Coming from a background of public service, one of the things I’m most proud of at United Way is our employees’ passion and shared commitment to improving lives. It’s humbling to lead a team that is so driven to help others.
That same desire to serve the community is as apparent in new staff as it is long-time team members – and Carniesha Kwashie, our new Director of Workforce Development, is no exception. An outstanding leader and accomplished professional, Carniesha now spearheads our Job Opportuntiy Investment Network, which develops and supports innovative efforts to eliminate the gap between workers’ current skill levels and those needed for high-growth jobs.
I sat down with Carniesha to hear more about her leadership journey and the passion for service that brought her to our United Way.
Jim Cawley: How did your upbringing shape who you are today, professionally and personally?
Carniesha Kwashie: Giving back to others is built into my family’s fabric. My family showed me the importance of lifting up others as I aimed higher and helped me see that others can learn and build from what I’ve learned and accomplished in partnership the communities we love to serve. I was taught to be a voice and advocate for those who can’t speak for themselves, and that’s because someone was once a voice for me and my family. Those are lessons I now pass along to my daughter, and that have been crucial in forming my professional path. I’m excited that path has led me to the United Way team. United Way shares the same values and commitment to serve the community.
JC: At United Way, we celebrate #WomenLeadingToday – applauding women in our community whose professional and personal work leads community change and helps others. How do you see yourself as one of many #WomenLeadingToday?
CK: My background is fundamental to who I am as a leader. I mainly grew up in a working class family in Baltimoreand “overcame the odds” – I was the first female in my family to graduate from college and the first in my generation to earn a master’s degree. Because of that perspective, I can be a voice and advocate for the change that needs to take place to improve communities like the one I grew up in. I lead with a historical lens and knowledge of where we’ve been and what we see today, so I’m solution- driven and work to find paths to where we need to be.
JC: What advice do you have for young women and others looking to make a difference and inspire change?
CK: Education and knowledge are power – don’t underestimate their value in helping you make a difference. Know your purpose and be self-aware and transparent about your strengths, visions, weaknesses. Dare to dream and press through your insecurities – we all have them, and it’s what we do to move past them that makes the difference. Value and respect everyone. Finally, be a good listener: leaders value people even when they don’t agree with them because true leaders appreciate all the different perspectives at the table.