Call center manager extends passion for volunteering to help lead Black Alliance ERG
After spending much of her life volunteering and serving others, Soquaya Seawood was recently named vice president of Maximus' newly founded Black Alliance Employee Resource Group (ERG).
Seawood is a customer service/resolutions operations manager, representing all of Maximus’ child support claims call centers in Tennessee. That can be a sensitive subject for many callers, so customer service is always top-of-mind.
"My job is to make sure that the customer has the best experience possible and that they feel like a priority," she said. "My day consists of coaching my agents and ensuring they have the appropriate tone, consistent answers, and deliver the best customer service possible."
Seawood’s early career was in customer service, something she believes is the foundation of a company.
"I think every professional role I've ever held has helped me become who I am today," Seawood added. "I like to say that you don't build a house from the top down. You build it from the bottom up. That's what customer service does – it builds up the business."
Seawood's drive to build the business also takes the form of team development.
"I start by making sure the people who report to me are doing OK," she said. "I want to know if they're in a good mental or emotional state. I have to ensure they're in a place where they can deliver good customer service. I want to meet the needs of the people."
With her new role in the ERG, along with Nicole Terrel, ERG president and senior capture analyst, and Janelle Peoples, ERG secretary and call center operations supervisor, Seawood recently found a role to continue that drive for outreach, mentorship, and support.
"We share an identity," she said. "The ERG gives us a space where I can meet people who look like me. We can come together and share our thoughts and relatable moments.”
Because the ERG members represent different departments across Maximus, they can all help each other with mentorship, support career advancement, and volunteerism.
While Black Alliance is comprised mostly of employees representing the African diaspora, the employee-led ERG supports the education and understanding of other groups within the company.
"The ERG isn't only based on race; it's about coming together," Seawood said. "I felt drawn to be a part of something my fellow employees and I created."
Whether at work or in everyday life, Black people face systemic problems created out of a misunderstanding of a group of people, Seawood said.
"I felt the need to be a part of something that would dismantle the culture or any biases and replace that with understanding," she said, adding that the Black Alliance ERG isn't just for African Americans or Black people. All Maximus employees are welcome."
When people from diverse backgrounds come together, they are often unaware of the customs, beliefs, and cultural differences of their co-workers.
"Sometimes, when we don't look like one another, we cannot understand each other. I believe in the employee resource group because it gives everyone a platform you can come in and be a part of it and learn."
Seawood says she also finds comfort and pride in serving others while away from her desk. She leads a women's ministry at her church in Johns Creek, Georgia, to provide a safe, private space for women to talk and express their feelings without judgment.
"I don't live an extravagant life," she said. "I know I've done a lot for others and have a list of accomplishments, but my most treasured accomplishment is when I know I've helped someone. That's my reward."