Everyone finds success in different ways, says WEX’s Heather Andrews, but in her case, it has come in part from the drive to learn, no matter what career path you are on.
That philosophy, along with her willingness to step through open doors – even the scary ones – has fueled her career trajectory.
Capitalizing on New Opportunities Brings Success
Although Andrews studied psychology, she didn’t see a clear path for a career without attending grad school, but was ready to enter the working world. She accepted an offer doing retirement plan education, which opened up an exciting world as she became increasingly interested in the role that employee communications play in benefits and helping employees engage in their future.
It was an especially pivotal time in the industry as 401(k)s were increasingly usurping defined benefit plans, creating new choices for employees and new roles for organizations to manage around this reality. She returned to school to earn her master’s degree in leadership and change management in organizations, which meshed well with her psychology background, and then branched off to do some independent consulting where she could assist organizations confronting major system changes.
Along the way she engaged with a startup tech firm that was building a new benefits platform to consult on their business and communications planning. It ended up being a major opportunity as the company grew rapidly as the first online benefits platform to hit the market. Andrews wore all the customer-facing hats and stayed with the company as it was acquired to become Evolution1and eventually WEX Health.
Helping grow that business from being the fifth person to its success today is the professional achievement she is most proud of so far. “Being part of that groundbreaking team as the business grew from something so small and new to influencing an entire industry and becoming something of such incredible value was so exciting,” she says.
Moving from healthcare to the corporate payments executive leadership team offers a new world for Andrews to explore. “It’s a huge change that really allows me to stretch my brain,” she says. “I realize that a lot of faith has been put into me in this role at a critical time of growth, change and risk, and that’s motivating. It inspires me to make a difference.”
Growing Along the Way Through Personal Lessons and Mentors
When she first entered the corporate world, Andrews held a common perception, that she wasn’t sure how much of an impact one individual can make. That was part of what she loved about consulting: Seeing that people can make a major impact from the start, particularly if they can confidently work with professionals at all levels, unafraid to let their opinions and ideas be heard even if they get shot down.
And she knows that much of her success has come from leveraging personal and professional relationships. “Ethics and hard work have been important factors in my career, but I know that doors were opened for me because people had faith in what I can do, and then I was not afraid to step through them,” she says, adding that success comes when you lean forward and take chances, especially when you’re part of an entrepreneurial organization.
One role model who stands out is a female attorney at WEX Health who shared insights on why female business leaders have to be true to themselves, never compromising what they believe in and exuding confidence that you can accomplish it.
In addition, she cites WEX’s Integrated Leadership Development Program as having been crucial to her success at WEX for the networking and coaching it provided. “I have this fantastic coach who is also a woman who has been through a diverse and rich career,” she says. “This perspective as a successful woman in business helps me navigate what I need to do next as I continue to grow my career.”
But you don’t need a formal program to grow: Andrews finds life lessons all around her, from leaders on any stage, whether professional or political, who are able to balance assertiveness with having the grace to hear and respect people around them. “They are able to use that professional fire to be successful but maintain high ethical standards that they aren’t afraid to share vocally. I admire people who are unafraid to step out and say ‘I don’t care what others think; this is what I believe is right.’”
And sometimes we experience a hard-earned lesson, says Andrews, as she recalls a time early in her career when she was still working on retirement plans. She made a bold promise about how easy a migration would be, without fully thinking through how a failure to deliver might affect her equally young client. When the project ended up being more complex than expected, this client was taking the heat internally. “I didn’t embrace her vulnerability, and I lost her trust. This incident has always stood out to me as a reminder that you have to understand your counterparts and the position you’re putting them in by what you’re promising.”
Of course, inspiration also comes from home, as Andrews finds through her husband and four boys, who range in age from 15 to five. “I see myself through their eyes and want to be an example because every single day will impact their lives.”
Treasured family time includes an annual summer trek to a new national park, and winters spent skiing and snowboarding. This activity has an ulterior motive, she laughs. “Hopefully if they have a winter sport they like, they will stay in Minnesota close to me.”
Day-to-day, whatever they do, they do it together, whether it’s sports, music or academics. “We also take the time to volunteer together, as a family, which I believe is important to provide a positive influence that will affect how they are as adults.”