WGR Featured Member: Tamara Hiler

Tamara Hiler
Senior Policy Advisor/Higher Ed Campaign Manager, Third Way

Favorite DC Restaurant: Sundevich Sandwich (at Union Drinkery)
Hometown: Cumming, GA
Fun Fact:  I’m currently participating in a competitive karaoke league
About Tamara: I first got involved in the education policy debate after teaching 7th grade science at a public middle school in Los Angeles and seeing how policy decisions made at the federal, state, and local levels can have a real impact on the lives of students and teachers. Since then, I’ve been in DC for the last 4 years, where I get to think strategically every day about innovative policy solutions. I live with my husband (who is still a middle school teacher), and you can find us most weekends checking out new local exercise classes, restaurants, and bars.

What advice do you have for young women entering the field? Network, network, network. I know—that’s the most DC thing to say—but I can’t underscore enough how important it is to get out there and make connections with other women in the field. I’ve been pleasantly surprised at how willing and open most people are in this town to have “get-to-know-you” coffees or informational interviews, so don’t be shy to actually follow up when people hand you their business cards at a happy hour or networking event. Also, if the idea of networking intimidates/scares you, look out for networking 101 trainings (including through WGR) to help sharpen those skills—it will feel more natural the more you do it!

What has been your most rewarding accomplishment/what are you most proud of?
The first project I ever worked on after moving to DC was to help Third Way create a policy platform around modernizing the teaching profession. Having come from the classroom as a former teacher, I was able to draw on my own experiences for how we could improve the teacher pipeline, like updating the licensure system or how we handle teacher loan forgiveness. One of the most rewarding experiences then was getting to see two of my policy proposals be turned into legislative language that were introduced by bipartisan members in both the House and Senate. In fact, one of them was turned into an allowable use of funds for states as part of the No Child Left Behind reauthorization bill.

What challenges do you face as a woman in government affairs? Give an example of a situation you’ve encountered and how you responded. 
As a woman (who looks pretty young for my age), sometimes I feel like I have to work twice as hard to have my ideas or expertise be taken seriously—especially at large roundtable meetings. When I first started out in DC, I played into this insecurity, by either sitting on the sidelines during conversations or keeping my ideas quiet for fear that they weren’t as brilliant as others’ in the room. Over time though, I’ve learned that being willing to sit at the table (literally and figuratively) and jumping into the conversation can very quickly counter the preconceived notions others might have. I always set a goal for myself to speak at least once (usually more) during each meeting—so come in prepared ahead of time with a talking point or two and make sure to speak up! 

Connect with Tamara

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