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Women's History Month Role Models

What Women need to Succeed and Advance
By WOC magazine
Mar 30, 2013, 13:23

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Norma Clayton, vice president, Learning, Training and Development at The Boeing Company
Norma Clayton has held leadership roles at many Fortune 500 companies, including Lockheed Martin, General Electric, RCA and General Motors. Prior to her current job, she led Boeing’s sourcing to increase growth and productivity. She has also held leadership roles within Boeing defense, space and security, including vice president of supplier management and procurement, and vice president/manager of the maintenance and modification centers. 

Women of Color: There are historical barriers in the workforce but more and more women are doing well and rising to the top. Which best practices do you think have helped women break through?

Norma Clayton: It’s important to have strong mentors both in the company in which you work as well as outside. As you progress in your career, you’ll need different types of guidance to help you work through the challenges at each level. You’ll need a good balance of education and experience to succeed. It’s important to be in a continuous learning environment so you can keep up with all of the change.

You’ll also need to seek out challenging job assignments that give you broad experience and touch on some of the leadership competencies that are required for the job you are pursuing. You need to have people who are at a senior level advocating for you as a potential executive of the company.

Women of Color: What worked best for you in your career?

Norma Clayton: My career has been marked by a combination of changing jobs and companies, where I allowed myself to broaden my leadership experience and also strengthen my individual capabilities. It’s given me a chance to see different corporate structures and cultures. This has helped me stay on the cutting edge of development in my field.

I also maintain a strong network of professional leaders made up of people I admire. I take some of their leadership traits and then try to use those in a way that is beneficial for me as a leader. I am also active in professional organizations and boards in order to expand my leadership knowledge and develop cross-industry experience.

Sherita T. Ceasar, vice president, Deployment Engineering, National Video Deployment Engineering, Comcast Cable
Sherita Ceasar is responsible for the vision, direction and management of all engineering and technical operation video deployment projects, including infrastructure projects, technical launch management validation, and readiness for service activation. Sherita’s deployment scope spans video systems, iTV, cross-platform applications and video-on-demand infrastructure. This includes acting as liaison to senior engineering leaders in the divisions and regions regarding deployment of video projects into the field platform products supporting Comcast markets.

Women of Color: There are historical barriers in the workforce but more and more women are doing well and rising to the top. Which best practices do you think have helped women break through?

Sherita Ceasar: I think women are taking charge of their careers and demonstrating that they can not only meet, but exceed expectations. I see it as stacking building blocks. You must first have a solid foundation and be excellent at what you do. From there, the power of networking is crucial to develop strategic relationships at your peer-level and above to help demonstrate the value you provide.

The next layer is to have mentors who can teach you how to navigate the organization as well as sponsors who will advocate on your behalf.

Finally, I like to develop what I call a “Personal Advisory Board”—these are people outside of the company who can give an external perspective. Their input is often invaluable. For me, goals and objectives are extremely important so that I can always measure my progress and demonstrate my successes.

Women of Color: What worked best for you in your career?

Sherita Ceasar: Being open to new experiences and constantly looking for ways to expand my understanding of the business has served me very well in my career. I have always been open to moving horizontally within an organization, which has expanded my knowledge of the business and helped to prepare me for my next vertical move.

For example, I’ve held positions in engineering, manufacturing and deployment, just to name a few, and have had three different jobs in my six years at Comcast. What really excites me is feeling like I am making a difference. I have a passion for building teams where we can unleash the potential to deliver meaningful results.

Tips for Success

Sherita Ceasar: Be great at what you do and exceed expectations. It’s important to take on new initiatives and be open to new experiences. Be innovative and never accept status quo.

You should always understand what is required for the next job that you would like to achieve and then begin incorporating those skill sets into your current role so that you are demonstrating that you have what it takes to succeed at the next level.

Stay relevant in your area of expertise through participation in training courses, reading about the latest trends and networking. And most importantly, have fun.

Norma Clayton: Develop a solid foundation of skills, both hard and soft. You must also have a strong career development and learning plan. The development plan is going to allow you to see where your skills are maturing and also help identify areas where you have skill gaps. And this is where the learning plan comes in¯addressing those gaps. Set your sights high but add a level of realism to your plan—not everyone is going to get into the corner office.

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Black Entrepreneurs

Black technology entrepreneurs are increasingly providing the horsepower that drives the global economy. Over the last two decades, black entrepreneurs have created more jobs, and contributed much more to the economic expansion of the Black community as a whole, than any black pastor or politician. Black entrepreneurs are taking risks and building businesses that generate economic growth and increase prosperity in underserved areas, as more minority-owned and minority-focused businesses emerge, willing to serve the financial needs of Black entrepreneurs. US Black Engineer & Information Technology magazine's annual list of Top Black Technology Entrepreneurs reflects the expanding scope of leading Black entrepreneurs in information technology, homeland security, and defense.