• Wassel Lewis Champions Diversity at Aflac and Beyond

    Wassel Lewis believes that since we live in a country that i

    Wassel Lewis Champions Diversity at Aflac and Beyond

    Wassel Lewis believes that since we live in a country that is extremely diverse, it makes sense to have a workforce and supplier base that reflects that diversity. As director of Strategic Sourcing and Procurement at Aflac, his vision is to instill that notion and make it part of the company’s overall business plan and culture going forward.

    “Supplier diversity is extremely important to Aflac because we believe it’s the right thing to do for the communities in which we serve. However, it is also a business consideration. Today’s marketplace is as diverse as it has ever been, and we want to reflect that in our workforce and through the suppliers that represent our brand. It is a key pillar of our overall growth strategy,” Lewis said.

  • Effectively Adapting Your Leadership Skills After A Major Career Change

    Now, more than ever, professionals are looking for change. T

    Effectively Adapting Your Leadership Skills After A Major Career Change

    Now, more than ever, professionals are looking for change. The Indeed Hiring Lab reports that 86 percent of individuals who are already employed but seeking new jobs are looking for work outside their current profession.

    It may not surprise you that younger workers are changing jobs but, research has found, even those reaching retirement age are interested in a career change. A study reported by Prevention magazine found a growing number of people see their 40s, 50s and 60s as the right time to move to an entirely different profession. People are also working longer. Prevention reports 79 percent of baby boomers expect to work at least part-time after retirement.

    Whether it’s millennials or baby boomers, people are changing careers for many reasons. Some are seeking new opportunities or higher earnings. According to a LinkedIn survey, the primary reason people change jobs is for career advancement, followed closely by dissatisfaction with leadership or the work environment. Another survey suggests 42 percent of professionals leave their job due to stress. Some people starting a new career later in life, or even retirement, may share these motivations but others, like me, may see this time as a chance for them to pursue their passion.


    Los Angeles County Supervisor Hilda Solis’s journey is a r


    Los Angeles County Supervisor Hilda Solis’s journey is a remarkable one and, as a 2011 profile in the Los Angeles Times pointed out, a far cry from the path a high school counselor suggested: skip college and become a secretary.

    Ignoring the counselor’s advice, Solis earned not one but two college degrees, including a master’s in public administration from the University of Southern California. She then defined a “secretarial” career in her own way by becoming the first Latina to serve in a U.S. Cabinet as President Barack Obama’s secretary of Labor.

    The Cabinet appointment is but one highlight in a more than 30-year career in elected office. Starting with a successful campaign for a community college trustee seat, Solis won elections that moved her to Sacramento, where she served in the California Assembly and later became the first Latina elected to the California State Senate. That was followed by eight years in the U.S. House of Representatives where she focused on labor, immigration and the environment, according to an announcement by her alma mater, California State Polytechnic University, Pomona, regarding her 2013 appointment as a scholar in residence.

    In 2014, nearly two years after returning to Los Angeles from Washington, D.C., Solis became only the second Latino supervisor elected since the 1860s and one of two Latinas who have represented the heavily Latino First District since its formation, following a 1990 landmark voting rights case. One-fifth of the county’s 10 million residents live in the district, which includes 24 cities, 26 unincorporated areas and 16 areas of the City of Los Angeles.

    Running a City-State

    As one of five supervisors, Solis helps manage a $30 billion budget that funds a staggering range of vital services, including public health and safety, hospitals, transportation and social services for the disadvantaged. Having grown up in the First District community of La Puente, 30 miles east of her downtown Los Angeles office, she knows first-hand the challenges—homelessness, economic development and transportation among them—of serving one of the country’s largest and most diverse counties.

    “In today’s political climate, government leaders need to advocate for our most vulnerable communities…and more minority and women leaders step up to the plate for fair representation,” said Solis, one of four women comprising the county’s first women supermajority on the five-member board. “The policies I move forward directly affect the communities I visit on a day-to-day basis. Instead of working to change laws and move legislation at the federal level, I now get to fund community projects, improve the quality of life and ensure public safety in my communities.”

    All Politics are Local

    Nowhere is that grassroots focus proving more critical than in protecting the 3.5 million immigrants living in the county. Since President Donald Trump’s election, Solis has introduced 11 immigrant-protection motions and helped establish an Immigrant Protection and Advancement Taskforce and Office of Immigrant Affairs, as well as a Countywide Sensitive Locations Policy to protect immigrants attending school or seeking medical attention.

    Despite the public criticism that some of those measures have drawn, immigration remains one of several issues where Solis has followed a progressive philosophy instilled by her parents, Nicaraguan and Mexican immigrants who were active in workers’ rights and the union labor movement.

