Naji: Hello, leaders of the world. Welcome to spread love in organizations, the podcast for purpose-driven healthcare leaders, striving to make life better around the world by leading their teams with genuine care, servant leadership, and love. I’m Naji your host for this episode joined today by Dr. Angelique Adams, an author speaker, and executive coach focusing on leadership development for scientists and engineers. Angelique is an engineer with 25 years of experience in operations strategy and innovation. She was director of R and D. At aluminum, giant OAA and chief innovation officer at multibillion dollar steel maker, ARA after leading hundreds of scientists and engineers around the word, she discovered her true passion is developing people, not products.
Following the successful publication of her first book for women in stem in 2021, she launched Angelique Adams media solutions, a distribution platform for her books, online courses and coaching programs. Her second book be be on the lookout for women executives in college. Athletics will be out this summer Angelique lives in Knoxville with her husband and two children.
She serves on the board of several local nonprofits and volunteers, her time to mentor entrepreneurs. I am so thrilled to have you with me today.
Angelique Adams: Thrilled to be here. NA thank you
Naji: first. I would love to hear your personal story from engineering leadership and now author and executive coach what’s in between the lines of this incredible, uh, journey.
Angelique Adams: Thank you. Well, let’s see. So maybe I’ll start with, uh, a little bit about how I got into engineering, um, which is very much a story about wanting to improve my financial situation. You know, I grew up as a char as a child from the military. My father was in the us army. And so we moved around every three years, um, in all over the United States and in, in Germany twice.
And, uh, money was tight. In fact, I, I, I attribute my math skills to, uh, helping my mom at the grocery store and sort of rounding up the sum of each of the, the. Things that she bought so that when she went to the counter to pay for the groceries, we always had enough money to pay for everything. Um, and I knew I went to go to college because I figured that would improve my financial situation, but I had no idea what I wanted to study because everybody around me was soldiers.
My doctor, my dentist, you know, everybody was, was a soldier because we lived on all the military bases, went to school on military bases, et cetera. And when I went to a college just for a visit, they said, if you’re good at math and science, we have scholarships for minorities in engineering. And I said, okay, uh, I’ll apply.
And I got in. And so I be decided I was gonna study engineering, even though I had no idea what an engineer was, what they did, um, or anything like that. But. I went to Penn state and studied chemical engineering. I picked chemical engineering simply because at that time there were these, uh, magazines that would tell you like the top salary.
And that was the top salary in engineering. So, I mean, it was . So I started and I say all of that, just to say that I. Started my career journey, not be of a, because of, of a necessarily an engineering mission or a love of the science, but a purpose to improve my own financial situation. And, um, and then I, you know, I studied engineering.
I had an internship, I was starting to do a little bit of undergraduate church and it just so happened that, um, There was a, you know, lots of times at universities, uh, companies will come and take students out to dinner. And a company OAA took a group of us out to dinner, and I was telling them about my undergraduate research.
And they said, if you would be interested in pursuing that. At the graduate level, we would be interested in having you come and work for us and we’ll pay for your graduate education. So of course I said yes to that, to that offer. And that’s how I started my 20 year journey with OAA. They paid for my PhD.
Um, And then, you know, I started to work with work for them pretty early on. I raised my hand and said, I think I wanna be a manager. And I’m honestly not really sure exactly how I thought of that, but I just felt like this was something I wanted to try. I felt like I was pretty good with people and it’s something that I wanted to try.
And of course I it’s a, and my father manage, you know, as a Sergeant in the military manage teams of people that way. So I thought I wanna try it. And I was hooked immediately. I really enjoyed the process of trying to get the best out of people trying to deliver results that we couldn’t do as individuals, we had to work together collectively.
And I also. Really got a sense for what managers and leaders really do is care for the whole person. And I had two really shocking experiences early on. So the first thing was one of my, I had a very small team of just three people, one person, their home burned down and they had to run out of their home with only the clothes on their back.
And so, you know, as that this person’s leader, I. Realize. Okay. I have to try to help this person, you know, financially, but also make sure they’re safe. Um, make sure that they, you know, have what they need in order for them to, when they’re ready to return, to work, to be able to, to work in the best cap capacity that they could.
