AKRON—Lakisha Miller-Barclay wants to use technology and outreach to bring the rubber industry to a wider audience and young professionals in her new position as ACS Rubber Division executive director.
Miller-Barclay will take on the new role when Ed Miller, who has been executive director for about 19 years and the only individual to hold the title, retires on Jan. 15. She is currently director of finance and administration and has already started the transition with Miller's help, she said.
"I think with every new position, there's going to be things that you don't know until you know them. But Ed has done a great job of being transparent and giving me opportunities to learn things, and continuously push me and challenge me," Miller-Barclay said. "I think that's definitely helped me in getting prepared for this and feeling confident that the transition's going to go well."
Miller-Barclay officially begins the new role Jan. 1, and she's already shifting into taking on the day-to-day responsibilities, she said. She's already comfortable working with the established Rubber Division leadership. She's looking to travel to meet with members, sponsors, exhibitors and supporters to get a ground-level view of what's happening in the rubber industry right now while building new relationships.
"I know a lot of them just from my time here, but it'll be a different aspect of the relationship," Miller-Barclay said. "I want to get out there in front of as many people as possible and find out what the division can do to better their experience and be of assistance to them in the industry."
Research is one of the most important tasks going forward, both to further expand current Rubber Division initiatives and develop new ones, she said. While the Rubber Division conference is well-known, she wants to maintain a focus on education and networking. Connecting with the industry community as the executive director will help her find gaps to fill in the organization's education offerings.
"My main mission right now is to find out what we don't know, then fill that need," Miller-Barclay said. "We're not going to build it and hope they come. We want to know what they need us to build, so that they do come. I think that's a better strategy there."
Experience and growth
Miller-Barclay came to Rubber Division through accounting in 2007, when she was teaching software as a freelancer and the previous financial director left the organization, she said. She had gone to school for accounting and had a background in programming and networking as well. She took the job as a temporary fill-in, even though she had never heard of the Rubber Division before the freelance gig.
"I stumbled into the Rubber Division and fell in love with it," she said. "Honestly, I never thought I would've been here 12 years or grown into this position."
Her varied experience prepared her for other work assignments within the Rubber Division as well. She's worked with Summit County Children Services, served in the U.S. Air Force and operated her own tax and accounting service specializing in non-profits. She currently sits on the boards for Harmony House Inc. and Greenleaf Financial Services, and is a part of Leadership Akron's Diversity on Board program. Because of her background, Miller asked her to take on even more responsibility within Rubber Division, first managing IT and then human resources.