Profiles in Diversity: Kamilah Lewis

February 29, 2024

Get to Know Noodle’s Senior Vice President of Partnerships & Head of Demand Generation

“Ultimately, a great leader empowers their team, fostering an environment of inclusion, innovation, and achievement.”

Kamilah Lewis is Noodle’s Senior VP of Partnerships and Head of Demand Generation. Born and raised in the DMV area. She shares her educational path was  non-traditional and beginning in grade and middle school she was bussed out of her home district to schools in Northern Virginia for gifted students. Kamilah shares it was challenging attending predominantly white schools where she felt isolated and misunderstood.  Being a young mother of 2 and military wife, she pursued her GED, then community college, and eventually completed her studies at the University of Maryland University College (now UMGC) and then a for-profit school for graduate studies. Education and entrepreneurship have helped mold her professional path. Now here at Noodle, Kamilah supports her team by fostering an environment of trust, collaboration, and empowerment and providing them with the resources and support they need to excel in their roles. 

What elements or traits does a great leader exhibit?

A great leader adapts their position as needed, whether leading from the front, middle, or back to effectively guide their team towards success. Central to leadership is a clear vision that inspires others paired with empathy, communication, and integrity. A great leader also fosters trust and collaboration through demonstrating humility and accountability. Additionally, they exhibit adaptability and resilience in navigating challenges, embodying a commitment to continuous growth and learning. Ultimately, a great leader empowers their team, fostering an environment of inclusion, innovation, and achievement.

When you think of great leadership, who comes to mind? Why?

When reflecting on great leadership, I often turn to the resilience and resourcefulness of single mothers like my mother. The ability to navigate challenges and provide for their families showcases unconventional yet impactful leadership. Grassroots activists and community organizers also inspire me. Through their dedication to social justice and community empowerment, they exemplify leadership that transcends traditional hierarchies which drives meaningful change from the ground up. These leaders remind us that true leadership is not confined to boardrooms or titles, but is found in the everyday actions of those who courageously lead by example and empower others to do the same.

How has your personal leadership style evolved?

I had to pause and truly reflect on this question as I’ve always believed my leadership style to be relatively consistent. However, upon deeper introspection, I’ve come to realize that it has indeed evolved over time. Initially, I was more inclined towards a directive leadership approach, emphasizing clear instructions and oversight. As I encountered different challenges and experiences my perspective has shifted. I now appreciate the value of collaboration and empowerment– transitioning towards a more participative leadership style. This evolution has been marked by a greater emphasis on fostering teamwork, encouraging creativity, and empowering individuals within my team to take ownership of their work. Additionally, I’ve become more adept at adapting my leadership approach to different situations and personalities. It’s important to be flexible and empathetic in guiding and supporting my team. Overall, my journey in leadership has been one of continuous growth and learning, shaped by experience, feedback, and a commitment to personal and professional development.

What is it about your background or career experiences that successfully positioned you for your role at Noodle? Describe that role.

I’m the Senior Vice President of Partnerships and Head of Demand Generation at Noodle. In simple terms, I’m responsible for building strategic partnerships that drive our company’s growth and overseeing marketing campaigns to generate interest in our products and services.

My journey in sales and marketing started way back in 7th grade when I declared in my 6th-grade yearbook that I wanted to be in marketing. I’ve always found the intricacies of consumer behavior fascinating and love crafting strategies to meet their needs.

Throughout my career, I’ve managed brands from start to finish, worked on exciting projects like launching OTC brands and providing on-set integration training for daytime TV shows. I’ve also dipped my toes into pharmaceutical sales, consulting, and even owned a couple of businesses.Around seven years ago, I transitioned into the EdTech sector drawn by the opportunity to bring a consumer lens to the student experience. Now, at Noodle, I’m driven by the challenge of forging partnerships and creating marketing initiatives that resonate with our audience. It’s a dynamic role that allows me to leverage my diverse background and passion for innovation to make a meaningful impact in the education technology industry.

How do you support the success of your team?

I support the success of my team by fostering an environment of trust, collaboration, and empowerment. I encourage open communication, actively listen to their ideas and concerns, and provide them with the resources and support they need to excel in their roles. Additionally, I prioritize professional development opportunities tailored to their individual growth and recognize their achievements and contributions to the team. By promoting a culture of learning, innovation, and recognition, I ensure that each team member feels valued and motivated to reach their full potential. (I hope my team agrees and I hope they check me if I’m not doing this!)

Describe how your career has been enhanced by exposure to diverse people, places or experiences.

Oh wow!!!  I’ve been so blessed to say my career has been enhanced by so many. Cathy Hughes, Founder and Chairperson of Urban One, Inc. (formerly known as Radio One, Inc.), approved my first internship the summer before my 14th birthday to work at WOL 1450AM when they were a tiny AM station in Northeast DC. She came downstairs in the basement where I was answering the contest line calls and I remember vividly telling her that my manager wouldn’t let me do anything else besides answer contest calls all day. She looked at me with determination and told me to “never settle.” That advice has stuck with me ever since.

Another influential figure in my career was Loretta Penn, the first black President of Spherion Staffing Services from 2008 to 2011. I began working for her in 1999 when I was sent to temp as an executive assistant. This marked the beginning of one of the most valuable mentorships I’ve experienced. Loretta not only allowed me to bring my young children into work when they were sick, but also supported me as the first remote employee for Spherion back in 2000. My remote work helped shape the company’s remote work policy demonstrating Loretta’s visionary approach to workforce management. She recognized the importance of embracing remote work long before it became mainstream.

Additionally, my time working in the consumer goods industry, particularly in OTC (over-the-counter) products, introduced me to a diverse group of people. I had the privilege of meeting inventors, patent holders, and entrepreneurs who had sold companies. All of these individuals  shared invaluable wisdom about achieving success without necessarily seeking recognition. Despite being behind some of the most recognizable brands in the world, they remained humble and focused on excellence in their craft.

These experiences with Cathy Hughes, Loretta Penn, and the individuals in the consumer goods industry have collectively shaped my professional journey, instilling in me the importance of perseverance, visionary leadership, and humility. They have reinforced the significance of diversity in mentorship and networking—underscoring the value of learning from individuals who come from different backgrounds and experiences.

What are some of the most effective tools in your leadership arsenal?

Empathy and Understanding of Unique Needs as a Woman Leader: As a woman leader, I bring a deep understanding of the unique needs and challenges that women face in the workplace. Having navigated my own professional journey in male-dominated industries I recognize the importance of creating inclusive environments where all voices are heard and valued.

Vision and Inspiration: Articulating a compelling vision and inspiring others with passion and commitment energizes and motivates the team towards shared goals.

Resilience and Grit from Humble Beginnings: My unconventional and modest upbringing instilled in me a deep sense of resilience and grit, shaping my leadership style. From an early age, I learned the value of perseverance and determination in overcoming challenges. These experiences taught me to remain steadfast in adversity and to stay focused on long-term goals despite setbacks.

Please tell us something about yourself that people would be surprised to learn.

I’m an avid journalist and aspiring novelist. I’ve been rounding up my journals, calendars, and videos I’ve had since  I was 18. Now I’m working on compiling many of those entries into a book. My goal is to inspire young mothers by sharing my mental and emotional journey and how I navigated through various challenges while still moving forward. It’s a project close to my heart, and I hope it can offer solace, guidance, and encouragement to those who may be facing similar struggles!

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