You may have heard the saying that to achieve success, it’s necessary to become comfortable with being uncomfortable. Stepping outside your comfort zone can be challenging, but our own Andrea Horn, Manager of Supplier Diversity, takes that saying to heart when it comes to growing her career!
I sat down with Andrea to hear about her unique role at SAS, and how she stepped outside her comfort zone to enhance her skills and progress her career.
Q: So, you started at SAS a little over a year ago. What drew you here?
Andrea: I’ve lived in the Triangle for 11 years now, so I’ve known about SAS for a while. But I just joined the SAS team officially last year! I’ve always heard people talk about how awesome the culture is and how great it is to work here. I’d been at my previous company in a Supplier Diversity role for about 10 years and started to really examine my career. I knew I was ready for a change and wanted to grow my expertise and propel another Supplier Diversity program to the next level.
There aren’t many roles for the type of work I’m in – most companies only have one Supplier Diversity position, and some don’t even have that. I came across the position at SAS right after I decided to explore new career options, and it seemed like a great opportunity.
After interviewing with my current manager, I knew that I wanted SAS to be my next play. I could tell the culture was great, and the values fit was there. I was inspired by SAS’ mission and vision and knew that SAS was doing really meaningful work. That was very important to me. The rest is history!
Q: You mentioned that Supplier Diversity is a unique role – can you tell me more about that?
Andrea: Absolutely! SAS’ Supplier Diversity program started over 10 years ago, in 2005. Since then, we’ve won several awards for our efforts in that space – there’s a lot going on! Our primary goal is to develop and maintain relationships with businesses that are owned by women, minorities, veterans, members of the LGBTQ community, and people of all abilities. The SAS community and our customers represent a wide range of industries, identities, perspectives and locations; and we want that same diversity represented in our suppliers. Prioritizing Supplier Diversity isn’t just the right thing to do – it’s also a good business decision. Diversity fosters innovation and gives us access to new markets for growth.
As far as my role goes, every day is different! Our team is constantly reviewing databases, working with our peers from other organizations and building relationships with business owners to ensure that we have the best and most talented pool of suppliers to pull from.
When people ask what I do, I like to tell them I’m a connector. I view connecting suppliers and business needs as a form of problem solving, and I thrive off those interactions! My favorite part of working in Supplier Diversity is meeting talented business owners and connecting them to the people who make purchasing decisions, both at SAS and at other companies.
The work we do makes me very proud, and Supplier Diversity is an important part of what makes SAS a great company to work for and with.
Q: You said before that your motivation for your career search was to grow your expertise – how have you done that here at SAS?
Andrea: I knew coming in that I wanted to grow my skill set, so I figured that training was a great place to start. I came to SAS as a new manager, so I hit the ground running and took Manager Essentials as one of my first courses and it gave me the opportunity to connect with other new managers at SAS. That provided me with a great foundation, peer network, and really helped prepare me for my new role.
I also took Ignite Your Style, a day-and-a-half training on public speaking. As someone who struggles with social anxiety in a career that requires constant engagement and interaction, public speaking was something I had always managed to get through, but never particularly enjoyed. I wanted to challenge myself to do something out of my comfort zone and knew that formal public speaking training would be a big boost to my skill set.
It was a little nerve wracking at first, but our instructor coached each of us individually as we gradually gained confidence. We took before and after videos to track our progress, and the results were astonishing. I’m glad I took the class when I did, because two weeks later I was asked to present in front of two departments with only 24 hours’ notice!
Since then, I’ve also completed Everything DiSC personality training, which was very enlightening (and fun!). I can’t wait for more opportunities to tone up my skills!
Q: It sounds like these classes have really helped you grow your skills! What advice do you have for others who want to add more skills to their toolbox?
Andrea: Start by talking with your manager. Work together to develop a training plan tailored for you and ask other employees about their training experiences. Get out of your comfort zone and challenge yourself in areas that aren’t familiar or don’t come natural to you.
Also check to see if your company has a formal mentor program. I joined our Career Mentor Program, and my mentor has been a great source of guidance for development opportunities. But even if your company doesn’t have a program, consider finding an informal mentor and pick their brain about what they’ve done to grow their career. So many people are willing to share advice and their experience with you if you just ask.
Q: What’s been the best part about working at SAS so far?
Andrea: For me, it all comes down to the people. I love this quote by Amy Poehler. It sums up why I love working at SAS: “Find a group of people who challenge and inspire you, spend a lot of time with them, and it will change your life.” My experience at SAS has definitely been life-changing, and I’m excited to be a part of the future of Supplier Diversity at SAS!
Thanks, Andrea for sharing your story and advice. We can’t wait to see what challenges you tackle next!