Name: Donna Edwards
Organisation: Amazon Web Services
Donna has 20+ years’ experience working in the IT industry. She is the CEO of SHOUTOUT, a simple recognition program helping organisations retain their talent and a Manager at Amazon Web Services running untapped talent programs across APJ and EMEA including the global CloudUp for Her program.
With an MBA and MHRM, Donna is an international conference speaker and regular panelist on culture, talent development, diversity, leadership topics. She is an author and a WA Business News, 40 under 40 award winner for the Professional Services category.
Thank you to the 2,000 leaders who’ve generously done the 7 Questions on Leadership!
I hope Donna's answers will encourage you in your leadership journey. Enjoy!
1. What have you found most challenging as a leader?
Learning to feel satisfaction and a sense of achievement through my teams success rather than only when delivering something myself.
2. How did you become a leader? Can you please briefly tell the story?
I have always naturally taken leadership roles due to my personality style however my first Manager role in the IT industry came about by my Dad pushing me into a Store Manager role for a retail IT business that he owned. I resisted initially due to not having any tech experience, however he said to me I could always go back to my previous career (child care) if I did not like the job so I said yes! I have always loved a challenge and moving into the tech industry provided me endless challenge and learning opportunities. I had to quickly upskill to prove myself and gain respect of the team I was brought in to lead and this launched my 20+ year tech career and passion for women in tech.
3. How do you structure your work days from waking up to going to sleep?
I work in a global team so I have a very unusual schedule. I am also a night owl (should have been a developer) so most days meetings start at 10/11am, I take a break in the afternoon for exercise and naps and then work again late in the evening until around 12am. I am a big fan of time blocking my diary so that I can dedicate time for admin and deep thinking, strategy work. I am also very conscious of making space for regular time with my friends, family and partner.
4. What's a recent leadership lesson you've learned for the first time or been reminded of?
Clear is kind. This is one of my favourite Brene Brown quotes and is something that requires ongoing practice and reminders! I was recently reminded of this by some previous team members who said how much they valued my transparent feedback and direct approach. This made me reflect on whether I am still practicing this as best as I could be and make a commitment to not forget! It sometimes feels like avoiding a difficult conversation is easier but being clear is kind and people really do appreciate it.
5. What's one book that has had a profound impact on your leadership so far? Can you please briefly tell the story of how that book impacted your leadership?
One book is almost impossible! I love leadership and self development books and have read hundreds over the years. Multipliers was a game changer book for me as I'd always struggled to truly empower people and not want to get involved in everything! The book helped me realise how much more you can achieve when you truly empower your people and provided some awesome tips to make it sustainable.
6. If you could only give one piece of advice to a young leader, what would you say to them?
Look inwards. To be a good leader you need to understand yourself. Your natural tendencies (when you are stressed these will always come out), your strengths (superpowers). You need to develop your emotional intelligence and empathy so read, ask for feedback and keep working on yourself first and foremost. This will allow you to be the best leader you can be because you can truly focus on your team without your own insecurities and ego coming into play.
7. What is one meaningful story that comes to mind from your time as a leader, so far?
Meaningful for me as a leader is every time someone that has previously worked for me progresses, achieves and succeeds. There is nothing more fulfilling or rewarding. One of my previous direct reports and mentees is now a VP at a global organisation (as well as a phenomenal conference speaker). We still regularly catchup and ask for each others advice and I feel so proud that I was able to contribute to her incredible career journey.