I have to really help help them manage their whole life. I had another person who was trying desperately to, to get extra vacation because he was managing his sister. Who had a mental health illness in Europe and we were in the us. So here’s somebody who again, was bringing his whole life to work. And he said, you know, I need help Angelique as my leader, how can you help me?
And both of those two experiences really shaped my kind of view of leadership as being much more than just getting business results, but really how. People to, to be their best, um, throughout their whole lives so that they can bring their best to work. And then I just continued to grow. My leadership got bigger and bigger teams went from three people to eventually 150 people.
And, um, then went back to school to, uh, MIT to get my executive MBA. Use that as an opportunity to do some product development work found a job in Europe to do some product development work. And I thought that product development was really my true passion, but I realized that leading the team and really helping them to advance in their careers, um, was much more into interesting to me.
And so at that same time, I happened to be working on a book. It was something that my MIT classmates inspired me to do. And so when the book. Was published and did well. I thought, well, maybe I’ll use this as an opportunity to actually pivot my entire career to focus on the, the thing I love the most, which is developing people.
And so that’s what I do now.
Naji: Well, thank you so much for sharing part of, uh, your story and those incredible stories along the way, uh, as you were, as you were developing others and growing in your leadership, uh, and, and you said, you know, you define management and leadership as caring for the whole person.
Few people do this. So I wanna recognize the fact that you lead with, um, with genuine care and, and love. This is, this is the way I believe leaders should, should lead. So, um, but it’s not that disseminated. Let’s say it in the word.
Angelique Adams: Yes. We have some work to do to spread that. to spread that mindset, Don, we, yeah.
Naji: so you’ve been, you’ve been in highly technical, uh, engineering environment, leading experts, right? And many times we hear this differences, right? When you are a leader and when you’re an expert and also leading experts, uh what’s what’s your leadership learning along the way. Cause you’ve had different experiences in different organizations and even leading different functions, um, at some point, so.
Anything specific you feel as a leader when you’re in this high technical environment, you should be focused on.
Angelique Adams: Yeah, that’s a great question. I think you made the, one of the first ones to ask me that. So I do, I do think that, you know, experts leading a bunch of PhDs. They’re very demanding of their leader.
They, you know, really want to make sure that they clearly underst. Stand the direction, the policies they’re very often gonna challenge things because of their level of expertise and, and, and wanting to feel like, you know, this, it makes sense to them. So that’s one thing I would say about, um, about managing technical experts.
and my approach has been. To one, make sure I take that into consideration. So make sure that as I am perhaps sharing new policy changes or sharing my vision and direction, that I’m very clear to one think in advance about objections. They may have through the lens of their technical expertise and be prepared to answer those questions, but also to be patient and to expect that, okay, even though.
I’m a technical expert in one area. I’m not a technical expert across every discipline. And so be patient in expecting additional challenges to come. So to not get frustrated, um, when it may be a challenge to onboard and get buy in, um, particularly on change with technical experts. The other thing that that I have found is that oftentimes when you’re in, in the organizations that I’ve been in big manufacturing firms, Technical experts were just one piece of it, right?
It’s a multi it’s a multidisciplinary business. And oftentimes the technical experts are a little bit, um, pigeonholed from the view of management. The. Oftentimes it’s because of our communication skills. We wanna talk in technical expertise and we talk over the heads of, you know, finance leaders and business leaders.
And, you know, they don’t have a lot of patience for us, but that has been because I’m aware of that fact, that’s actually been one of the ways that I’ve been very effective at gaining support of my team, because I’m able to help them TA learn to tailor their messages, such that leaders actually wanna talk with them.
And so, and that’s. So that’s, we can go from really feeling like we’re left out of some of the business conversations to now being, having a seat at the table, because we’re able to bring our technical expertise, but communicate it in a way that the rest of the organiza, it resonates with the rest of the organization.
And when you do that, when somebody goes from, nobody cares about me to, oh, the CEO wants to have a meeting with me now that you know, that’s a huge leadership. Win for, for the whole team.
Naji: Love it. Uh you’re you defined your passion as developing people, and you said, uh, purpose, you know, at the beginning, as you started, you discovered this, uh, right where along the way, uh, is this how you define now your purpose?
Angelique Adams: Absolutely. My purpose now is to develop actually, what I’d really love to do is to put 10,000 diverse stem professionals into leadership positions, partially because I think that really the way we’re gonna improve the diversity and inclusion piece of, of, uh, science and, and engineering, which is, is still very few women, very few underrepresented minorities.
