Victoria Cross works for Central Human Resources at Multnomah County, where she has worked since 2000. At Multnomah County, Victoria is the founder and chair of the Multnomah County Employee Resource Group for Immigrants and Refugees. She has received national recognition for her work in promoting awareness of the needs of immigrants and refugees in the workplace.
Victoria has been part of Portland Workforce Alliance since 2015. Throughout her time at PWA, she has led several Career Days in the IT field and has supported career learning in healthcare. Victoria furthers her work in diversity and inclusion as a member of the PWA Equity & Access committee.
Victoria shared these remarks with us during a recent board meeting:
Tell us about yourself:
“My name is Victoria Cross. I am from Multnomah County Central Human Resources, working for 7 years there, but I started to work for Multnomah County in 2000. I moved to the US in 1998 with my husband and my daughter. I’m originally from Russia, from the Moscow area. I graduated from the Moscow University of Culture with a degree in Library Information Science.”
What was it like coming to the US?
“When I came to the US, I just realized how much I needed to learn. I needed to learn American workforce communication, how to dress, how to communicate, how to label my skills in the American workforce, so it was a very challenging experience.”
Tell me about your first job in the US:
“When I started to work in the health department my first 14 years with Multnomah County, I held several positions, as an Epic super user, I went to different primary care clinics and learned how many immigrants we have who have advanced skills and are working and trying to navigate the system. At Multnomah County we have [Multnomah] Leadership Academy, so I approached Leadership Academy and suggested to create within this format an Employee Resource Group for refugee immigrants to help members to navigate the system to utilize their advanced skills and their degrees in the US. It’s absolutely a different workforce and it's different rules… so it was a great opportunity for me to create this support system, this employee group, and advance this group’s knowledge about the American workforce; enhance and utilize these employees skills; assist employees in achieving their full potential; help employees in their career progression; and prepare Multnomah County workforce to meet future needs of this diverse workforce.
How did you become involved with PWA?
“In 2014, I moved to central HR. As a part of HR, I staffed the booth at the NW Youth Careers Expo so that’s how I first encountered Portland Workforce Alliance. Jane Williams [former PWA Board President] encouraged me to join PWA. It was really great to see students and to learn about students and how many diverse students we have in Multnomah County and PWA. So that's where I saw that we have to build relationships between the organization and Portland Workforce Alliance because I think it's very important to reach out to students where they are in school, when they’re already on the path, to help them to navigate the system, to learn about possible careers. So, that’s how I started my involvement with Portland Workforce Alliance.”
Why is this work important to you?
“I think it’s very important – with my personal experience coming to the US, you don’t know what you don’t know, how can you ask about something if you don’t know it exists? So, this is how it’s important to work with the students, because their parents may not be able to help them to navigate the workforce – parents need help as well. I think for us it’s very important to be involved with communities, with students from vulnerable communities. I think it’s such a great opportunity, and it's really needed. If we cannot help them, who else will help them to navigate the system? For me I feel it’s very important, and that’s what I bring to the Portland Workforce Alliance, and of course building relationships with communities.”
What have you accomplished through your work with PWA?
“The idea was to create an IT career day. And Jane Williams and myself - we were those forces who approached our IT [department]. Three or four IT career days were created. We were twice nominated for the outstanding team achievement within our organization. Our leadership academy also cooperated with Portland Workforce Alliance and we had a group of people who were working to create healthcare career days. Unfortunately we didn’t have the healthcare career day because it was scheduled for April 4, 2020; but that was the involvement between our two organizations.”
What was it like getting to create those opportunities?
“That was a really great opportunity for our students to learn because many people don't think about Multnomah County when they’re thinking about healthcare careers and about IT careers. It was a really great experience for all … our employees were very thrilled to show students where we work, how we work and what we do; the human connection was so important from both sides.”
Learn more about Victoria here: