Anka Twum-Baah – Leadership Board

What is your occupation and how did you come to work in this area?
I currently work for American Express within the Global Merchant Services business unit developing and executing industry strategies across an $11B portfolio of merchants. I joined American Express shortly after business school.

What is your strongest characteristic and how has it assisted you in your career?
I believe my strongest characteristic is resilience. I have found that resilience has helped me stay focused on a particular goal without being discouraged. Resilience has also helped me be a more effective leader in keeping my team energized and prepared to succeed regardless of any obstacle.

Describe three lessons you have learned during your career?

Three specific lessons are as follows:

-Never be fearful of change: Change is inevitable and I find that it often presents an opportunity to challenge your abilities or grow abilities that were originally dormant.

- Come prepared: It always helps to ‘do your homework’ and while I can’t account for every possible option, it is useful to have a firm understanding of the situation at hand.

- Don’t Underestimate The Power of Your Network: Over the years I’ve found that having a network goes hand –in-hand with strong performance. Without fail the relationships that I’ve built through my network have been invaluable. It is through my network that I’ve been able to develop mentors, advocates, and friends.
What has been your biggest accomplishment to date?

It’s a close tie between successfully lobbying for a new school building for a run-down south-side Chicago elementary school and teaching a class of previously failing second graders how to read and pass state Board exams. Both accomplishments were extremely rewarding experiences.
What have you learned as a Leadership Board member about the significance of board service?
I have always valued Board service and understood its significance. I believe the CUP leadership Board has taught me to encourage the act of board of service and civic responsibility in others.

What advice would you give someone who is interested in serving on a board?
One piece of advice I would give to someone is to not discount organizations that may seem smaller, lesser-known, or within a subject area that appears ‘less-glamorous’. While I enjoy serving on Boards of organizations that are large and well-known, I also consider serving with organizations that are smaller and often are in desperate need of talent, knowledge trust, resources, and leadership.  I have found that serving on Boards of these smaller or lesser-known organizations provides an opportunity for me to see the direct impact of my service.

What do you do in your free time?
Prior to working for American Express I spent a few years working in education and still enjoy volunteering with several Boards focused on closing the achievement gap in urban areas. In addition, I also coach a girl’s pee wee soccer team affectionately named the ‘Ladybugs,’ and enjoy testing new recipes on my friends/family during my free time.