Is to put people into leadership roles and have them change the culture of the organizations from within. So I really feel like because I’ve gotten myself to the C-suite and because I have a passion for, for this and, and some skills in terms of communication, in my own areas of expertise, I think that I’m well poised to really help develop diverse stem leaders.
So that’s really my, my ultimate purpose. Yeah,
Naji: you, you definitely are. So let’s double click on the subject, women and stem. Um, it’s such, you know, there is still such a long way as you shared for women and minority group in, uh, in stem, you have researched this domain, published a great book. What’s your vision on this important topic?
How can we close the dream gap for are our daughters for women really across the world?
Angelique Adams: Yeah, that’s a great question. So I think there’s, this’s a multicomponent challenge. I think there’s a lot of great work being done to get young girls and underrepresented minorities, even aware and interested in stem to begin with there’s a lot going on in universities to sort of keep the pipeline going.
And my own personal expertise is more around mid-career professionals. That transition from being an entry level person to being considered for leadership and management roles. And that’s where, whether you call it the leaky pipeline or whatever you wanna call it, that’s where a lot of things. Happen, uh, in the case of women in particular, oftentimes that’s when women are interested in having children.
And so that can cause a challenge, the work life balance issue, um, then because there’s so few role models, there are challenges about how do I actually navigate this. This type of space, this type of career as somebody who’s different from my peers or the senior managers that I’m working with. There’s lots of questions and uncertainty and, and feelings of self doubt around that.
And that’s really what I focus on. I focus on teaching leadership skills. I focus on. Helping people with their mindset around imposter syndrome and self doubt, of course, by being who I am, I’m automatically a role model. And I think I finally sort of embraced that as, okay. , there’s no way around that, which for me means really being much more comfortable being.
Out front. So I’m used to being behind the scenes in large organizations. And now I have, you know, I’m the face, obviously the face of my own small organization, but I have to be out there talking about my message, like I’m doing right now, which, which has taken me a while to get used to. Um, but those are the things that, that I think will, will help individuals.
So I focus on really helping individuals. The other area I focus on is talking to organizations and being, um, Being sharing. First of all, what I’m learning from all the women I’ve interviewed kind of the insider’s perspective of the barriers that they’re facing and the challenges that they’re having and what organizations can do to help.
And also maybe bringing a, a little bit of a different perspective because I’m not a diversity and inclusion professional. I don’t see through the, at lens I see through the lens of large organizational leader and what. People want for recruitment and, and retention. And also as somebody who has been the only, you know, the only person in the room, what, what, what that experience is actually like.
So I’m willing to talk about that to leaders and per perhaps offer them some different tools from what they were considering.
Naji: What, what about, uh, me as a man? You know, as an ally, how, what can I do? What should I do? Uh, I, I should frame it that way for, to, uh, to reinforce what you’re trying to do.
Angelique Adams: Yeah, I think that men can, there’s a couple of things, you know, that men can do. I think that men can, first of all, really help reinforce the challenges that they’re having in their own careers.
Because one of the things that often surprises organizational leaders is when I say. If you really wanna help women in under underrepresented minorities in their career, be very clear and intentional about career path opportunities, make sure that people understand how they can progress and grow and that you provide tools to help them get there.
And they say, oh, well, doesn’t everyone want that? And I was like, yeah, actually everybody does want that, but you, but many or organizations don’t provide that. So what I feel like one thing that men can do is to be vocal about. Where they’re struggling in their own career. And that may help organizations realize, okay, we have some systemic issues that if we fix we’re actually gonna improve our entire organization, which will include women in underrepresented minorities.
The second thing I think men can do is decide what level of, of comfort they have with, with raising issues. So, um, one of the things that I. Like to, to say, is that, you know, it’s actually, I think, okay. To not necessarily want to be confrontational or to, um, call people out. I, I know that. That, that is one important way of allyship, but I also think it’s, it’s okay to not feel comfortable doing those things also, uh, because a lot of people don’t feel comfortable doing those things.
So think about what you do feel comfortable doing. And my one of my favorite tech techniques, it’s a very simple thing. Is to help manage interruptions. When you talk to women, they, one of their biggest frustrations is being interrupted in meetings. And what I tell leaders in general, but including as including men is to say, can you just develop the practice of saying good point after somebody gives a comment?
