Interview with Leslie Harris

By pearl - August 15, 2018

Recently awarded 40 under 40 by Jacksonville Business Journal, Leslie Harris talks about her career in Engineering from consulting to running an organization of 70+ people at Amazon.

Leslie Harris obtained her undergraduate degree from Florida State University in Civil and Environmental Engineering and a Masters of Engineering from the University of Florida. She is currently an area manager at Amazon where she ensures orders and packages are shipped and delivered on time.

What’s A Typical Day for Leslie like?
 A typical work day for me starts very early. I am usually up and ready for work by 6:15 am to ensure I am at work on time to prep for my shift. I have about 76 direct reports, so I have to access the shift prior to them arriving to present the day's plan. I need to check volume for the day (orders that need to be shipped out during our 10-hour shift), any unknown absences and how many people I need in the actual operation to ensure that all orders are processed. Throughout the day, I am removing any barriers my employees are facing and working on process improvement. The day usually ends around 7:30-ish and then I can go home and get caught up on some shows while eating dinner before passing out.
On one of my off days, I’m usually volunteering in some capacity; getting caught up with friends, pampering myself and trying to prevent myself from giving all of my money back to Amazon by buying everything I need and don’t need off the Internet.

What was your biggest Challenge being an African American woman in Corporate America? How do you overcome it?
Prior to working at Amazon, I worked as an Engineer for an Environmental Engineering consulting firm. There, I was one of the three women in the firmand the only black person as wellwhich I had grown accustomed to because I experienced the same thing while in school. The biggest challenge I have faced and still face today is constantly having to consider how I come across. Nobody wants to be labeled as the “angry black woman.” Engineering is a very Type Aand aggressive fieldand I witness white men and women raise their voices; storm off, and curse in meetings etc. Yet, they are patted on the back, sometimes even promoted for their passion. If I were to act in the same manner, I'd be giving the feedback of coming off as "too blunt" or needing to add “sugar” to my approach. It’s a balance that I’ve had to work towards and still do not grasp because I am very passionate. But until people who look like me are higher up in the companies that employ people like me, things will continue to progress at a slow pace. To overcome this, I have acquired several mentors throughout my career who have encountered similar challenges in theirs. Having someone you can vent to and get genuine and constructive criticism or feedback has helped me overcome this tremendously.

What career advice will you give to someone just joining the tech Industry today?
 The advice I would give someone joining the tech industry today would be to not dim your light for someone else to shine; to work hard and stand firm in what you believe and you will eventually reap the benefits of your hard work. You are here for a reasonyou were hired to bring whatever special skills you possess to the table to impact the overall company. So, do just that!

What is Leslie passionate about? Hobbies?

Leslie is passionate about life. You only get one so why not live it with no regrets? With that, I just believe in giving people their roses while they are here. Whether it be friends or family, if you play an important role in my life, I intend to let you know it as often as I can. I love people and kids and so a lot of my spare time is spent volunteering/tutoring or catching up with friends. I’ve started reading again, so I try to read at least one book over a one/two-month span to keep me saneand my brain sharp. My hobbies also include eating: I love trying new food and restaurants in my area or when I’m traveling. I refuse to eat at a chain restaurant when I am out of town, that I can eat where I live. 

A big thank you to Leslie for taking time out to interview with us. I could greatly identify with most of the issues she faces being a minority in the tech industry and I am super inspired by how she overcomes this. I hope you are inspired too. If you have any questions for Leslie please leave them in the comment section of this blog. 

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