In this re.engineer Q&A moment, we gain some leadership perspective from Erica Walton-Douglas, Ingersoll Rand’s Director of Operations of the Tradeport distribution center in Memphis, Tennessee. Erica was recently featured by Ingersoll Rand as being one of three female leaders that hold top leadership positions in residential HVAC & Supply facilities. In this exclusive interview, Erica explained how she is making history as being the first female leader at her location.
Q: When did you realize that you wanted to lead others, and what did that look like for you?
I learned early on that I had a natural ability to motivate others and inspire people to do more. In high school I was part of student government and in college I was part of organizations on campus. As a leader, you don't recognize the power you have until people share with you how you motivated or inspired them.
Q: What do you like most about being in a leadership role?
I like being able to see the transformation in people, knowing that I played a part in their growth. That's probably one of the most rewarding feelings I've experienced while in a leadership position. That and seeing people exceed the expectations they set for themselves.
Q: How are you showing the industry that women are changing the standards?
We're defying the odds and changing perceptions of the roles women can hold – we're showing the industry that women can compete. I'm the first female leader the Tradeport distribution center has ever had, and I didn't even realize it until someone brought it to my attention. Having women as leaders gives our company a competitive advantage.
Q: Are leaders born or cultivated?
I think leaders are natural-born – you either have it or you don't. I don't think leadership is something that can be easily taught.
Q: What advice would you give to aspiring STEM leaders?
STEM is what drives the everyday functions of the world and the upcoming generation has the power to change how the world moves for years to come. Understand the power that you have in STEM but also the responsibility! In my job, I’m creating opportunities for people around the world to have comfortable environments by providing sustainable climate controlled solutions and I recognize the responsibility and satisfaction that it brings. While STEM requires a higher level of critical thinking, it’s an area of study that also provides a higher level of satisfaction. You literally can change the world by your level of critical thinking and execution of your thoughts!
I would also add, don’t be afraid to challenge yourself and be uncomfortable outside of your comfort zone. You tend to blossom when you’re challenged!
Q: What would you consider to be your greatest achievement?
My greatest achievement was the moment I recognized myself as a true servant leader. Of course I have a great opportunity to influence Distribution operations across all of Ingersoll Rand coast to coast at a young age (under 40.. lol), but I’m most proud of my mentoring responsibilities, development of talent, and coaching aspiring leaders. A servant leader breaks barriers for their teams and I’m most complete when my team excels!
As you can tell, Erica has a passion for meeting the needs of her team while also having a strong resolve for results. Jim Collins calls these traits “Level 5 Leadership”, I call it the natural instincts of a successful leader.
Erica Walton-Douglas, thank you for your service as a STEM leader and for moving the culture forward...you are a certified re.engineer.