State of Michigan
Industry: Government/Public Service
Field: Public Services
Marilyn J. Branham longed for a career that would enable her to serve others. As an office supervisor for the state of Michigan, she serves as the primary contact for customers in the accounts receivable unit and makes it her first priority to ensure customer satisfaction. Although dealing with members of the public, especially those who are frustrated, can be trying, she strives to understand her client’s needs, thus leading her to assess the situation and resolve their issues. When helping those who are less fortunate, to her it is a moral and social responsibility, not just a job.
Growing up, Ms. Branham was greatly inspired by her parents, who made many sacrifices to educate her and her sister and instill strong values in them. Being a young single parent, she cultivated in herself the determination and drive to provide for her own son. She feels that her experiences in raising a child alone made her a stronger person than she would have been otherwise. In addition to her parents, she gives credit to three of her teachers who always provided encouragement and expected excellence.
A certified social work technician, Ms. Branham has been working for the state for more than 37 years. Her responsibilities include assisting with the collection of monies owed to the department of state, which can be taxing. However, her greatest career achievement and source of gratification was helping clients to become self-sufficient. In fact, a former client of hers was interviewed on television for her accomplishments in a sheltered workshop. Ms. Branham has been recognized as an outstanding individual in public service with several awards. She has been bestowed a certificate of merit for her part with the Grand Idea Program, and an award for 35 years of service, both from the state of Michigan, in addition to being a four-time recipient of a certificate of appreciation from the Michigan Department of State.
A freelance musician since 1969, Ms. Branham teaches private lessons and performs at several venues. She earned a bachelor’s degree in music in 1971 from Western Michigan University. In order to perfect her craft, she holds memberships with the Grand Rapids Federation of Musicians and the American Federation of Musicians. She also is a volunteer for Saint James Church. In the future, she intends to continue performing, teaching, and serving the public.
Conversation with Marilyn J. Branham
Worldwide Publishing: On what topic(s) do you consider yourself to be an expert?
Marilyn J. Branham: Music.
What characteristics help to separate you from your colleagues?
My determination and perseverance, and the fact that I want customers to understand how the system works so that they can see what they need to do.
What motivates you?
My personal work ethic and strong sense of customer service. My son also motivates me.
What lessons have you learned as a professional in your field for the past 37 years?
I have learned to be tolerant of differing view points, especially since I am dealing with a public that consists of different cultures and nationalities. Our country is such a melting pot.
What short-term and long-term career goals are you currently pursuing?
My short-term [goal], in regards to my immediate job, is to learn the new aspects because we have changed some programs and computer systems. As new laws are implemented, we have to reframe our thinking. My long-term goal is to [improve] myself as a musician and advance in my career, if the opportunity presents itself. I want to have the time to do music the way I want to and be able to travel.
What is the most difficult obstacle or challenge you have faced in pursuit of your goals?
Being a single parent at such a young age was the hardest thing in terms of moving forward. Also, working in the male-dominated industries of music and politics was difficult. When I was in college, there were no other women playing guitar at the university I attended.
What is the most significant issue facing your profession today?
The lack of funds, and people moving out of the state of Michigan.
Did you ever consider pursuing a different career path or another profession? If yes, how did you end up working in your current field?
Music was what I intended to do at the time that I was going through school. But it was pretty understood that to be a musician, you would have to do something else [as well]. You would have to have two jobs.
What do you find to be the most rewarding about your profession?
Helping customers resolve their situations.
What is your favorite or least favorite work-related task to do and why?
My least favorite aspect is dealing with angry customers. It’s the most challenging thing, and yet my goal is to turn it around and into a positive thing. That’s why I spend so much time explaining things to the customers; the reason why most of them are angry is because they don’t understand something.
What advice can you offer fellow members or others aspiring to work in your industry?
Get as much education as you can, be willing to start somewhere, and then move toward where you ultimately want to go.
Who have been your mentors or people who have greatly influenced you?
My parents, Stanley C. and Donna M. Snow, and several teachers have influenced me.
What changes have you observed in your industry/field since you started?
There has been a significant amount of downsizing in the last 10 years.
How do you see these changes affecting the future of your industry?
I think having fewer numbers of employees will necessitate their use of technology to complete formerly labor-intensive tasks. Citizens can obtain more information on the Internet and can use more self-serve options than in the past, so employees will need to have more people and problem-solving skills. Continuous learning will be important.