    “Whether it’s immigration or healthcare, everyone has an opinion. And, yes, political tensions are high, but that doesn’t mean that our communities should suffer,” she said. “I continue to advocate for health care, legal defense for immigrants and basic women’s services. At the end of the day, I’m focused on creating positive spaces and increasing the quality of life for everyone. That means keeping all residents safe with resources available to them, regardless of their immigration status.”

    Working with fellow Democrats forming the board’s liberal majority, Solis has helped launch several initiatives that are addressing critical county issues, including minimum wage standards; housing and support services for the homeless; disadvantaged women and girls; affordable housing; small business development; and the environment. She sponsored a ballot measure that provides $94 million annually for public parks and successfully lobbied the state to earmark $176 million to clean up thousands of lead-contaminated homes in southeast Los Angeles County.

    Women and Politics

    With women remaining vastly underrepresented in local government throughout California, political representation remains a key concern for Solis.

    “Research and the community’s experience tell us that education is the path to opportunity. To get more women in public office, we need to do more to not only get girls into college but through college,” she said. “This means providing specialized support for first-generation students and making scholarships and financial aid available. It also means offering internships and other early work opportunities that enable women and girls to see how they can make a difference.”

    “Women, especially women of color, have the power to influence policy. We need more people in government like that.”

  • Playing It Smart

    In today’s business environment, purposeful leaders must b

    Playing It Smart

    In today’s business environment, purposeful leaders must be prepared if they want to run a successful company. No one understands this better than president and CEO of Ruiz Strategies, Michele Ruiz. By understanding her company’s future needs, looking outward for resources that can help her company, and creating new opportunities for growth, Ruiz and her team have managed to create a strategic communications firm that articulates the message they are always, “Ready to play.”

    Ruiz Strategies specializes in helping world-class companies, professional services firms, government entities and C-level executives communicate transformative messaging to connect with customers in relevant ways, grow their businesses to achieve broader market penetration and elevate their brands as recognizable thought leaders. Ruiz and her team deliver messages through content production. They develop strategies and execute or augment internal and external communications strategies.

    Early on, Ruiz understood the value of investing in her company, which she founded in 2001. In fact, it was a matter of preparation and having the right expertise that enabled Ruiz Strategies to win a $300 million contract with NASA.

    While businesses must meet certain federal guidelines to receive large government contracts, Ruiz was aware of exceptions made for small businesses.

    “We didn’t have to do all of that because we were still considered a small business on the government side,” stated Ruiz. “In other words, there was some leeway, but we wanted to communicate we were ready to play big.”

    Not satisfied with the status quo, she retained consultants in government contracting. She also changed the internal accounting system and other processes that solidified her company’s capabilities.

    When it comes to creating new opportunities with corporations, Ruiz believes authentic relationships based on trust are essential.

    “Relationships are critical, but more important is the trust building aspect of the relationship. I have known from day one that it’s very important for our potential customers, and more importantly, that the people, at the large corporations we’re interacting with, trust us as a company, trust we’re going to deliver what we say we’re going to deliver, trust that we can handle the work and trust that we’re reputable,” Ruiz added.

    Ruiz has always had a keen awareness of the role a supplier diversity professional plays and advises entrepreneurs, especially those who are beginning their careers, to do the same.

    “It takes not only numerous meetings, but the approach that everything you do and say communicates something about your company. That means everything in terms of how we show up and how we conduct ourselves becomes critically important. We need to make it easy for the supplier diversity professional when they make an introduction to their colleagues within their corporation,” she said.

    The CEO also recommends delivering exceptional service to initial clients, or “marquee customers,” as another way for companies to propel themselves to the next level. These initial contracts can be used to help companies establish credibility to do business with large corporations.

    “The fact that Shell Oil, the largest multinational corporation in the world, is one of our clients was a very strong plus when the government considered us for the NASA contract,” Ruiz revealed.

    Ruiz said she understands businesses must be ready for what lies ahead and doesn’t underestimate the role technology plays in every industry. This is a critical element, she explained, because many diverse businesses, women-owned included, are so busy running their companies they don’t realize what is happening within the industry.

    “For diverse suppliers, [technology] is imperative. If we want to make sure we are relevant five years from now, we need to stay on top of the technological advancements that are happening in the industries we focus on,” explained Ruiz. “We’re really running two businesses; we’re running the business as it exists today, and we’re running a business that will exist five years from now.”

    Maintaining a competitive edge in the industry is essential, according to Ruiz. She and her team accomplish this goal by staying involved in organizations, entities and conferences that are outside of the supplier diversity space. Oftentimes, the conferences are centered on technology and current conditions within the industry. Ruiz also remains in the loop by frequently speaking with clients about what’s happening within their businesses.

    A serial entrepreneur, Ruiz will be announcing a third business in 2017. She leads by example, and has a passion for creating businesses and solutions while empowering others along the way.

    “It’s not just the size of our business; it’s the impact we have; it’s the jobs we create, and family legacies we change. That’s what drives me,” she shared.