Spotlight on Women in Business Continuity: Leah Sawyer

The Women in Business Continuity Management (WBCM) group shines a spotlight on accomplished women across the field of business continuity and related fields.

For the first series in Spotlight on Women in Business Continuity, we have interviewed each of the members of the Women in Business Continuity Management Charter Committee on their experiences in the field. The leaders of WBCM come from a diverse range of industries, and provide unique perspectives based on their experiences in the field.

Photo SawyerLeah Sawyer, MBCP, CEM
WBCM Charter Committee Role: Communications Committee Lead
Current Role: Business Continuity Manager, Staples Inc. (Retail)

What business continuity related industries have you worked in?
I’m currently in retail, working with warehouses and corporate to be prepared for crises and business interruptions.  I previously worked across the Federal government in consulting, doing business continuity and disaster EOC response, and for an IT company doing business continuity.

Tell us about your overall background and how you got into this field.
Like a lot of people, I kind of fell into business continuity, but when I did there was an almost audible “click” of having found my spot.  I have never really lost that excitement about this field.

I’m interested in a lot of things, so before business continuity, I wandered through several careers.  In college I worked in special education tutoring.  After having living abroad in several countries I planned on a career in diplomacy, and was pretty far down that path —  but 9/11 changed everything.  I came back to the States and spent several years training as a volunteer firefighter and EMT.  While doing that and working odd office jobs, I saw a job listing for an emergency management position. I don’t think the hiring manager had ever met such an enthusiastic applicant!  In that role, I was lucky to have a whole cadre of smart, capable managers and coworkers for training and mentorship.  It’s been 15 years since then, and I’m still expanding my knowledge and skillset.

What do you enjoy about your job?  What aspect of business continuity are you passionate about, and why?
I enjoy learning, and business continuity offers so much scope to learn and figure out how things work. When doing Business Impact Analyses across the organization, I get to talk with highly competent and clever people about the details of what they do, and it’s fascinating. I love getting the peek into all these areas that I often had not really thought about too much.  I also enjoy the feeling of understanding the hidden structure of a business, and being able to make connections between groups and functions, and how they interrelate.

Thank you for volunteering as a member of the WBCM Charter Committee.  What are your hopes for how the WBCM group will impact people or the industry?
My hope is that WBCM provides a voice for strong women leaders in the field, and will help develop new leaders.  My focus on this committee is on creating a space for those who identify as women to share their knowledge and learn from each other, and encouraging them to do so.   My vision of success would be if more women shared their hard-won lessons by writing articles, hosting training sessions, and presenting at professional conferences.  We’re 40% of the industry, let’s get our messaging up to that level too.