This week's Corporate L&D Institute Speaker Spotlight features Rainia Washington, VP, Global Diversity & Inclusion at Lockheed Martin and a panelist at this year's Corporate L&D Institute, sharing insights on "Embedding Diversity and Inclusion into Learning Programs to Drive Productivity and Bottom Line Results."
We had the chance to catch up with Rainia this week to ask her a few questions about her role, her career and her advice for aspiring HR Leaders. This is what she shared with us:
What is the biggest obstacle you’ve faced along your career path?
Throughout my career, I’ve had much success and to be quite honest I’ve been able to move up the ranks at a fast past. In doing so, it positioned me to seemingly always been the youngest person in the room. I quickly realized that I was in a different stage of life than my peers. My peers were having children while I was in grad school, so initially it was difficult to have conversations and build those strong relationships that are very much needed in the workplace. I also recognized that I needed to harness those relationships and find creative topics to talk about with my peers. I’ve always had a love and passion for sports and travel, so quite naturally I started to use those topics as conversation starters. It truly allowed me to start connecting with my peers, and no longer allow my age to be an obstacle in building relationships.
What attributes or personal characteristics do you believe are integral to your role?
I believe the following are key attributes and characteristics which are integral to my role:
- The ability to be influential and assess the corporate environment internally and externally - Ensuring that a company the size and stature of Lockheed Martin has a strategy and focus on diversity and inclusion isn’t a task that can be completed by one person. It’s critical to include everyone on the journey, but everyone must understand the business case for diversity and inclusion. In order for me to drive the change in the culture I must be able to influence.
- An understanding of business acumen in order to make the best decisions that will impact the entire corporation - The decisions that are made in my role and the level of engagement with other executive leaders requires me to truly understand our business on a global scale. By doing so, it ensures that the decisions can make a positive and lasting effect on our workforce.
- A strong HR background in order to shape the messaging around the importance of diversity & inclusion – Diversity and Inclusion are essential elements in every function of Human Resources. Having a myriad of roles and assignments within HR, allows me to build on the relationships I’ve established and ensure that diversity and inclusion are thought about in every aspect of human resources.
- The ability to demonstrate empathy with everyone that I encounter - In this role I am often faced with having conversations that were once taboo to talk about in the workplace. However, now there’s a strong business case of the importance of diversity and inclusion in the workplace and how it drives innovation and creates an environment that is ideal to thrive in. I always try to create a wonderful experience with everyone I encounter, and in order for me to do that I have to be able to listen to understand and not to just speak. It requires a genuine level of empathy that people can feel which opens the doors to new and stronger relationships and fosters trust.
What is your advice to someone who is moving up the ranks in the field and wants to pursue an executive career?
My advice to someone who is moving up the ranks in the field and desires to pursue an executive career is stay flexible and keep an open mind and always be true to yourself. I moved with Lockheed Martin 9 times to take on new opportunities to learn and explore what the company had to offer. Each move afforded me great experiences, new challenges, and professional and personal growth. If I didn’t have an open mind and willingness to relocate, my career growth could have been stifled but I demonstrated the ability and willingness to be flexible. Lastly, I find that with the success it’s easy to lose yourself and succumb to the titles. However, I truly believe that staying true to yourself and your core values keeps you grounded and relatable to the workforce. I want employees to not only know, but see and feel that I am a leader, but I’m also a part of the same team. By remaining true to myself, it allowed me to remain humble and never lose sight of my beginnings.
Join the interactive panel discussions and walk away with some actionable insights from the Corporate L&D Institute, September 17th -19th, 2017 at the Westin Hilton Head Island Resort & Spa in Hilton Head, S.C. Click here to request your invite.