Career Spotlight

Velma Hart – Chief Operating Officer

Photo credit: Velma Hart

“I am in my ideal job right now.”

– Velma Hart

Professional organizations engage and bring together people of the industry. They provide access to professional development and networking opportunities for individuals in an industry, at all levels of their career. Organizations are cultural collaborations of people who seek to make awareness and advancement of the industry more accessible. They are advocates and sponsors for their members, made by people, for people. Velma Hart is one such individual whose career is built for people. A Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of her own organization, and Chief Operating Officer (COO) of the Construction Specifications Institute (CSI), Velma’s career allows her to help others become successful. She is an accomplished female business owner who has raised “two grown accomplished, thriving, and very successful daughters” with her partner of almost forty years.

Velma will also be presenting “DEI in the AECO Community: What Does it Really Mean?” at the Emerge AEC January networking session. Register here to join us on January 26th from 6:45 -8 PM EST.

About Velma

Velma has spent thirty years in the non-profit industry. Her specialty skills include accounting, finance, operations management, and people. While she has not always known that she wanted to work in the nonprofit environment, she now can’t “imagine [herself] in any other industry.” Her pursuit of finance began with her “passion for understanding how numbers work.” A graduate of the University of Maryland Global Campus, Velma chose her alma mater for the opportunity it gave her to pursue a dual degree in management and business while working. Her first job upon graduation was as a bookkeeper, handling accounting and reconciliation tasks. As with many industries, what surprised Velma the most was “how much of what [she] learned in school was not applicable to real-world accounting.” To that end, Velma pursued industry certifications and networking opportunities.

“The relationships you make today will be critical to achieving your goals in the future.”

– Velma Hart


Since graduating, Velma has been involved and engaged with many others through various networking organizations. She had pledged to the business sorority ETA PHI BETA, joined professional organizations such as ASAE, pursued continuing education, and attended networking events. Some additional industry resources she finds useful are partner websites and publications, such as those belonging to AIA, BOMA, and NIBS.

“Attend networking events, earn certifications, join organizations that give back to the causes and people.”

– Velma Hart


It’s not easy choosing your paths in life as a young adult. Many narrow their choices down to pursue higher education or full-time employment. Pursuing both at the same time is a challenge and sometimes not feasible. Those who have chosen to pursue education often find themselves choosing between additional graduate-level schooling or professional experience. For Velma, the answer was driven by the profession. “An argument can be made both ways, but I tend to believe practical experience better prepares you for graduate-level studies and thinking.” This is especially applicable for the more technical professions. Practical experience will provide the individual with knowledge for the heavy, hypothetical discussions at the graduate level. 

More important in the selection process of graduate school and/or employment is “life-fit.” Velma believes that completion is the “big win for whatever path you choose.” If something does not fit into your life or schedule, then completion is more challenging. Decisions such as these are not meant to be taken lightly. They offer opportunities and experiences that will influence professional and personal development.

“My experiences made me strong, wise, and tenacious.”

– Velma Hart

The transition from student to professional has its challenges. For Velma, these struggles have only made her stronger, wiser, and more tenacious. They’ve also led her to many successes contributing, in a large part, to the individual she is today. They’ve also given her many insights and lessons learned on chasing after things even when scared.

“I realized now that I canceled myself before I even applied . . . I realize how self-limiting that was now.”

– Velma Hart

In her career, Velma has seen people restricting their personal growth trajectory by using the phrases “I can’t, I don’t have, and I’m not enough.” These statements cancel opportunities that were available and in front of her. Opportunities will not wait around until the individual is no longer afraid. “Don’t cancel yourself or your growth, go for it,” especially when it’s there for you to grab.

“Most of the significant things I’ve done in this life, I’ve done scared.”

– Velma Hart

That said, one should not overcommit by accepting any and all prospects that appear their way. Apart from it becoming a time management risk, it’s not good practice for self-care. “Self-care is critical, being able to bring your best self to every engagement.” Before attempting to help others, one must first help themselves. It’s important to give adequate time to all tasks, in particular, the most important ones. You will decide what’s most important. 

“Make sure to make time for you.”

– Velma Hart

As Velma said, “do network” and start with her. To connect with Velma directly, reach out to her on the following platforms below.

Velma Hart, MBA, FASAE, CAE

Email: | LinkedIn: Velma Hart | Instagram: @courageinthefire | Twitter: @hartonthematter | Facebook: Velma Hart

Emerge AEC is also thrilled to have Velma present at our January networking session, titled “DEI in the AECO Community: What Does it Really Mean?” on January 26th from 6:45 PM – 8 PM EST. Register for our virtual session using the following link: Register Here

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