In a meeting, you don’t have to, you don’t have to, um, necessarily stop the meeting and say, Hey, you interrupted this person. Stop doing that because it’s disruptive. You don’t have to do that. What about if you, if you’re proactively after somebody makes a comment, say, oh, that was a good point Angelique, then that person’s affirmed.
They’re heard they weren’t interrupted and that person’s gonna have a much better day than they otherwise would have if they tried to talk 20 times and got interrupted each time. So for me, that’s a way to both be an Allo, but also acknowledge that maybe you’re not comfortable stopping a meeting and say, Hey, Quinn interrupting everybody.
Um, but you’re still doing other things that, that are working in the, in the, in the direction that we want things to go with.
Naji: I love it. This is such, uh, simple and I think powerful technique for us to do, uh, what, you know, one of the pieces we are hearing. And I, can’t not ask you this question about steam, right?
Like what about art in stem? Any thoughts about this?
Angelique Adams: Yeah. Yeah. I, I think that it’s fine to add art to, to steam. I mean, I, to stem, I think that there are. There are some values to doing that from an educational perspective. And I think when you get to the business world and really focusing on, um, recruitment and retention of different fields, they obviously start to, it starts to starts to diverge.
And when you’re talking at a, about a big manufac extra firm, you’re talking about scientists and engineers that you need, not necessarily people in art. So. I think in some places it makes a lot of sense to add, to add art. And in other places, you know, it will naturally maybe, maybe fall out, um, of being something to focus on.
But I, I don’t have a strong sort of objection. .
Naji: Great. And there’s all this topic I’m sure you’re, you know, about, uh, on epoch, like how to develop all those smart skills, right? Like empathy, all the others to add on stem. So, so this is also another big topic. Uh, I would want, uh, now to move into a section where I will be your reaction.
Angelique Adams: Leadership to me means focusing simultaneously on people and their entire wellbeing and results and the best leaders can do those two things simultaneously
Angelique Adams: Innovation to me is the application of new ideas. Whether those ideas are completely new or whether they’re a, uh, reorientation or a co um, combination of different ideas. I’m less concerned about where the idea comes from, but it’s a new way to actually do something out in the world.
Naji: What about spread love and organizations
Angelique Adams: spread love in organizations. I’d like to see organizations celebrate more. That’s one of the things that I talk a lot about when I talk about leading innovation is how important it is to celebrate wins. I think that it’s often a misconception that celebrating leads to complacency or people feel like they don’t have time for it.
I think the opposite is true. And not only should you celebrate the big wins, like the major milestones, but I think good leaders actually. Are constantly on the lookout for even small wins both individually and as a team that they can celebrate. And that, that positivity will radiate within the company and lead to good things.
Naji: Love it. Any final word of wisdom, Angelique for the leaders around the.
Angelique Adams: I think that that’s one topic we haven’t talked, talked a lot about yet. Maybe is this topic, you mentioned it, but is this topic of empathy? Um, and it’s a huge topic today in leadership. And, and I think that it is a little bit nebulous, particularly for, you know, the type of people that I typically work with scientists and engineers.
It like, what do you like, what are you talking about? It’s this abstract idea. And I think a way to kind of start towards empathy is actually to be a little bit more open about our own challenges and struggles as leaders. Because when we start to talk a little bit more about those people start having empathy for us and say, oh, this is a real person.
Oh, they’re normal. Like they’ve, they’ve had struggles, they’ve had failures, they’re having a bad day and that will then in turn. Allow our staff to feel a little bit more comfortable sharing those things with us. And once we start doing that, that’s how we’re starting to really UN uh, reveal our whole selves to everyone.
And then we can start taking care of those whole selves. But until we start to, to have that level of conversation, it’s really a challenge and we’re still only focused on the business results. So. I would encourage leaders to, to be the ones to take the very first step and provide a little bit of sharing of some of their own challenges.
Naji: This is super powerful, like bringing back humanity right into our leadership. Mm-hmm being just human as we beat people. Thank you so much Angelique for this inspiring discussion we had.
Angelique Adams: Thank you for having me.
Naji: Thank you all for listening to spread love and organization’s podcast. Drop us a review on your preferred podcast platform
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