Collective Action Is Key: Celebrate International Women’s Day by Making Your Company More Inclusive

Sponsored by GE Power

LaShon Z. Proctor. Photo courtesy of GE Gas Power.

LaShon Z. Proctor. Photo courtesy of GE Gas Power.

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International Women's Day (IWD) is a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women. The day also emphasizes our need to accelerate women's equality — collective action and shared ownership for driving gender parity is what makes International Women's Day impactful after all. 

But how can you join in on this day and make a difference? One way to do just that is by helping to make your company a more inclusive place so that everyone can succeed, together. For advice on how to achieve this, we reached out to LaShon Z. Proctor, a Senior Staff Customer Advocate at GE Digital.

Proctor notes that in order to make your company more inclusive, you first need to become more inclusive yourself. “Look for ways to engage colleagues outside of work and share your experiences with them,” she notes. “Employee resource groups (ERGs), book clubs, and volunteer events are great ways to connect. And, the more connected a person feels, the more inclusive one’s company feels.”

In particular, Proctor highlights how important ERGs are in expanding your worldview and creating a more inclusive company culture. “The ERGs at GE have been a great resource for me when it comes to meeting and networking with people from different businesses and functions inside GE,” explains Proctor, who participates in the African American Forum and Women’s Network. 

ERGs not only provide a chance to boost inclusivity and “a sense of community where people can grow and thrive,” shares Proctor, but they also “made my work at GE better and made me a better leader as well.” In her experience, connecting to colleagues all over GE who are outside of her day-to-day role has resulted in many phenomenal opportunities. These ERG connections “have always been willing to help me navigate next steps — be it professional or personal,” she tells us.

Making connections with others is imperative to making the world of work a better place for all. Another way you can do this is via mentorship (either with a dedicated program or in an ad-hoc manner), which is key to lifting others up as we climb in our careers. For Proctor, she shares that, “I have had the pleasure of working with high-performing women my entire career. The mentorship I have received over the course of my career has shaped the way I lead today.”

In this article, Proctor shares more about the role of women in her own career journey, how she supports other women, and how GE empowers women all year round.

To begin, can you tell us a little bit about your career journey? How have other women aided in your career growth?

I started my career in Aerospace at Space Systems/Loral (SS/L) as a Payload Engineer. When interviewing for this position, I didn’t demonstrate confidence, despite having completed a master’s degree in electrical engineering at Stanford. But after I started at SS/L, the Payload Engineering Department Manager, who was a woman, told me that she hired me because she knew I could do the job. This made me realize that I also knew I could do the job, and, with time and experience, I became more confident in my ability. In this role, I enjoyed the high degree of ownership that I was afforded. I learned a lot and had a high degree of satisfaction in supporting a product from contract to launch.

After the delivery of my first commercial spacecraft, I accepted an opportunity at Lockheed-Martin as a Systems Engineer on the NOAA-N weather monitoring program. This was a new challenge, as I was working directly with NASA contractors on two microwave sounders. 

Although I enjoyed working with the team at Lockheed-Martin, I really missed working on commercial space projects. So, after the launch of the NOAA-N spacecraft, I returned to SS/L as a Lead Payload Engineer. I was now the lead engineer, responsible for the communications payload and not just supporting another engineer. Having moved between companies afforded me increasing levels of responsibility and opportunity. It was always uncomfortable at first but rewarding in the end. I learned early the importance of being comfortable with being uncomfortable.  

Speaking of moving outside of your comfort zone, what is the career move you’re most proud of? 

The career move I am most proud of is when I moved from SS/L to General Electric (GE). I had been in the Aerospace industry for 10 years, but I had always wanted to live in Atlanta, so I felt that it was time for a change both professionally and personally. 

Moving away from family and friends in California to the unknown in Georgia was a big move. It was scary, but necessary. I ended up joining GE through a leadership program called System Engineering Advancement Program (SEAP). As a part of this program, I did three rotations. I worked:

  1. With the Gas Power team by performing analysis on Gas Turbines.

  2. With the GE Meters team by developing requirements documents for SGM meters.

  3. In my current role, the GridIQ SaaS team, with customer support. 

This career move allowed me to meet a variety of new people and gain a wealth of knowledge on how to support cloud-based applications. 

That’s amazing! Can you tell us more about this current role?

I am a Senior Staff Customer Advocate for GE Digital. My job is to provide technical support, training, and customer advocacy to small utilities to ensure that they realize the full value of the GE GridIQ Connect Software as a Service solution. 

I’ve been a part of the GridIQ SaaS team for about eight years. I started on the team by supporting the SaaS Operations manager with two customer accounts. The SaaS Operations Manager was a woman who was technically astute with phenomenal people skills — and she was the person who encouraged me to apply for the GridIQ Connect SaaS role

At the time, I didn’t have any knowledge about supporting cloud-based applications, but she said, “you can learn it.She provided mentorship and support to me both personally and professionally. When she moved to her next role, my role and responsibilities in GridIQ SaaS grew. I took on leadership of proactively addressing customer issues as well as interfacing with vendors and internal stakeholders. 

Over the past few years, I have gained experience with the various subsystems and have been promoted to a Lead Customer Service Specialist and now to Senior Staff Customer Advocate. A typical day for me is spent engaging with vendors and customers, analyzing data, and working with engineering to address offline equipment. And, every day, my goal is to improve overall system performance. I love that in this role, no two days are the same.  

As you grow your career, how do you ensure that you are lifting other women up with you?

I am very active with our GE Girls Camp, which is one way that I try to contribute to the development of future leaders. I also participate in the African American Forum and Women’s Network events. I seek to educate and inform by building a community of women who are striving to be leaders and make a difference both in GE and our communities.

Finally, how does GE support women all year round? 

One way that GE supports women all year round is through the GE Women’s Network. The GE Women’s Network offers professional development, workshops, mentorship opportunities,  and a space and community for women and allies to come together. The GE Women’s Network serves as a safe space to speak with other Women inside GE on how best to navigate career and work-life balance. 

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