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Ayanna Castro: Helping Professionals Be Their Best

By Kristin Withrow posted 08-29-2022 02:36 PM

Woman in black dress sitting in a yellow chair

Being Extraordinary: It’s An Inside Job

By Vanessa Gonzales, CSDA Communications Specialist

Ayanna Castro is a global speaker, life coach and author with expertise in helping others see their potential and overcome self-imposed obstacles in pursuit of their goals. As the Founder and Chief Maven of Work Your Package™, her mission is to educate, encourage, and equip others to enhance what they already have to become the “total package” and be extraordinary.Ayanna’s inspiring, truthful and transparent approach has made her the “unconventional” but necessary member on her client’s personal board of directors. Known for her perfect balance of guidance, support, and hard truths, she is the “go-to” person for those embarking on new ventures or who have lost clarity on their goals.

California Special Districts asked Ayanna to share her background, and what led her to become a life coach, speaker, and author. “My background is pretty eclectic,” she shared. Originally from New York, Ayanna majored in Deviant Behavior and Social Control and had a minor in Forensic Psychology. With a law enforcement intensive focus, she initially aspired to be a warden at a correctional facility. “I wanted to create a space where people actually left rehabilitated; I thought I could have an impact on people going back to society being whole and full,” said Ayanna. But after five different lockdowns in a year, she quickly changed her mind! Ayanna went into social work and found satisfaction improving the quality of life for others, but ultimately found that to be too emotionally challenging. She pivoted to become an administrative professional. This gave her insight and the foundation for how to lead up. “I was fortunate to have a great manager who I could say to: ‘corner offices do not give you confidence, compassion, or common sense,’ and I tell every manager I work with the same thing: ‘Yes, you have this gorgeous office, but it won’t give you confidence, compassion, or common sense,’” said Ayanna. It made sense and got them thinking and allowed her to provide the space to brainstorm ideas, give them confidence, and help them build compassion and empathy. This is what makes Ayanna a great coach. “I don’t sugar coat things; I’m not a baker!” Ayanna joked. She worked for this manager for six years then was tasked with a special assignment in the general manager’s office for six months. The experience was essentially a crash course MBA. She was given high visibility, high-level projects, and was put in rooms, meetings, and places that pushed her out of her comfort zone. She was promoted and returned to the communications office as a project manager for one of the largest projects her company had seen - their centennial project. This was a four-year project that enabled her to solidify many of the skills she now has, including planning, public speaking, team building, creating collective community. Ayanna climbed the ladder in many roles - corporate event planner, employee engagement specialist, and most recently program engagement manager and HR specialist.

Her career has come full circle, but always with a focus on improving the lives of others. Her goal is to foster an experience the employees brag about to their friends, family, and neighbors – sharing that it’s a great company that attracts others. She helps employees navigate and gain self-confidence in their skills and abilities. The best compliment she received from a client was, “Ayanna will completely hurt your feelings but comes with a band-aid of love and solutions that make it all better!”

CSDA Board Secretary / Clerk Conference attendees are in for a treat this November! Not only is she a motivating life coach and keynote speaker, but she has first-hand experience working in local government. She is currently working for one of the largest water utilities, WSSC Water, which serves 1.8 million customers in Montgomery and Prince George’s counties in Maryland. We asked Ayanna to share a little more about her role, and for advice for our special district members. “Relationship is key. Even if not directly related to your industry, having those relationships before you need them is very helpful,” said Ayanna. “In my area, we have a strong relationship with the state highway because sometimes we must shut down roads for water line breaks. We have strong relationships with the electric and gas companies since sometimes our paths will cross - so have these strong relationships before the catastrophe happens.”

Ayanna uses the term ‘maven’ to define herself. She said, “A maven is someone who collects information for the sole purpose of dispensing it to others to make their lives better. They may not need it at that moment, but they have it for someone for later.” That’s what Ayanna does with her wealth of knowledge and information. She gave the example of her therapist having her do an enneagram analysis so she signed up for courses to get certified in it as this could be powerful tool. Sure enough, she used this for teams with very new staff, and it was eye opening for them to learn about the dynamics of their team. Ayanna is a maven; if there is something that can help somebody, she is going to dig into it and really learn about it.

Work Your Package™ – this is her catch phrase.  She explained, “Work Your Package™” started off being a very superficial way to compliment women in the office who were feeling down. People started saying it to each other, and one of her girlfriends who was down about gaining 50 pounds after having her baby shared that her husband told her, “Put your shoes on and work your package!” Ayanna realized then that this was bigger than an uplifting compliment to co-workers. “Anything you need to do that you’re supposed to do, you already have it,” she said. “You are the total package. It’s YOU. That’s it. What you bring to the table is yours to bring.” Ayanna enjoys helping people discover their own natural gifts and talks about purpose. “Purpose will define the direction that you go; purpose helps you keep straight on the path when you need the why behind it all,” said Ayanna.

Ayanna will be sharing more at the Board Secretary/Clerk Conference in Monterey, including the four pillars of Work Your Package™: 

1.  Listening to the birdie
2.  Having a personal board of directors
3.  Managing your 168
4.  Having a plan

She will also be teaching on the topic of “Coach, Mentor and Sponsor – do you need them all?” Spoiler alert: The answer is YES! Ayanna is so excited to come out to the west coast with us on November 8, 2022!

Ayanna Castro has degrees in Deviant Behavior and Social Control and Business Administration. She is a certified Project Management Professional (PMP), Certified Government Meeting Professional (CGMP), and Master Life Coach with over 25 years of professional experience in city/local government, law, public relations, private equity, and media. She is also certified in Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging. She is currently the Program Manager of Employee Engagement for one of the country’s largest water utilities and is responsible for enterprise-wide programs to DEIB, recognition, appreciation, and corporate philanthropic giving. She has authored two books, “Work Your Package – A Guide to Being the Total Package“ and “Lessons from Wednesday”.