One of Maryland Public Television’s most important missions is education, a value shared by its newest human resources executive.
Colette Colclough, 51, comes to the nonprofit, state-licensed public television network with more than 20 years of experience in the human resources field. She also is the only black woman on the network’s managerial staff and said she hopes to therefore bring more diversity to the station.
“I’ve always helped people, and I like that. I never dreamed I would be in a profession where that is the bulk of what I do,” Colclough said. “I like to see others succeed.”
Colclough, MPT’s vice president of human resources at its Owings Mills headquarters, said her initial focus is getting employees to get out of the office and learn, which can be especially challenging with a staff whose average age is 50.4 years old.
“I’m trying to promote a learning culture,” she said. “We found out recently there was adult learning for Microsoft Office available at Coppin State University, so we are making a way for them to go.”
Colclough acknowledged the challenges in her mission, noting that “to get out and learn costs money.” She said the network suffers from not being able to promote itself as much as commercial broadcasters can.
“But the economic challenge breeds creativity,” Colclough said.
The network — whose mission is “to educate, entertain and enlighten the people of Maryland and beyond ...,” according to its website — will get one-third of its $27.8 million budget for fiscal 2012 from the state and federal governments, with the rest from donations from businesses, foundations and, of course, “viewers like you.”
“People give because they like the programming or they want to support what we do,” Colclough said.
MPT embodies the “turnaround of good will,” she said, with MPT teaching the public and in return people contributing to see that education continue.
‘Brings out the best in people’
Colclough said her new post combines her experience in both broadcasting and public service.
The Upper Marlboro woman began working in sales at WUSA Channel 9 in Washington, D.C., upon graduating from Georgetown University.
At the time, Colclough had majored in business and never had considered working in television, but she needed a job, she said.
Not long after, she was rising in the ranks to eventually become the station’s director of human resources.
The experience showed her that everyone possesses a unique talent and that it is up to human resources staff to give people the opportunity to use that talent at the right place and time.
“She is able to bring out the best in people. She’s able to see their potential,” said Pamela Jordan, a former credit and collections manager at WUSA.
Colclough never was shy about using her personal resources to help others succeed and she helped create a family atmosphere at WUSA, Jordan said. Colclough came up with the idea of holding the station’s annual picnic in the lower level of the company’s underground garage, to allow for inline skating events.
“Colette is extremely creative,” Jordan said.
Colclough migrated to WJLA Channel 7 in Arlington, Va., in 2001, following several coworkers. She again was human resources director, and later helped recruit workers for Politico, then a new publication launched by WJLA’s owner, Allbritton Communications.
“It was exciting to do a startup, but I had never been part of a newspaper, so I had doubts about my experience,” she said. “Newspaper people are a different breed of folk. Our folks were focused on the visual, while with newspaper, you didn’t have to worry as much about the photographer. They had a different personality and brought different stories and angles to the table. Their focus was how something would read.”
‘Willing to put herself on the line’
Family health issues about five years ago led Colclough to leaving Channel 7 to spend more time at home. She worked various jobs in middle school, substitute teaching, consulting and retail, until a friend told her of an opening at the Maryland Department of Licensing, Labor and Regulation.
Entering the world of human resources was a change for Colclough, who had to adjust to more paperwork and a more involved process to ensure accountability, she said. But it also allowed her to have a role in programs such as YouthWorks, which helps Baltimore youths explore what they want to do after high school.
“She’s a mission person,” said Paulette Francois, a former assistant secretary for work force development and adult learning at the state labor agency.
“She’s going to tell you what you don’t want to hear, but she’s willing to put herself on the line,” Francois said. “She’s always looking to better things from a broader perspective.”
Colclough always focused on finding the best ways to protect and train employees, she said.
“She was willing to teach me the ropes and take time to be a problem solver,” Francois said. Human resources “can be a very ‘us-against-them’ situation, but she’s a collaborator.”
Colclough said her stint at the state agency prepared her for when the MPT position opened in 2011. Although she was eager to apply her skills there, it still was an experience reconciling the MPT she had been exposed to as a child — through watching Big Bird on “Sesame Street” on a classroom TV — with what the network actually produced.
“It was like ‘OK, now I work here,’” she said.
Since joining MPT in December, Colclough has navigated the differences between private and public broadcasting, including sponsorship and the speed of programming.
“News was up to the minute. It was a race for getting a program on the air,” she said. “At MPT, it’s a matter of educating the public in a different way.”