C-Suite Insights with Maryland Commerce Secretary Kevin Anderson

C-Suite Insights with Maryland Commerce Secretary Kevin Anderson

Maryland’s 12,400 square-miles are full of diverse professionals who span a variety of industries, sectors, and backgrounds. With our new series, C-Suite Insights, we’re shining the spotlight on some of our state’s leading executives in Q&A format and giving them a chance to share their thoughts on business and life in Maryland.

To kick off the series, we’re chatting with Secretary Kevin Anderson of the Maryland Department of Commerce.

Please tell us a little bit about yourself and your organization.
I’m the Secretary of the Maryland Department of Commerce, the state's primary economic development agency charged with attracting new businesses, encouraging business expansion, and providing workforce training and financial assistance resources. I’m a former business executive with a background in community development, educational technology and finance. I served in Washington, D.C. under Mayor Anthony Williams’ administration as a Special Assistant to the City Administrator and Chief of Staff at the D.C. Department of Transportation. Originally from Washington, D.C., I graduated from Lawrence Academy in Groton, MA. My BA in Economics is from Stanford University and I have completed finance, leadership, and executive education at the JFK School of Government at Harvard University, and the National Development Council.

Where in Maryland do you live?
Prince George’s County

Where in Maryland is your office located?
Baltimore City

What is your favorite activity to do/place to visit in Maryland with your family/friends?
I like to play golf and relax with friends, but I’m also a history buff and love visiting sites around Maryland. I was in Dorchester County recently and got a chance to visit the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Visitor Center and see the new statue of Tubman outside the county courthouse in Cambridge. It’s pretty incredible, and a really great storytelling opportunity about Maryland’s important role in American history.

What was your first job?
My actual first job was at the age of 14 being an employee of Washington D.C. Mayor Marion Barry’s Inaugural Summer Youth Employment Program. I can’t tell you exactly what I did all day every day for the summer (we did lectures, interned with businesses, cleaned up the community, played sports, etc.), but I got the message early in life that having a job was the best thing in the world.

When I was 17, I worked for Hertz cleaning rental cars at Reagan National Airport. I’d just gotten my driver’s license, and they eventually taught me to drive the empty shuttle buses to get cleaned as well. I worked the graveyard shift, from midnight to 8 a.m. But I didn’t mind; that was a lot of money to me.

Gen Z has entered the workforce. How do you think this next generation will influence the workforce?
The COVID-19 pandemic certainly changed the way we think about remote work and the work-life balance; I don’t foresee employers ever getting everyone back into the office full-time like we did before. Gen Z, in particular, seems to want to make sure that their jobs and careers accommodate their social and family lives, not vice versa. In modern workplaces, we’re seeing companies building out casual areas to sit and chat, areas that have coffee and serve lunch – not your traditional corporate workplaces. I think Gen Z will make employers more sensitive and more responsive to the personal, social and family needs of the workforce.

What do you wish you knew in your first year of business that you know now?
Generally speaking, people have more influence than institutions. It’s easy to think of large organizations like corporations or government agencies as machines where everyone just has to do their own little task. But those machines are more sensitive to individuals than they might first appear; CEOs have incredible influence over how organizations function. Vision matters; leadership matters. But this also means that rank-and-file employees can have more of an influence than you might think; if you’re just coming in at an entry-level position, for example, you could still bring a fresh perspective that’s very important.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
“Every organization eventually takes on the characteristics of its leader.” That one sticks with me.

What would you like to see the state of Maryland (business-wise) accomplish over the next decade?
We need to continue to build out our very strong industries – cyber, life sciences, quantum, artificial intelligence, aerospace, and manufacturing, just to name a few – that expand our economy and create the kind of growth that leads to not only a thriving and robust economy but an equitable one where no one gets left behind.

What's your favorite thing to eat or drink with Old Bay?
Old Bay Potato Chips. That’s an easy one.

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