Empowered — RV’s Employee Resource Group (ERG) for women — strives to foster a community that inspires, supports, empowers, and educates all women-identifying folks and allies of all gender identities. And one of our favorite ways to inspire and empower our community is simply by sharing the wisdom of the amazing RV women we get to work with every day.
On this month’s Empowered leaders feature, we talk to Allconnect Utility Sales Director Joanne Anderson-Capers. We discuss her over eight-year career leading a sales organization at RV, the early days when she was the only woman of color at the table, and what it’s like to lead with authenticity, empathy, and intentionality. Check out her conversation with Content Designer Jessa Hanley below.
When asked to describe Joanne, colleagues use words like “strong,” “confident,” and “intentional.” As a sales director at RV, it’s her job to lead sales teams and foster a welcoming, collaborative, and productive work culture.
Her colleagues say she does this with grace and ease. Just ask Victoria Bounds, the person who nominated her for this Empowered feature.
“Joanne is an advocate for her team members,” Victoria says. “She uplifts those around her and is confident in the face of adversity. She makes time for everyone regardless of position and creates a safe space for all.”
In this interview, we talk to Joanne about her journey to leadership as a woman of color. We discuss the hardships, rewards, and all she’s learned that enable her to lead with strength and vulnerability.
Jessa Hanley: For a little bit of context, what does an average day as a sales director look like?
Joanne Anderson-Capers: An average day is really spent thinking forward and can vary based on our focus for that hour, day, or week. Things come up and can change pretty quickly. We’ve been lucky enough to have a team of folks that helped us figure out how to work from home successfully early on.
Most days are filled with meetings to conceptualize how to keep the momentum going and sustain a remote work environment long term that is good for our team members and the many partners we serve. The nature of the business requires me to be nimble enough to shift my focus from tactical projects to business performance, talent development to more long-term strategic decisions that impact the broader sales organization.
JH: How would you describe your experience being one of the few women in a male-dominated role?
JAC: In the beginning, I felt different, I didn’t see anyone who looked like me, and that was the hardest part. It caused me to work hard to assimilate, which was exhausting.
One example of this was a choice to download the ESPN app and set up notifications. I’m not a sports fan, but I needed a way to make sure I got the same notifications my male co-workers were getting, so I wasn’t excluded from any conversations.
Over time, I got more comfortable with being myself, deleted the ESPN app, and made the very intentional decision to forget that I was different or a woman. In the end, it didn’t matter and shouldn’t.
My new focus was — and still is — being so good at my job that it forces recognition. Was this harder? At times. Did recognition take longer? Yes. Was it worth it? Absolutely. Today I am 100% able to walk in my personal truth and contribute from the space of being who I am.
JH: Diving even deeper: What are some of the unique challenges that come with being a woman leader?
JAC: There is much to unlearn when you’re a woman who leads. I don’t see my gender or my femininity as a barrier. But the hard truth is, for some, this is just not the case.
At the core, lack of confidence was always the root of every challenge. Being a woman and a woman of color has always made me feel as though I had to do my absolute best. That, in itself, has been my main challenge — not allowing myself to fail.
For my entire career, I’ve had a magnet on my desk that my father gave me after giving me the talk about excelling in the workplace while being a woman of color. It reads, “Failure is not an option.” But, sometimes, you have to fail — or say no — to grow. I’ve learned that vulnerability makes me stronger. Not allowing anyone to see my cracks made me feel isolated, but being honest when I needed help or was struggling made me more… me.
JH: And what are the rewards of being a woman leader?
JAC: There are way too many rewards to mention. People leading is my wheelhouse. I get a real kick out seeing people grow. I have been fortunate to lead many women (and men) on several businesses over my tenure. The largest reward has been leading by example. Showing someone what’s possible has been my greatest privilege.
JH: As a people manager, how do you empower women and underrepresented groups in RV’s sales organization?
JAC: The power of storytelling can be very helpful when empowering those who feel like they have none. Being open about my own experiences, wins, and losses can help others navigate what they’re facing. It also sets the stage for an open feedback loop.
I think Brene Brown put it best when she said, “If you’re not in the ring getting your ass kicked, I’m not interested in your feedback.”
We all have a story, but empathizing is not the same as commiserating. It’s important to be honest about where people stand with regular, direct, reinforcing, and redirecting feedback. Helping the women and underrepresented groups of RV understand that we’ve been there, we got through it, and they are not alone is really important — but this is only step one.
As a people manager, the second step is creating environments that are collaborative, inclusive, and less difficult to navigate for future leaders. Red Ventures was founded on the basis that we create a work environment that we all, women included, want to work in. As the world around us changes, this will always be a work in progress, and it’s everyone’s job to pitch in.
If you could go back and talk to first-day-of-work-Joanne, what advice would you give yourself?
I would tell myself, “Don’t worry about who you think they want you to be. Just be you, Joanne. You have a ton of experience that qualifies you for this role, and whatever you don’t know, you can learn.”
Furthermore, “People deserve honesty, so don’t be afraid to be your one true self. What makes you different is exactly what you bring to the table. Sit in the front at the table, if there is one, and for God’s sake, don’t just sit there. Add some value! If your name is on the invite, that’s because someone wants to hear what you have to say. Buck up, Sis, you already had this. Now, get back to work!”
JH: Now, some rapid-fire fun questions:
What’s your hype song?
“Soulmate,” by the legendary Lizzo.
What show should everyone add to their binge list?
“Good Girls.” Watching this always makes me happy.
Where will you travel once COVID restrictions lift?
Wherever the beach meets the jungle — Puerto Rico, Costa Rica, New Zealand, Brazil, Africa. My ultimate destination is the overwater bungalows of the Maldives. I put travel in the cart and pretend to checkout for fun, and this destination is surprisingly less out of reach than it was a few years ago. One day soon, I’m going to hit the submit order button.
What food makes you think of home?
I grew up in the Bay Area, so foods that are ethnic in nature call to me: Tibs and Injera, Lumpia, Pho, Red Bean Rice Balls, Tacos, and my favorite — Crispy Carnitas. I was lucky enough to have a diverse friend group that always shared what mom was cooking.
Who’s your idol?
- Josephine Vega-Camacho retired as an army contractor in Fort Buchanan, Puerto Rico. She did this job for 30 years, traveled the world, and signed orders in a time when women were not as respected as they are in today’s military.
- Mary Anderson was an assistant-teacher, missionary, and community activist for Southeast Civic Association in Washington D.C. She wasn’t by any means a revolutionary, but she sought out the betterment of her neighborhood. Some of her most notable actions were passing out grass seeds so neighbors could grow grass on the dirt patches lining the streets, staying in constant contact with government officials about community needs, and organizing police ride-alongs to help bridge the gaps between police and community members.
What’s your word-of-the-day (or month, or year)?
I read a book two years ago (Children of Blood and Bone by Tori Adeyemi) where the word “Ashe” was mentioned on almost every page. Ashe, àṣẹ, or asè in some cultures really stuck with me and caused me to really dig into its meaning and origin. To sum it up, Ashe is the power to make things happen or produce change. It’s a word, an affirmation, and a state of being that I find myself really drawn to.
Loved this Empowered Feature? Good news – we have more! Check out our conversation with RV Media and Technology Senior Vice President Ladan LaFitte.