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Q&A with Amy C Waninger

Updated: Jul 21, 2023

Exclusive Trusted Magazine Q&A with Amy C Waninger, CEO of Lead at Any Level

How would you describe your career path in a few words?

I launched my career in Information Technology in 1999. The early 2000s brought many booms and busts in the tech sector. Through a series of layoffs (one when I was six months pregnant), I realized that I would need to expand my skill set and my network if I wanted to manage my career effectively. One opportunity led to another, and I eventually found my way into the insurance industry as an IT manager.

When my employer launched a new Office of Diversity & Inclusion and hired a Chief Diversity Officer, I immediately set out to learn everything I could about this work. There was so much purpose in it, and so much possibility. The questions constantly on my mind were, “What can I do to make our workplace more equitable? How can one person make a difference?” No one seemed to be able to answer those questions. Seeking the answers led me to write Network Beyond Bias: Making Diversity a Competitive Advantage for Your Career. From there, I built my company, Lead at Any Level, which provides assessment, advisory, and training services to help Chief Diversity Officers and other executives who are committed to advancing inclusion in their workplaces. We’ve already helped clients and audiences on all seven continents, including Antarctica!

What was your most challenging experience and has it changed your mindset?

As I mentioned, I faced maybe a dozen layoffs early in my career. For years, I carried a constant fear of unemployment. And then I realized I had the power to choose a different path, one that empowered me and positioned me to help others. Instead of waiting around and jumping from one place to another, I learned to keep just one foot on solid ground. The other foot would always be feeling for the next place to step. Then, when the earth shifted beneath me, I could simply shift my weight, rather than leap. This made all the difference!

When you get surprised by unusual or uncertain context, what do you think? This reminds me of the saying, “A bird sitting on a branch is never afraid of it breaking, because her trust isn't in the branch but in her own wings.” We all have so many tools available to us for learning and adapting. We can use the power of observation, read about historical precedent, engage mentors from our networks, and draw on the expertise of others. Sometimes I’m slow to respond to something new, because I want to consider multiple perspectives before committing to a path of action. This isn’t about playing both sides or being overly cautious. Rather, I play through different scenarios to determine what will ultimately be the most effective path for reaching my goals.

Based on your experience, what's the key success factor for a female leader/manager?

Opportunity flows through our networks. The people who know us, trust us, and respect us will share opportunities with us. We will pay those opportunities forward to the people we know, trust, and respect. Women need to include strong male allies in our networks. And, we need to ensure that we forge trusted connections with women from a variety of professional, personal, and cultural backgrounds. It’s our job to change the flow of opportunity so that more people have access to fulfilling work and financial security.

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