By Stacy Nguyen
Northwest Asian Weekly
Sherri Wade is the vice president of operations at State Farm Pacific Northwest, headquartered in DuPont, Wash.
Wade joined State Farm in 1993 as an auto operations underwriter in the Northeast zone. There, she was named office underwriting supervisor. In 1998, she moved to corporate as a training analyst and later became a management planning and information (MP&I) analyst. She relocated to Maryland as MP&I manager in 2000, becoming an ACC section manager in 2003.
In 2004, Sherri moved to California as an auto operations manager. She became a director in corporate P&C underwriting in 2007. Sherri was selected as an executive assistant in 2009 and served in that position at the corporate headquarters in Bloomington, Ill., until 2010 when she was selected for her current position as vice president of operations.
Sherri earned a bachelor’s degree from Howard University, where she majored in insurance with a concentration in actuarial science.
1. Why is it important to you to contribute to your community?
I believe to whom much is given, much is expected. I think of my two young children (Zion and Zayden, with husband Joel), who will have children of their own one day. Their well-being depends upon the health of the community. And in this day and age, our communities are more interconnected than ever. It’s our responsibility to ensure that we foster an environment that promotes a diverse, intellectual society.
2. What does the word diversity mean to you and how do you foster it in your work?
Diversity is the inclusion of individuals with distinct backgrounds, beliefs, and thought processes utilized to the collective good of a community. Diversity is not just about having different viewpoints represented. It’s also about encouraging all aspects of a conversation to voice their unique insights. I believe in creating safe spaces to allow individuals to bring their entire selves to the table. I create opportunities to get to know people, so I lead in a way that I can demonstrate I value who they are and how they contribute in unique ways.
3. What was one of your biggest challenges you’ve faced in your work?
My biggest challenge was finding my voice. Growing up in a family with strong faith and a humble background, I tend to be very respectful of the thoughts of others and prefer to let the work I do speak for me.
This has been a challenge for me. I have realized two things: I need to continue to ensure I get my voice in the room by sharing my thoughts, and I have to share my story in a way where people see how I contribute.
4. What was one of the proudest moments in your work?
My proudest moments usually come from helping others succeed. I was moved to a leadership position where I had no technical expertise. I was able to partner with my peer to deliver results within the department within a year that, at times, the people didn’t think they could accomplish. The moments where those you lead accomplish more than they could imagine and are better because you were there are magical.
5. Can you finish this sentence? “My work excites me because …”
I know what I do matters to the lives of those I lead and to the community as a whole. I work in an organization that truly cares about the best interest of our customers. Our mission states that we want to help people recover from the unexpected and realize their dreams, and seeing that put into action is one of the best things anyone can ask for.
6. If you could pick only one trait, what trait do you think is the most important for a leader?
I would say vision, with the additional caveat of including the ability to communicate that vision. As leaders, we have to have ability to see where the organization needs to go and get there to exceed customers’ expectations. We have to communicate our vision in a way that people can translate it into their everyday behaviors.
7. If you could compare your leadership style to that of a historical figure, who would that be?
I would say someone not so historical — [my father] James Lee Evans Jr. He taught me to remain humble, never give up, stay in control, care about those you lead, and put the greater good ahead of my personal good.
8. If you weren’t doing what you’re doing today, what other job do you think you’d be good at?
I would be a teacher. I believe there is nothing more important to our future than taking care of our children. I would spend my time building their love for knowledge. With my children, seeing them learn and really approach the world with a sense of wonder is so refreshing. It really does inspire me to be a better person.
9. Do you have a secret talent? What is it?
I have the ability to see the world through the eyes of others. As I make decisions and implement them, I consider how others would view it and adjust the way I implement based on this understanding. I have to admit, this is much easier at work than at home.
10. If you could describe yourself in only three words, what would they be?
Caring, focused, humble. (end)
Stacy Nguyen can be reached at email@example.com.