Alumni Spotlight: Sherry Williams, LT'08

Megan Rudolph, 08/04/2017

Sherry Williams, LT'08
Deputy Director at Technology Access Foundation

Sherry Williams HeadshotTell me about what you do at Technology Access Foundation.
I started working at TAF when the organization was four-months-old, and I recently celebrated my 20th work anniversary. Over the years I have worn many different hats, but currently, I am the Deputy Director, which means I run operations, HR and payroll, and I'm part of the executive team that sets the strategic direction for the organization.  
 
What stands out from your LT year? What's your favorite memory?
One of my favorite memories was interviewing Frank Chopp, LT'87, who at the time, was the Speaker of Washington State House of Representatives. Meeting and interviewing Frank challenged my assumptions regarding what it means to be a politician.
 
I remember Frank saying, "You have to be radical to make change. Do the unexpected." As an example, to persuade an affluent community that didn't want transitional housing built in their neighborhood, Frank brought his baby to a meeting. He put his child in a car seat on the table and asked, "What if this baby didn't have a place to live?" Frank's unconventional leadership approach worked. He overcame the community members' resistance and successfully moved forward with the project.
 
How has your leadership style changed since going through the program? How have you become a more effective leader?
Leadership Tomorrow helped me find my voice and not be intimidated. Prior to LT, I was often intimated in meetings, as I was one of the few people of color in the room. Now, I am deliberate to make sure I have a voice. I am polite, but I speak my peace and am okay with people being uncomfortable. I serve on the board of Solid Ground. When I participate in board meetings, I am there for the people Solid Ground serves, not for the people around the table. If there is an issue that will affect the people we serve, I speak up.
 
My lab team experience also helped me learn to navigate different work styles and personalities, and adopt a more collaborative work style. When we have team meetings at TAF, we set an agenda and troubleshoot and do the work together; it is a very collaborative working environment.
 
Tell me about your community involvement outside of your work at a nonprofit. Has your community involvement changed since going through LT?
While I was going through LT, I served on the Board of Directors of Burst for Prosperity, an organization that helps families get out of poverty. I served on the board for four years and helped lead the finance committee. Currently, I am in my third year of serving on the Board of Directors for Solid Ground, a nonprofit working to end poverty and undo racism and other oppressions that are root causes of poverty.
 
One of my reasons for joining the board of Solid Ground was that I wanted to advocate for seniors. Seniors have so much to contribute, but they are often a forgotten population. When I was going through LT, my second lab team worked with an organization in the International District that provides dinner and activities for seniors in assisted living. The LT lab team was asked to research and determine if the organization should continue this program. The team found that the seniors loved the activities and coming together as a community. We also found that the organization was spending less money than they originally thought, so our team suggested keeping the program because of its impact. This experience made me appreciate seniors and want to advocate for them.
 
What advice would you give to someone going through the program?
Go into it wholeheartedly and expect to be transformed. Figure out where the needs are, what you're passionate about, and make your mark. You're only going to get out of it what you put into it. When you dive in, you're going to come out a greater leader and better person. Prior to LT, I never thought I would be the Deputy Director of TAF. LT boosted my confidence and made me realize how much I can accomplish.