales Administration. She left due to a merger and a desire for more than the corporate structure.

Though she initially never saw herself in the role of a teacher, she’s found great joy and satisfaction in it. Denise also serves as a Deacon in a church. She credits her faith as having a tremendous influence in her life. She calls her faith the basis of her morals, her foundation.

Every morning, I read the Bible and I keep a gratitude journal. I’ve kept this journal for three years. Every morning, I write down what I was thankful for the previous day. It can be the little things. It can be being thankful for having a peaceful day at work (laughs).

I’m proud of the work I’m doing and how far I’ve been able to take the New Professionals Program. I’m glad I didn’t stay at NationalGrid longer than I did. I watched young women of different races, Caucasian and Hispanic come into the company. They worked hard but they were stressed. I didn’t feel as though it mattered.

I left because I didn’t like the system. It was the 1970s and I was surrounded by a lot of people that didn’t look like me. I was surrounded by a majority of Caucasian men. They were in charge and they all hung out with each other. However, I did learn a lot from the job. Everything I learned has helped me to do what I need to do today. When I left, I knew it was time for me to go. I remember the Senior Vice President spoke to me about the decision, telling me I should go. “I don’t want a situation where in 30 years, you say that this job kept you from fulfilling your potential,” he told me. I stayed with the company for 22 years. Most people move around which is normal. It’s great that I was able to move up but the breaking point was the merger. There was a buyout and the allies I had were people who had left or were leaving. Before I left, I spoke to my father and two of my pastors. They all agreed that it was the best decision for me to go.

I believe in mentoring others. I don’t have children. My generation has raised their children differently. They want to be their kid’s friends but children need guidance. Whenever possible, kids also need to be in families where there is a father and mother. My mother sacrificed a lot for us. She put up with a lot from my father but it meant that we weren’t raised in poverty. At the end of the day, fathers are important. Children who don’t have active fathers are affected by it and it’s not just the boys. It’s also the girls. Fathers teach girls how men should approach them.

I train the counseling team for at-risk girls at “Elizabeth’s Embrace.” There was a particular exercise for a seminar the women conducted. The mentors gave out colored pieces of paper and each participant had to write something positive about the other participants. At the end of the day, everyone had a list of all these positive affirmations to keep about themselves. It could be things such as “I like your voice,” or your dimples or your smile. I like helping women. I like helping women to be successful. Being successful is not about wealth or status but being comfortable in your own skin. Your self-esteem matters a lot. If you’re a woman that knows who you are and what you want, you won’t put up with just everything.

My faith is important. It’s the basis for how I behave. It’s important for me to behave well because my life will help people to notice my Lord. Now, don’t get me wrong, there are days I can get angry. I am quite capable of cursing you out (laughs). I’m not perfect. But if that were to happen, I’d apologize right after. I do however make it a point to be careful about what I say and what I let others say to me. Words have power. Everything is spoken into being. Life and death are in the power of the tongue. Four years ago, during Christmas Eve, I was talking to someone about my relocation from one apartment to another. This was a person that I did not even know. She told me that I was moving from what was perceived to be a nice neighborhood to a not so nice neighborhood. I said, “girl you better watch your mouth.” If you don’t refute these things, they will stick. I never saw her again after that party (laughs).

My greatest accomplishment is going back to school at 56 years old. I have a 3.97 GPA. I just need to get my thesis done (laughs).

I always mentor and speak to groups of women. I had the pleasure of going to a conference: “Voices Women Conference” where I spoke amongst a panel of other significant women. I have a selfie with Susan Taylor, the former editor of Essence.

I know I’m fulfilling my purpose now.

Isioma Ononye: Your purpose is to teach others, to mentor?

Yes. My other purpose is to point others to the direction of God, to tell them that they do not go unnoticed. My faith is my foundation. I love Jesus. You see, I don’t have a religion. I have a relationship. Some people punch in and out. They go to church, say their prayers, sing the songs and come home. I do that but I also carry my faith when I leave the church. A lot of people see me and they talk about how positive I am. It really is my faith. You wouldn’t want to know Denise without the Lord.

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