By Tom Ballard, Chief Alliance Officer, PYA
After 23 years in the corporate world where she worked both domestically and internationally, Angelique Adams has recently turned her attention fully to a new career path as an author, speaker, diversity evangelist, and innovation champion.
We first became aware of the animated and exuberant Adams when our colleague Kailyn Lamb covered her keynote address at the mid-June “Let Her Speak” event where the theme was “Seeing the Superhero in You.” Then, Adams keynoted the Spark Innovation Center’s “Being a CEO or Hiring One” workshop in late July that we attended.
Our conclusion after experiencing her presentation and conducting our standard in-person interview is that Adams only knows one speed. If she’s involved, she’s all-in, and that conclusion is supported by empirical data.
Her LinkedIn profile shows current involvement in many important local initiatives. Adams is a member of the Board of Directors of the Knoxville Entrepreneur Center, Muse Knoxville, and Boys & Girls Clubs of the Tennessee Valley as well as a Mentor for the 100Knoxville initiative.
In April after ending her corporate career, she founded Angelique Adams Media Solutions where her focus is on helping build diverse leaders by delivering the best actionable advice. Adams also is a writer, having an active blog and two books – one self-published (You’re More Than a Diversity HireTM: Women in STEM) and a second work-in-progress based on interviews with more than 30 female Athletic Directors that will be unveiled in January.
“My sweet spot in the intersection of leadership, innovation and diversity,” she says. Explaining her decision to leave the corporate world after holding senior executive positions, Adams adds simply that “I decided I would rather develop people than products.”
The self-described “Army brat” was born just outside of Pittsburgh but lived across the U.S. and in Germany as the family moved around with her father, an Army First Sergeant. “The only adults I knew were in the military,” she says.
Knowing early in her life that “I wanted to go to the end . . . be Dr. Adams,” she chose Pennsylvania State University, majoring in chemical engineering. She quickly followed with her M.S. and Ph.D. in fuel science at Penn State and, 14 years later, an Executive MBA from Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Adams says that Alcoa sponsored the dormitory where she first lived at Penn State, and that connection led to a nearly 21-year career with the company that brought her to Knoxville in 2006 as a Smelting Process Specialist. When she left Alcoa near the end of 2018, she was Director of Global Smelting Technology Development in the company’s Aluminum Center of Excellence.
“I did process innovation,” Adams said of the work at Alcoa, but had a desire to do product development.
For the next two and one-half years, she served as Chief Innovation and R&D Officer for Aperam, a global player in stainless, electrical and specialty steel with customers in more than 40 countries. The business is organized in three primary operating segments: stainless and electrical steel, services and solutions, and alloys and specialties, and Adams travelled regularly between Knoxville and France.
“I was responsible for three teams . . . two in France and one in Brazil,” she said. “I had 150 researchers.”
As reported in Kailyn Lamb’s article, Adams decided to leave Aperam after executives said her style of management didn’t fit in with the rest of the company. She said she had to do some soul searching. Should she stay in a job that she enjoyed, but wouldn’t let her be herself, or should she turn to a new career of helping others to find their strengths? Adams chose the latter and launched her new consulting firm.
Recently, Adams and her husband, Jim Szybist, Head of the Propulsion Science Section at Oak Ridge National Laboratory have been named “125th Anniversary Fellow” by Penn State’s College of Earth and Mineral Sciences. The award honors graduates who are at the prime of their careers in academia, the private sector, government, and public service. Of particular attention are those graduates who have demonstrated strong leadership in their respective communities, who have been pioneers in diversity, and who have contributed substantially to the welfare of humanity using the skills and knowledge the college equipped them with upon graduation.