Women in Leadership: Aquanda Lewis
Aquanda Lewis is senior vice president of business strategy and technology transformation at One Call. She serves as the business lead for our technology transformation project, Polaris. During her 16-year tenure at One Call, Aquanda has held several key leadership roles, touching every aspect of the business, including operations, technology, finance, product, customer service and strategic enterprise initiatives. She also serves the local community through her charitable organization, Rosa Heart, which she founded in memory of her grandmother who was dedicated to helping others.
Aquanda strives to empower other women to believe in the essence of you – the satisfaction of knowing you are strong, capable, confident and powerful.
What are some traits you think great leaders possess?
Great leaders understand the art of managing themselves and their team. Being able to look in the mirror and understand your successes and shortcomings will allow you to manage and understand your team’s individual capabilities and emotional attributes. If you are able to do this, your team will trust you, follow you and carry the same passion and commitment as you do.
How do you build a team around you that can support you and make you a better person?
Steve Jobs once said, “You don’t hire smart people to tell them what to do; you hire smart people so they can tell you how to do it.” If I am building my team, I am building myself. As a leader, I can never forget that there is always more to learn and if I truly understand the people who work for me, I know their strengths and I can capitalize on their talents to make a stronger team.
Why is it important to build a culture of diversity and what are ways to foster an environment where people who come from different backgrounds know you value their ideas?
Diversity is inviting people to the party, inclusion is asking them to dance. As a company, we can’t just check a box to say we are diverse. We must foster inclusion by giving everyone a respected voice at the table. This brings on a whole new level of creativity, ideas and skillsets that can deliver extraordinary results. As leaders, we must remove any assumptions or biases we may have upfront and recognize the advantage of tapping into talent.
Who were the most influential people throughout your career?
My two children have been the most influential people in my career. Raising them as a single parent, it was extremely important to me that I was the person they were looking up to and aspiring to be like one day. Every time I looked down and saw them looking up at me, it pushed me to be greater. My children were the catalyst for my self-discipline and focus, which has allowed me to turn my vision of success into a reality. They are my daily reminders to be the best and greatest I can be at whatever I am doing.
As a working mom, is there such a thing as work-life balance?
I came up in my career when my children were younger and dealing with picking them up from school, activities and paying for after-school care, so I get it! I had to learn to set expectations for both work and personal life. When you get to work and shut your car door, you have to shut your personal life in that car and pick up your work life. The same happens when you leave the office – when you step out of the office, your work life shuts behind you and you open your personal life.
As a female leader you have to not only remember this for yourself, but for your employees as well. We must have empathy and understanding of fellow mothers and not forget what it was like when we were in those situations.
What motivated you to become a mentor for other females and why is it important?
The observation of not seeing enough women in key leadership roles. It is important for me to invest in other women. A lot of times women think we are in competition with one another, but I look at it as though I am a paver for other women – paving the way for my daughter and granddaughter. We must look back once we’re at the top and inspire and invite other women to join us along the way.
What are some strategies that can help women achieve a more prominent role within their organization?
Two things: take on the challenge because if you don’t, a man will! Trust in yourself that you can learn, develop, lead and accomplish your goals.
It is so important to build a network of women you can trust. I have so many girlfriends who I can call and say, ‘Does this sound good?’ ‘Will you listen to my presentation?’ You must find a support system that will celebrate in your success.
Can you reference a podcast series, author or book that has been significant to you as a leader?
Make Room for Her by Rebecca Shambrah. She says ‘successful organizations will be led by truly balanced men and women working in synergy’ – it’s not a man’s world, we have to do it together.