Great leaders are key at Hyperbiotics, and we couldn’t do what we do every day without April Watkins, Vice President of Operations. We spoke with April about her role here at HB, equality in the workplace, and the women she looks to for inspiration.
1. What is your role here at Hyperbiotics?
As VP of Operations, I work across a range of areas to keep everything running smoothly, internally and externally. This includes supporting our team with the right processes, tools, and employee programs; coordinating internal communications with my Communications and Team Engagement colleagues; and ensuring that our systems and information management are all top-notch. I also work closely with everyone in our account management, fulfillment and logistics, and our incredible customer support teams to make sure we give our customers the best possible product and service at every turn.
2. The theme for this year’s International Women’s Day was gender parity. Which aspects of gender parity are most impactful and important to you in the workplace?
This is such an important topic, with so many facets to discuss and explore! If I had to narrow it down to the most impactful to me in the workplace, I would first say recognizing the value of the full-scope of skills and experiences women often bring to the table. By including women in decision-making discussions, we tap into a more diverse set of ideas and perspectives, which often leads to a more holistic assessment and unique solutions.
Secondly, I believe it’s vital that we provide equitable opportunities for development, advancement, and leadership roles. Men are 30% more likely to be promoted into a management role at entry level, and we see less than 25% of C-level positions held by women. This disparity directly impacts not only a company’s culture, but also female workers’ perception that their achievements and potential will be recognized and rewarded.
3. Who is a woman who inspires you, and why?
Hands down, my mother. Her intelligence, fierce independence, and determination have always been remarkable. As a young woman in the mid-1940’s, she left her home on a rural farm and put herself through business school, then spent several years traveling and working administratively, which was a brave choice for a woman in that era. Growing up, she raised my sister and I as a single parent after my father’s passing. She worked full time (and then some), and yet I would often find her doing some home repair herself, surrounded by tools. Today, at 90, she still lives on her own, is physically active, and has a mind as sharp as a tack. She’s often the one reminding me that I need to do something!
4. March is also Women’s History Month. Is there a specific woman, past or present, who has impacted your decision and ability to pursue and succeed in leadership positions?
I have been fortunate to work with many talented women over the course of my career, and I have taken away countless bits of guidance and insight. One person from my early career stands out the most though, during my work at Chronicle Publishing in San Francisco in the early days of the technology revolution. Jan Calvert was the head of the Chronicle’s voice information service, leading three newspapers in this (at that time) cutting-edge technology. While upper management supported the program, it was new and unknown, so funding and staffing was limited. Jan successfully championed our efforts to management and the board of directors, while she also dug in and did the day-to-day programming, marketing, and sales, right alongside the team.
Jan also had the most tremendous heart, full of compassion for everyone around her. Instead of hiding that in the workplace, as many might, it was a strength and hallmark of her leadership. Being emotionally present, she cultivated honesty and trust in a meaningful way with every interaction.
Working with Jan, I learned that true leadership is not done from a distance, but from being thoroughly engaged, involved, and connected with everyone in your organization. And the best leaders roll up their sleeves and dig into the work.
5. What message do you have for women on how to achieve their career goals and dreams?
Be true to yourself, and stay the course. There is an increasing trend to believe that we can, and should, have everything, and not break a sweat (or a nail) while working for all of it. That sets up vastly unrealistic expectations and I see so many women stressing out trying to have, and be, all things. Be true to what you value, place your time and focus there, and don’t worry about fitting into someone else’s mold. For younger women, or even those mid-career, stay the course, and avoid the temptation to jump ship and switch careers when the waters get rough. Longevity brings experience and knowledge that are invaluable, and the rough waters will always calm down eventually.
6. What do you like to do when you aren’t working?
My husband and I have two amazing teenagers, one of whom will head to college soon, so whenever possible we’re hanging out with them. We attend school events for band concerts, quiz bowl tournaments, plays, and sports; we all love music, movies, theatre, and food; and I am finding that I know an awful lot about the NBA these days! I love to cook, take long walks around my beautiful lakeside town, and am nurturing my fledgling yoga practice.
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