Heather Sheehan became Executive Director of AWESOME in January 2018 after serving for two years as Director, Member Engagement & Sponsorships. Prior to that she was Vice President Indirect Sourcing and Logistics for Danaher Corporation, the culmination of a career spanning more than 30 years in the manufacturing and transportation industries and including experiences living and working in Asia.
We asked Heather what she’s learned about AWESOME leaders so far and how she envisions the organization’s future.
Your first connection with AWESOME was when we reached out to you in 2014 because you had been selected to be one of the first two recipients of the AWESOME Legendary Leadership Award. What was your initial impression of the young organization?
- AWESOME intrigued me with its unique vision and mission to advance women’s supply chain leadership. There was (and still is) nothing else like it. Attending the Symposium in 2014, I’d never had the chance to interact with a large group of supply chain women. The caliber of women at the Symposium was top-of-the-field. I was energized by the power and intelligence in the room. And everyone was so approachable and engaging.
You served on several Symposium panels, became an Advisor, and eventually joined AWESOME as Director of Member Engagement & Sponsorships. What made you decide this was a worthwhile focus for your time and energy?
- After 30 years working for major corporations, my focus was to use my time and talents to make a difference for others. While I loved my corporate career, I was ready for something that would help people, especially women. AWESOME became a great fit because it builds on my supply chain career experience, my leadership experience, and helps women advance and develop through this powerful community. In business, results are measured on a monetary scale; at AWESOME, results are measured on a human scale. I like that change. And, it’s just fun working with so many women after often being the only woman in the room for 30 years.
Many of the leaders in our AWESOME community tell us they were often the first woman to hold a certain role or one of only a few women on a team or in their company’s leadership. Did you have that experience in your career?
- My undergraduate business major classmates at Penn State in the early 1980’s were 50-50 men and women, and when I got to my first job, I was one of two women in a department of 20. Ever since, I’ve been asking, “Where did all the women go?” As my career accelerated, there were even fewer female colleagues and, yes, I was the first woman to hold a few positions along the way. Growing up in my family, there was never any gender-based influence on our career direction, so it never dawned on me that being female would have any bearing, positive or negative, on my success.
As AWESOME’s Director of Member Engagement and Sponsorships, what observations will help you as Executive Director?
- The vision and generosity of Ann Drake, AWESOME’s founder, and the dedication of the AWESOME/DSC team inspire me. The enthusiastic commitment and support of the women and their companies prove that advancing women leaders is a valuable business goal. I am truly motivated to build on Nancy Nix’s foundation and continue transforming the future of supply chain leadership.
Going forward, what do you see as the priority for AWESOME for 2018 and beyond?
In 2018, we began to organize thinking around the concept of “Making Waves.” By that we mean that individual leaders have an opportunity and a responsibility to take actions that accelerate the progress of women. These actions are what set change in motion and truly have an impact on the career trajectory of women in supply chain and on the industry as a whole. Through brainstorming sessions with senior leaders at our Symposium in 2019, we’ve come to realize that women are able to have a greater impact by reaching out, reaching up, reaching in, reaching back, and reaching across. We plan to continue to inspire, encourage and energize women to take an active role. We believe that change doesn’t “happen” to women – they make it happen.
At the 2015 AWESOME Symposium, I had the honor of interviewing Harvard professor and author, Rosabeth Moss Kanter. She talked about the only three career steps that matter: Inclusion, Influence, and Impact. The priority for AWESOME is to ensure supply chain women are successful in these three career steps and are able to advance to the level to which they aspire. This happens when each of us takes a step to engage more with each other, learn from each other and gain confidence from each other. The AWESOME community only works when we actually show up and participate, so we will be working to provide the opportunities for leaders to connect, collaborate, learn, and inspire others.