Meet Amaya Swanson, Head of US Operations for Matsco Solutions.
Q: What has been the most significant barrier in your career as a woman in leadership?
A: Imposter Syndrome. I was 25 years old when I moved to New York City, and stumbled across a job listing (on Craigslist!) for an operations manager at a technology company. I was underqualified – I had zero finance experience, and my Excel skills were limited to sorting columns and changing cell colors. When I showed the job description to a friend, he encouraged me to apply, simply stating that “Men would, why wouldn’t you?” After a lengthy interview process (where I was candid about my inexperience with a few of the tools used by the company), I was offered the position. The first couple of years in the role, I felt like a fraud – to compensate, I secretly read business books, took online classes and tutorials, and taught myself everything I needed to know. In hindsight, I had a great boss who would have happily mentored me (even more than she did) had I simply asked. Instead, I internalized it all, making my job a lot harder than it needed to be. This is unfortunately very common with women in leadership roles, and I would encourage any new leader to ask for guidance when needed, and to never doubt their capabilities.
Q: What are some strategies that can help women achieve a more prominent role in the organization?
A: Take control of your own trajectory instead of waiting for someone to decide for you. Don’t be afraid to say “no” or speak up. Stop apologizing. Ensure you have a strong handshake. Read a lot, specifically books about leadership.
Q: What’s one leadership lesson you’ve learned in your career?
A: Learn to sit with discomfort. Avoiding discomfort often means neglecting necessary tasks (like having difficult conversations) and missing opportunities that can impact your personal growth (like challenging the status quo or sitting in rooms with powerful/intelligent/successful people).
Q: What are the most important decisions you make as a leader of your organization?
A: The people – hiring and retaining the right people for the right roles is crucial. We’ve all seen the statistics about how much a bad hire can cost a business, but it’s the impact on the culture that’s the greatest loss.
Q: What advice would you give to the next generation of women entering a male-dominated profession?
A: Recognize your value and then don’t accept anything less. Also, in negotiating, the first person to name a number loses!
Q: How do you help a new employee understand the culture of your organization?
A: Living it! We’re a customer service focused organization, so it’s important for the team to see me personify that quality in my interactions with clients and vendors.
Q: What’s your favorite way to decompress after a long work week?
A: My decompressing ranges from bingeing The West Wing or Schitt’s Creek, to reading books about murder, to obsessively cleaning my apartment. I used to be more fun, I promise.
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