Camille Berry is the founder and principal of Camille Berry Consulting, where she helps both nonprofit leaders and for-profit directors learn how to manage relationships and secure funds. She was also recently elected as a Chapel Hill Town Council Member.
Years into her nonprofit career, she started thinking about what she wanted next in her “work existence.” She ultimately decided to start her own consulting business after reflecting on what really brings her joy.
“I was able to come up with three major things that I wanted in my next career move,” Camille says. “One, work with other people. The second thing is I have to be able to persuade. And then the third part was the ability to travel.”
Camille explains that being able to persuade or make an ask, is one of her favorite things about her work.
“I can only do that with things that I firmly believe. So when I make an ask, that means I get to talk about something that I’m really strongly passionate about. That’s part of where the magic comes in.”
Explore, But Don’t Expect to Be at The Top From the Beginning
When Camille moved on from her last nonprofit job, she was warned to “be careful because you’re getting older and you’re going to face ageism.”
She was struck by how much she didn’t want fear to hold her back.
“We can’t further restrain ourselves and say I’m going to play it safe because of ageism,” she said.
She added that the idea of exploring is often lost on the youth. And she believes anyone, at any age, should continue to explore and learn.
However, she also said that as future leaders start exploring, they shouldn’t expect to be at the top right away.
“Take in as much as possible,” she says.
One of Camille’s first jobs was as a secretary at Spelman College. In just a few years, she climbed the ranks and became the youngest senior administrative assistant to the Senior Vice President for Institutional Advancement. In this position, Camille saw how all the divisions in her department collaborated.
“It was what I considered a lowly job and, yet, the preparation it gave me for what I employed as an executive director, what I employed as Head of Development and what I’ll be taking on as Council Member was invaluable. Because of that experience, I have a stronger basis for understanding how things work together,” she adds.
The Path to Council Member
In 2019, while continuing her nonprofit work, Camille took a class on how to run for office. Originally she planned to take the course to help others who might decide to run, but she ultimately ended up running for Town Council herself.
“I looked and we had an issue here in Chapel Hill with mobile housing,” she said. “ I was concerned that humanity was being lost. I had first-hand experience facing homelessness and I was concerned that that voice was not amplified enough. So that’s why I ran.”
Although she didn’t start her career with political ambitions, being willing to stay open and explore led her down this path. Camille will be able to combine her strengths, her unique perspective and the things that bring her joy as she serves as a Council Member.
Her Advice? Connect with a Circle
Instead of just building a network, Camille says to think about connecting with a circle.
“This is beyond mentorship,” she says. “Instead of only going to a network of people when you are in need, find a way to give generously and contribute to the people around you. Look for ways to be of service to someone else.”
Camille also advises doing more than just paying it forward. “I, instead, say ‘keep the good going’.”
She thinks of this like the merry-go-round playground equipment. “It’s easier to keep it going than it is to get it started,” she says. “It’s even easier if there are more people doing it and it’s spread out.”
For Camille, it’s all about helping those around her, receiving help when she needs it and keeping the good going.