AWS Channel Leaders On Finding And Harnessing Your Superpowers
A panel of AWS leaders discussed the superpowers they bring to the table, including emotional intelligence, resiliency, and reading a room at WOTC 2022 East this week in New York City.
Leading From A Position Of Strength
IT executives have a responsibility to not only lead their teams and companies, but to also help others grow their careers and achieve their potential and they can do that by tapping into their own “superpowers,” or special traits and skills that they bring to the table. At the same time, they can help others identify and amplify their own superpowers.
At The Channel Company’s Woman of the Channel East 2022 event, CRN’s own Vice President of U.S. Content and Executive Editor Jennifer Follett asked a panel of channel leaders from Amazon Web Services (AWS) about their superpowers and how they are harnessing their own leadership characteristics to bring out the best in their teams.
Ruba Borno, vice president of worldwide channels and alliances, Kathleen Curry, global director of worldwide strategic alliances and Melon Yeshoalul, director of strategy, operations, BD, and social impact, shared their powers, which include emotional intelligence, insatiable curiosity, and resiliency. The executives shared advice on how others can also identify and harness their own traits and strengths that make them special.
Here’s what AWS’ channel leaders had to say and the advice they had for the next generation of channel leaders.
What’s your superpower?
Ruba Borno, Vice President, WW Channels & Alliances, AWS
Channel Chief Borno leads with empathy, one of her many superpowers. That’s because she believes if you don’t understand where people are coming from, you can’t be an effective leader because there will be a disconnect between the message you’re trying to get across and how the person or team will receive that message. Practicing empathy, she said, might be the most important thing that leaders and employees of any stage can do. Also in her superpower toolbelt is emotional intelligence, which goes hand in hand with empathy.
“I am very aware about what my strengths are and what the strengths of my colleagues [are],” she said. “Just being very self-aware is really important because you can’t be perfect, and you need to complement each other.”
Through her years in IT and starting off as an electrical engineer — an often very male-dominated field — she learned how to develop a thick skin and become resilient.
“I don’t take things personally and make sure that I’m also very receptive to feedback,” she said. “That has been an extreme superpower for me and something that I’ve done my entire professional career. Because even if you don’t agree, there’s always a nugget in negative feedback. I think of feedback as a gift.”
Kathleen Curry, Global Director, Worldwide Strategic Alliances, AWS
The superpower that Curry has harnessed and honed over the years is something that took her a little while to understand: The ability to follow her gut.
“I’m very good at reading a room, situation, or organization, and over the course of my career, I’ve really learned to follow my gut. It’s allowed me to make quicker decisions,” she said. But while it’s an ability that comes naturally, understanding how to leverage it as a superpower did not.
Early in her career when she was taking part in management training, Curry realized that she shouldn’t do the thing that she was doing — simply emulating the leaders she admired — because everyone has different strengths. Instead, she began playing to other peoples’ strengths and leaning on them if they were better at a certain area of the business or knew more about something that she did.
“I really leaned into that, but it wasn’t obvious to me at first,” she said.
Melon Yeshoalul, Director of Strategy, Operations, BD, and Social Impact, AWS
Yeshoalul and her family immigrated to the United States from Ethiopia when she was a child. She had a strict upbringing in which children didn’t ask a lot of questions. It was a problem for her, because one of her superpowers happen to be her insatiable curiosity, she said.
“I had a lot of questions that adults weren’t happy to answer,” she recalled. “But that insatiable curiosity has made me a higher learner — there’s not enough things I can learn about,” she said.
Her other superpowers are resiliency and problem solving. Her family didn’t speak English when they arrived in the U.S. and she had to quickly figure out how to get what she needed, despite the language barrier. And to this day, she harnesses her problem-solving capability.
“I’m the person people give things to that no one wants, if they don’t like it, or they don’t understand it, or it’s too hard or it’s not fun. But I love solving problems. I find it’s useful and helpful,” she said.
How to identify your own superpowers
Borno is a self-proclaimed “terrible communicator” so before every meeting or any time she’s communicating with someone else in the workplace, she runs through a “know, feel, do” communication framework.
“Before I walk into a room, I think about what I want them to know, how do I want them to feel and what I want them to do,” she explained. It’s a process that’s been completely transformational for her and allows her to harness many of her superpowers, such as empathy and emotional intelligence.
“I encourage you to just take five minutes to think about the audience you are with,” she added.
Curry made a comparison to application developing and how that process is based around keeping the user at the center.
“You are the end user in your career journey and you have to own it,” she said. “There are hundreds of people around that are willing to help you, so you have to figure out what your own superpower is and invest in it.”
Yeshoalul likens her own career to the Loch Ness Monster, she said.
“It’s scary and a little intense but it’s a fun ride,” she said. “Be flexible about how things happen for you.”
She encouraged the women in the audience to understand and identify what they want to do and protect that, while also understanding what they don’t want to do. “Make sure you are making decisions that don’t support what you don’t want to do,” Yeshoalul said.