From the lab to the IT department, from opera to the great outdoors: Erika Blackwell loves variety. At Navistar, she has made personal change her career: as the person responsible for bringing agility to IT, she helps teams learn about new ways of working.
Agility and change are key words in Erika Blackwell’s life. At Navistar, she supports change management processes in her capacity as Head of Agile Transformation. A look at her background reveals that change has played an important role throughout her life, and that also extends to her geographical surroundings. “I love to travel and have been fortunate to have lived and worked in many different places around the world,” Blackwell explains. She comes from an international family with relatives in the US, Europe, and the Caribbean, and has worked in France and Bolivia, among other places. Today, she and her five-year-old daughter live near Chicago. “At home, we speak English and French,” Blackwell tells us.
Blackwell is also agile as far as industries go. She has a Bachelor of Science degree in ecology, evolution and behavior. “I started my career in research,” she recalls, “with a lab coat and test tubes.” Later, she turned her attention to more consumer-oriented fields, working in consumer research, in automotive, the metalworking sector, and at a jewelry company, where she was responsible for communications and marketing. Her Navistar career also began in marketing when she joined the team in 2019. A year later, she moved on to the IT department, initially as Executive Advisor to the CIO. “Because of my background, I was put in charge of the IT Communications, where it was my job to help manage change,” Blackwell says. Since November 2021, she has been Head of Agile Transformation. This new role also has her in charge of IT change management and related communications. “But my main focus now is to form a team of agile coaches to help our IT teams learn new ways of working,” Blackwell explains. Aside from coaching, the goal is also to build structures that enable the teams to self-organize and bring high value work to Navistar products and services.
Asker of questions
Blackwell is looking forward to exchanging ideas with the other brands in the TRATON GROUP: “Agility within companies is a global topic. I’m excited to see what input I get from my new coworkers.” She thoroughly enjoys working in international teams. It is important to her that people are allowed to be who they are when working on projects: “Then they can bring a lot of valuable knowledge to the team.” The key to making this work, she continues, is to listen and not make too many assumptions in advance. “If I’m going to assume anything at all, it’s that the person I’m working with is doing their best,” she states as her maxim. “And if I want to know anything else beyond that, I ask direct questions.” It’s also important to be honest: “You should communicate openly why you’re asking about something or why you think certain points are important. It helps in our interactions with each other if everyone is transparent about their intentions.”
Learner of new things
Another thing that helps when working together is not always wanting to be the smartest person in the room. “Everyone brings unique experiences and perspectives to the table,” the change manager says. “You should always keep in mind that you can learn something from everyone.” The 39-year-old also enjoys learning and experiencing new things in her free time. For example, she loves to cook and try out new recipes or unfamiliar ingredients from around the world. “Back in the day, I used to sing; in fact, I spent ten years learning to sing opera,” Blackwell says. Why did she quit? She doesn’t know exactly. Today, she definitely prefers to spend time outdoors with her family and friends. Maybe it was just time for a change.