Women’s History Month 2021
As we close out Women’s History Month, we want to recognize and spotlight our awesome Enlightened women and the important contributions they make to the company and to their individual communities. The ladies featured today joined Enlightened from various industries and organizations, bringing a wealth of knowledge and experience.
Jessica Elomari joined Enlightened in 2018, bringing with her a strong accounting and finance background, and the ultimate goal of spreading her wings in business management and expanding her strategic competence. Jessica started as a Senior Accountant, subsequently moving into a leadership role in finance and operations which helped her see the big picture, including the many considerations that go into making executive decisions. Jessica is currently the Business Operations Manager for Enlightened, where she is responsible for overseeing the operational and IT infrastructure across the business units to ensure efficiency and effectiveness. She also contributes in a variety of other ways, including overseeing specific projects and programs across the federal and local sectors. Jessica’s time away from work is often spent with her family, especially her son and her mother. She also enjoys reading about the stock market and would like to become a financial advisor for small businesses and startups to assist in the financial and operational aspects of the business and help others navigate through the challenges faced by small businesses. Jessica also believes it’s important to practice physical and emotional self-care.
Keisha Davis, Human Resources Manager, is a human resource management professional with over 23 years of experience. For the past 18 years, she has provided human resource management for leading government contracting and management consulting firms. Ms. Davis has notable experience in strategic human resource planning, developing performance management strategies and recruitment plans, payroll, federal and state law compliance, negotiating employment contracts, employee benefits, compensation, training and development, and management coaching.
Amanda Ryan came to Enlightened after spending 19 years in the non-profit sector. She has worked with the engineering community, the Department of Defense, and currently as a government contractor. Amanda likes working in an environment in which she is encouraged to be a leader. She is able to use her extensive business and extensive leadership experience and education in her role here at Enlightened. Amanda’s efforts were especially appreciated during the covid crisis. When Enlightened needed someone to take on the responsibility of managing PPE funds, Amanda accepted the challenge, and did an exemplary job. She works closely with Jessica on special projects including the new MLK Gateway build and is currently focusing on a strategic recruiting initiative. Amanda is newly married (just two years ago!) and enjoys renovating her house, going to concerts, and traveling in her spare time.
Lucy Bangaree-Jewth came to Enlightened with over 20 years of experience within the non-profit, for-profit and government contracting realm. Lucy has worked and consulted with various companies within Virginia and DC area and held various Leadership roles. Lucy describes herself as having done a bit of everything! Lucy is the Controller for Enlightened and oversees the Finance and Accounting Department. In her role, Lucy manages accounts payables, billing and receivables, budget, financial reporting, and ensure that all accounting functions are done in accordance with GAAP and follows established business practices.
The ladies were kind enough to take the time to give us some insight into their careers, including their time here at Enlightened and elsewhere in the corporate arena.
1. How do you believe working at Enlightened has impacted you/your career?
Lucy: One major impact of being at Enlightened is the opportunity to work with Mr. Ford. I like his “upfront” style, and the fact that here at Enlightened you truly learn and have the chance to put what you have learned into practice. In my role, I am not just the Controller, I am learning other areas of the Organization and gaining new skills. Working here also made me feel appreciated as an individual, which is not always the case in corporate America.
Jessica: At Enlightened I’ve had the chance to wear multiple hats leading finance, operations, IT, and assuming project and program manager roles. This experience has expanded my strategic vision and given me a broader understanding for how business units intercorrelates with one another to achieve a common corporate mission. It has also given me the ability to work closely with an executive team, which I think has been one of the most valuable experiences in my career.
Amanda: Enlightened encourages everyone to work together and learn from one another and has given me the opportunity to work with so many different people across the Company. It’s a great learning experience. It’s also very impactful seeing what Mr. Ford does for the community; he is someone to emulate.
Keisha: I joined Enlightened in 2018 with the determination to create a dynamic HR department. As I embark upon my third year, I can look at the progressive impact the company has had on my career and me, personally. Through my leadership, we have expanded the HR department to three business entities (Recruitment, HR, & Payroll). Working as part of the senior management team, and under the strategic direction of Antwanye Ford, I have developed stronger leadership and project management qualities.
2. What did you do to prepare for Covid and how did you sustain yourselves?
Jessica: When the pandemic hit, my team went into full action mode. The key was to ensure business continuity and to take care of our people. We ensured resources were equipped with necessary hardware and internet connection, tested VPNs around the clock, and provided training on virtual solutions. We were able to transition to a fully virtual environment within two weeks! Maintaining consistent communication with employees to be able to support them in the best way possible was critical for me and my team.
Amanda: Working with finance, HR, and payroll, and keeping up with PPP compliance were my primary objectives during covid. We stayed on top of it and made sure funding was fully and accurately tracked.
Keisha: To prepare for COVID-19, I prepped my entire team when I observed the situation to be near pandemic mode. We immediately went into action. As a non-telework employer, the challenge was on for HR to properly partner with Operations and IT, to assure a seamless and effective telework transition. I independently developed a Telework Transition Plan for the HQ support team, partnered with each of our customers to see how Enlightened could be of assistance to any social distancing planning strategies that they were designing. Additionally, we conducted telework training for staff; provided mental health and well-being resources to our employees and family members, and most importantly, I was sure to connect with our Corporate Chaplain to assist me in reaching all our employees across the Enlightened globe. To accomplish this, I worked closely with my team and did not let go of the caffeine.
3. What has been your greatest career accomplishment?
Lucy: Mentoring others is probably my greatest accomplishment. As a business owner, I’m continuing to learn and grow in my career.
