Kwad Acheampong – Leadership Board Spotlight

What is your occupation and how did you come to work in this area?

I am the Sales & Trading Program Manager with Sponsors for Educational Opportunity (SEO), where I prepare underrepresented students of color for internships in corporate America.  The job really found me.  After witnessing the credit crises from my equities trading seat, I felt a strong urge to give back and to help repair the fabric of labor force.  When the recession happened, I was asked to move to another group, but all I wanted to do was trade.  While contemplating microfinance opportunities in South America, a friend of mine informed me of the Sales and Trading program manager position with SEO.  While microfinance in a Spanish-speaking country was alluring, enhancing the diversity pipeline of Corporate America was the best way for me to give back.

What is your strongest characteristic and how has it assisted you in your career?

My networking skills.  I almost never say no to an opportunity to attend an event where I will meet new people.  I follow up via e-mails, Facebook, and LinkedIn. I am always expanding my network to create synergies among all of the organizations with which I am affiliated.  Experience is the best teacher, so I never miss the opportunity to gain a new experience or to learn from other’s experiences.  Networking has given me mentors whom offer me professional development opportunities and, in some cases, job opportunities.

Describe three lessons you have learned during your career?

1)      To borrow from Carla Harris, know the difference between a mentor and a sponsor:

“A mentor is a person you can tell the good, bad and ugly to. You need to be willing to share intimacies about your career. A mentor’s job is to give you tailored advice specifically to your career goals. You need to make sure they know you and you can trust them.

A sponsor is not a person that you tell the good, the bad, and the ugly to; he or she is a person you tell the good, the good, and the good to. He or she is the person who, behind closed doors, will pound the table for you. There needs to be a good reason for them to spend their political capital on you, so you need to articulate why you are worthy of their capital spend. While your mentor does not need to be within your company, your sponsor has to be in the company and have a seat at the table.”

2)      Consistently find the time to meet with everyone on your team to understand their needs and to post them on the work that you have been doing for the organization.  Once you have figured out their needs, fill them without being asked to do so.

3)      Stay out late.  Whether in the office or outside of the office, relationships are formed in the wee hours of the night.

What has been your biggest accomplishment to date?

Raising the SEO Sales and Trading fulltime job offer rate to the highest rate in 5 years during my first year.  What’s great about the students that received job offers is that they are helping students in their respective communities find jobs and internships that will help them succeed in their endeavors.

What have you learned as a Leadership Board member about the significance of board service?

Board service provides the perfect balance of being on the streets serving your community and shaping the trajectory of an organization.  Until CUP exposed me to board service, I was concerned with the fact that I was never doing enough from my Wall Street job or from my current office job at SEO.  I learned that a group of people coming together to use collective action in the name of  service creates stronger force for getting things done and sends a more powerful message that gets others involved.

What advice would you give someone who is interested in serving on a board?

Join a board not only because you want to serve on it but also because you are certain of how you can enhance the organization it serves.

What do you do in your free time?

I review restaurants.  You can follow my escapades at http://kwad-foodmaven.blogspot.com/