FAMOUS 5: ROBERT ORDWAY

Originally Posted at  Famous DC on July 11, 2019

Most people come to The Hill by way of an internship during or just after college and work their way up in time. After working in both the public and private sector for a decade, Robert is a recent transplant to DC and landed in the US Senate at the beginning of 2019. While most professionals in this space strive to be specialists, Robert’s many life experiences led him to become a generalist. In addition to working on The Hill, he writes about professional development and uses his fashion knowledge to dress professionals for success.

Tell us about your transition to DC and what you’ve learned so far.

Well, I moved here in January 2017 at the tender age of 31 and must have been one of the oldest interns in the history of The Heritage Foundation. I’ve really enjoyed the energy of the city but as a forever ‘early to bed early to rise’ person, I still haven’t quite adapted to this Eastern time zone, much less the late-night lifestyle. The diversity of folks from across the country as well as around the world is probably the best part, not to mention there are unlimited things to see and do here. Can’t say I enjoy paying my rent though…

How is being a generalist an asset on The Hill?

My resume is an unusual one. I was appointed to sit on a Board of Zoning Appeals (BZA) for a city, a commercial assessor for a county and a securities regulator for the State of Indiana so I’ve seen government at every level. In addition, I’ve worked for sole proprietors, small and large LLCs, multi-national corporations and even owned my own business. My approach is more like a Renaissance man, try to be as generally good at as many things as possible and understand how various disciplines are interwoven. It’s hard to see the big picture when you’re always in the weeds. My overarching approach is to engage in what I believe are the five pillars of a strong community: faith, education, business/labor, non-profit and government. 

What is Capitol Hill Clothiers?

After owning a clothing store in Indiana, CHC was a hobby I started as a way to build a personal brand in DC and help other interns that were ‘balling on a budget’. While I don’t have much time for it other than the weekends, it has allowed me to stay close to the clothing industry while building meaningful relationships around the city. There are some things that unite people and putting a smile on someone’s face when I help them dress for their first interview, a big presentation or even a wedding is surreal. I find a lot of fulfillment in giving others the confidence to be successful in their endeavors, whatever they may be.

Overall, where do you see the clothing industry going?

Some believe that old retail is dying and being replaced by e-commerce, such was the same thought just before the dot com bubble. I think the future is much more of a hybrid. Humans are hyper-social creatures and to sell luxury items, they want to “see, smell and taste” things. Clothing is also the paradox where people’s actions rarely represent their proposed values. As the nation moves more caused and toward athleisure and tech fabrics, there is also a sustainability movement regarding fair trade, workers’ rights as well as air and water environmental protections. Only time will tell before we know where the industry is going as a whole.

Any books you are reading or recommend?

With the demands of the day job I don’t have as much time to pleasure read, however, there are some books I never get tired of and wish more folks in the policy work would consider and reform their approach. Many thinkers and academics are still looking at issues from an industrial revolution era which is ‘scale’ but they haven’t considered complexity which is really the forefront of problem solving in the 21st century. It’s why we won World Wars 1 and 2 but lost in Vietnam. Complexity > Scale

A New Kind of Science by Steven Wolfram tackles the randomness in physical systems and the limitation of mathematics. The Incerto series by Nassim Taleb is the greatest treatise on uncertainty, chance, volatility, risk, and decision-making. Lastly, Dynamics of Complex Systems and Making Things Work by Yaneer Bar-Yam have helped him solve the ebola crisis in Liberia and track the drivers of ethnic violence in various countries. His work is very important if we want to solve complex issues like housing and healthcare in America.