Jessica: Being able to make a difference in the workplace is my greatest accomplishment. This includes efforts like being able to drive certain cost savings initiatives to help the company cut down on waste and increase profit which consequently leads to growth opportunities and pay increases for internal staff. On the people side, being able to coach and lead my staff has always been an accomplishment I’ll always be proud of.
Amanda: Staying committed to paying it forward. I had a great mentor that supported me in leadership, and I am proud that I can pay it forward and continue to support others in the same way. I was also instrumental in helping a company get out of the red and become a profitable business.
Keisha: My greatest career accomplishment comes in the form of appreciation and recognition of my staff. I am grateful for my team, blessed to have been able to develop a team comprised of such intelligent go-getters. Seeing my team be recognized and appreciated is an accomplishment of its own. Hearing my team say, “We got this, Keisha!”, or “get off the ledge, we’re going to win” is an accomplishment. Seeing my team be recognized as Enlighteners in true form, makes my heart feel very happy.
4. You all hold high impact, but high stress positions, so you definitely need some regular downtime. How do you balance the awesome job performance while maintaining your sanity?
Lucy: I find that getting out and walk the dog or run in the morning helps to relieve stress. Lucy likes listening to music as a stress reliever as well.
Amanda: I institute a “no phone” time and listen to music as well. I also just sit by the fire and relax with family. It’s so important to be sure and make time for yourself.
Jessica: I disconnect and watch a good movie, and also put my phone on do not disturb. I am continuously working on a work-life balance.
Keisha: I absolutely love being a mother. In my downtime, I find innovative ways to impress my teenagers. Lol! During the pandemic, I have dedicated certain nights to them. For example, on Tuesdays, I typically end a bit early so I can decorate the house for Taco Tuesday. For myself, I go into introvert mode and relax in the peace and quiet of my own thoughts and daydreams.
5. What role do you feel gender has played in your career path or workplace relationships? What obstacles – racism, sexism, other – have you encountered and how did you handle it?
Amanda: Having worked with the military, a male-dominated workplace is not foreign to me. I have had one team that didn’t believe I would be able to effectively deliver because I was a woman dealing with male sales reps. One of the things I’ve done to help counter the bias that women in business face is lead the Women in Engineering Breakfast with the goal of building camaraderie among women engineers, which is a heavily male-dominated career field. I also worked in China where there were a number of cultural differences and issues. Most industries are dominated by men; even women-owned companies often have men behind them. We are fortunate at Enlightened in that Mr. Ford is respectful of women and clearly believes in and recognizes the value women can bring to the workplace.
Lucy: Throughout my career, I was in a male dominant environment, I have held various Leadership roles, but my opinion and voice were not valued most of the time and that was frustrating. Confidence was instilled in me by my dad, I am who I am today because of my dad. I was lucky to have a father who empowered me to do what I needed to do to be successful. I have used some of the advice from my dad to mentor and empower other women to stand up and speak up for themselves.
Jessica: I have definitely faced gender inequality in some of my previous positions, but I have historically been assertive, and that has served me well in male-dominated arenas. I’m always prepared and ready to prove my point based on factual data. Also, my educational background and experience has given me the confidence to speak up in certain settings and stand my ground. The key is knowing your craft, understanding your audience, and always being prepared.
Keisha: Working in HR leadership has placed me in male-dominated industries over the span of my career. This has been a challenge, yet it has also played a critical role in how I have developed my path and why my drive is so hard. Often, women find themselves having to overly confirm their qualities and positions in the workplace, most times working harder than our male peers. I have faced this personally. However, I was able to overcome many of these challenges using my education, professional background and, innovative approach to how business and processes can be applied today. Funny enough, I’ve often said I wish I could find the time to write a book for Corporate America: “Dress Like a Lady. Work Like a Man – A Woman’s Rise in Corporate America”.
6. What do you see as the biggest obstacle facing women in corporate America?
Jessica: I believe women are sometimes afraid to go after certain leadership roles as we are taught since a young age to be risk averse and are often afraid of failure and rejection. Only a small fraction of women are in executive corporate roles which is mind boggling. Women, in general, are very compassionate, and sometimes find it hard to balance work and relationships. You have to find the right balance between being assertive and compassionate.
Lucy: Most of my obstacles were women in the workplace. Every time I encountered an obstacle the more determined I got. I continued to challenge myself, invested in my education and learned new skills, I had to change the way I think and became a strategic thinker and a risk-taker. In today’s economy, we must innovate to stay ahead of the curb.
Keisha: Women today still face economic challenges in Corporate America. There are many women with a seat at the table due to the rise of female college graduates over the past 10-20 years. However, this rise did not equate to equal pay for many women in Corporate America. Although we’ve come far, we still have a long journey ahead to make sure that women receive equal pay in the workplace.
7. What piece of advice you would give to a woman trying to establish herself in your field?
Lucy: Know the work; know the compliance. Education is your independence.
Jessica: Be well prepared and educate yourself. Be proactive as opposed to being reactive. Be engaged and always open to learning. As a leader, know your people and understand your audience. Be passionate about your craft, and love what you do. And finally, never settle for an average score!
Amanda: Have confidence in yourself and your abilities. Foundationally, follow your passion. If you are passionate, you will be knowledgeable. If you are knowledgeable, you will have confidence speaking about the topic. Find a career that lets you embrace your passion.
Keisha: Educate yourself from the beginning to the end. Gain and keep confidence in yourself and your technique. Value yourself. Get in love with your technique and what it takes to master it. Don’t be timid. Don’t be passive. Don’t be aggressive. Don’t be assertive. Be Balanced!
The women in leadership roles at Enlightened have had a huge impact on the organization. Their contributions to the company are vast and span across multiple departments. These women have been vital to the success of Enlightened, especially during the uncertainty regarding Covid. Each of them aim to leave lasting impressions on everyone they come in contact with, and it seems they have done just that.