My DEI Story: Chatrane Birbal
Tuesday, June 9, 2020
By Chatrane Birbal, Vice President, Public Policy at SHRM
My DEI Story is that I am a first-generation college graduate and one of few Guyanese lobbyists in Washington, DC.
Born in Guyana, South America to Indo-Caribbean parents, I never dreamed of a career in government relations. I grew up as an only child in Queens, NY and I was a latchkey kid. My “job” was to go to school and earn good grades. Watching politics and the news on television was a nightly routine with my parents.
My academic world took on a new life once I started high school. I became academically competitive, excelling in my classes, taking AP courses like Latin (my real first encounter with law) and became a member of the debate team. While on the debate team, I was introduced to members of the New York District Attorney’s office who served as advisors and mentors. These experiences and interactions influenced my interest in law and government.
As an only child and first-generation student to apply for college in the United States, I was completely overwhelmed with the different paths I could take with my education. Luckily, with the help of college advisors and the support of my parents, I successfully applied and got accepted to SUNY Buffalo, declaring a major in Political Science.
At the time, my plan was to graduate with a degree in Political Science and then pursue a law degree. I wanted the highly coveted “J.D.” behind my name. However, I realized I wasn’t cut out for practicing law for a few reasons. For one, I internalized cases too much and there was a chance my moral compass might be compromised—a situation I didn’t want to take a chance on. After getting insight and perspective from my political science professors, they all agreed they could see me in a public policy and administration role. Nevertheless, at that time, I was still uncertain.
I took the advice of my professors and applied and was accepted to George Mason University’s Public Administration program. Fast forward to a couple years later, I landed my first government relations job as a junior lobbyist for the American Psychiatric Association. That opportunity served as a launching pad for my career in government relations.
Fourteen years later, I’m the Vice President of Public Policy at the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM). I thoroughly enjoy working on the legislative issues I cover, as they impact every day working Americans. Unfortunately, I often find I’m usually one of the youngest and one of few minorities in the room (especially on topics like health care and taxes). At the same time, I’m very proud of my accomplishments so far and hope to be an inspiration for other women who want to pursue careers in government relations.
Everyone has a DEI story that makes us who we are. If you’re interested in learning more, join us at the WGR Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion Virtual Summit on July 14, 21, and 28 from 9:30-11:30 am each day. Each day will feature a different objective including education, ownership, and action. This three-day experience will feature keynote speakers, as well as interactive panels, and ample time for reflection to help participants translate their own DEI stories and experiences into actionable resources for their personal and professional lives. Register now to take part in this innovative and comprehensive deep dive of diversity, equity, and inclusion issues.
WGR’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) Committee will be featuring a series of blogs from Committee Members and DEI Allies focused on “My DEI Story”. These blogs are intended not only to highlight the multitude of diversity that exists within our world, but to also recognize that EVERYONE has a DEI story!