Daring Women: Kimberly Hill Advises Future Leaders to ‘Build a Career Path as Unique as You’

Amazon manager also is a big believer in leveraging networking to build community

Kimberly Hill earned the Just Do It Award from Amazon in 2018 after she and a colleague pitched to senior leadership a concept for a new hair-product site for textured hair. At the time, she was an account manager for the ecommerce giant, but after the new Textures & Hues online shop took off in 2017, Hill was promoted to a marketing manager position at Amazon. Earlier this year, she was promoted to the role of business development manager at the company.

Hill also has served for as a board member of Amazon’s Black Employee Network, including as its community relations co-chair and culture director, and helped plan Amazon’s first Black History Month celebration, which featured a variety of business and community events. Hill is a Texas native and moved to Seattle to pursue her education, earning an MBA from Northwest University in 2013. She graduated from Texas A&M University in 2011 with an undergraduate degree in political science.

As part of the latest Daring Woman interview, Hill shares some insights about the barriers faced by women striving to achieve leadership roles and ways to overcome them, her views on mentors and networking, and she also shares some advice for the upcoming generation of female leaders.

What are the most important characteristics of a good leader and what leadership traits are overrated?

The most important are the ability to listen and lead and serve others, simultaneously. I’ve found that being able to deal with ambiguity and being relentless help push you forward as a leader, even when you lack clear direction on the next steps or don’t have all the data you need to make a decision. Oftentimes, leaders are looked at to create something out of nothing or to take an empty white space and create a strategy for your team. The most overrated quality is perfectionism. No one is perfect. We learn better and more quickly from our mistakes.

As a woman, what is the most significant barrier to becoming a leader?

For me, the most significant barrier has been believing in myself. Believing that I have the skills, knowledge, experience and just the right amount of curiosity and resiliency to lead others.

How can women achieve more prominent roles in their organizations?

This is something I’m still observing and learning how to do. One way is asking for what you want, specifically and directly. Ask to join projects that are out of your scope or seemingly a level or two higher than the work you do.

What key lessons did you learn from a woman who has inspired, mentored or sponsored you?

There are so many women that inspire me and that I’ve learned from. Some of those lessons are the importance of bringing my full self to work and everything that I do. If I don’t, then I’m robbing myself and others from growing and learning. I’ve learned to speak up and have conviction behind my ideas and suggestions. I’ve learned to be resilient in the face of fear of adversity. Just remember “that this too shall pass,” and I will come out better on the other side. Lastly, I’ve learned to not miss deadlines and, if I’m going to, then communicate so early.

What advice do you have for the next generation of female leaders?

Some practical advice: Create a list of “what did I do this week,” and every Friday write out what you did as it pertains to your career. Secondly, develop a “board of directors” as mentors, versus just one mentor. Find people in various roles with different specialties and experiences.

There’s a Maya Angelou interview in [singer-songwriter] Beyoncé’s Netflix “Homecoming” [documentary] trailer, and Maya is giving advice for “this” generation, which she says is to “tell the truth, to yourself first, and to the children.” For the next generation, I say listen to what Maya is telling us. Tell the truth, both to ourselves and those coming up after us.

Your career will have plenty of highs and lows. You will feel like there are more lows; you will feel behind the ball compared to your peers; you will question your motivations; you will face imposter syndrome; but you will find your way. You will find peers, mentors and a career that is fulfilling. You will create a career path that is as unique as you, and you will learn from each and every mistake.

How important is networking and how do you expand your contacts?

Networking has been exceptionally important. It’s how I’ve been able to develop a community, both at work and personally. I’ve met some of my closest friends and sponsors through networking. I’m an introvert and crave alone time, so typically I schedule one or two nights a week where I keep to myself and then I do my best to attend an event once or twice a week.

Networking doesn’t just have to mean attending events. It can [involve] volunteering at a conference, asking friends to connect you with others over email, serving on community and organization boards, joining discussions on Twitter, joining live webinars, attending workshops that interest you [and] pitching yourself to speak at events, etc. You have to make networking work for you. Remind yourself to get out of your comfort zone but try to align yourself with events or people that will bring out the best in you.

Where will we find you on a weekend afternoon?

With my family, post-church and post-dinner, nodding off for a nap. Sundays are my recovery days where I spend time with my family and friends, reading, writing, going on long walks with my dogs. I love to slowly wind down by reflecting on the previous week and preparing (meals, clothes and my calendar) for the upcoming week.

What would be the title of your autobiography?

Title: “Both/And.”

Subtitle: “A woman and a leader. An introvert and a people lover. Both a risk-averse individual and a risk seeker. A story of accepting every part of you who are.”

We’d love to hear from more women across all industries who are challenging the status quo. Does it sound like you? If it does, click here and fill out our questionnaire. Feel inspired? Join us for our second Daring Women event on May 21, 2019.

Daring Women Q&A responses have been edited and condensed.

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