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Omaha Magazine

Leading Lady Aileen Warren steps up as CEO for ICAN

Mar 28, 2022 05:39PM ● By Dwain Hebda
Aileen Warren in conference room, smiling

Photo by Bill Sitzmann    

 Aileen Warren has been many things in her life, but a follower isn’t one of them. 

Warren’s aptitude to lead positive change and mold people has been her calling card in career roles as diverse as community activist and major corporate HR executive. Today, it’s the octane that fuels her goals as the newest president and CEO for ICAN, the Omaha organization specializing in leadership development and education. 

“To this day, I really feel there’s not another organization in Omaha like ICAN,” Warren said. “ICAN really has its own special niche when it comes to leadership development with their premier program being the Women’s Leadership Conference, but also doing a lot of the custom programs that we offer as well.”

She continued, “I just love the drive of it; I just love the energy around making sure that we are developing future leaders in Omaha. ICAN is something unique and I am glad to be a part of it.”

Warren speaks with a knowing voice about the organization. She has been active in ICAN in various capacities since 1996, most recently as a two-term member of its board of directors and board executive committee, a hitch concluding at the end of last year. Prior to that, she graduated from the group’s INFLUENCE program and served on its Leadership Award selection committee, among other roles.

Also notable was co-chairing the group’s signature ICAN Women’s Leadership Conference in 2010, with the additional distinction of having been a speaker at the nationally acclaimed event, a plum feather in any leadership expert’s cap. 

Given all of that, plus her long line of career successes in the nonprofit and corporate world, her selection as ICAN president and CEO was a no-brainer. But as she took office on Jan. 24, there was no hint of resting on her—or the organization’s—proverbial laurels.

“ICAN has done a phenomenal job when it comes to leadership development, whether that’s the standard programs that they offer or the custom programs that they offer for area companies. And, of course, the signature conference,” she said. “The opportunity is how do you take all that to the next level?”

“I think it’s about expanding on what we want to do. I think the foundation is there, but I definitely want to explore some additional options. We have recently gone through a strategic planning process and we got a lot of different feedback from various points of view. I’m looking forward to digging into that along with discussions with the team as far as their ideas for areas where we can advance.”

Warren made it clear that growing diversity in participation is a priority area as she begins her time at the helm.

“Our conferences, everything that we do is open to everybody, but ultimately it’s the companies who decide who they want to be a part of that program,” she said. 

“One of the things that I would like to focus on is how can we be more deliberate and more intentional in terms of making sure that everyone is having the opportunity to be developed as a leader? How do we help ensure that when companies select people for our programs, that they are selecting a cross-section of people to be developed?”

Susan Henricks, who held the job for the previous seven years, has known Warren for more than two decades when they were colleagues at First Data, now Fiserv. She said Warren’s take-charge attitude and drive for self-improvement are familiar attributes for anyone who knows her.

“I’ve known her for quite some time and she is an outstanding leader,” Henricks said. “She is a person of great integrity and she’s very committed to developing people in their roles in business.”

She continued, “Her confidence and her integrity are things that have always stood out about her. If Aileen said she was going to do something or make something happen, she did it and she made it happen. That has continued throughout her whole career and her whole life.”

Warren’s natural leadership skills have always been on ready display, going back to her days at Omaha North High School where she was homecoming queen, a member of National Honor Society and president of the Black History Club, to name a few of her many accolades. A Goodrich Scholarship recipient, she attended the University of Nebraska at Omaha, from which she graduated with a bachelor’s degree in social work. She later earned a master’s degree in social work from UNO.

After graduation, Warren migrated to Urban League of Nebraska, where she served as vice president of Economic Development and Employment for nearly three years. First National Bank of Omaha then recruited her to help launch an employee training program. Eventually, she’d oversee the bank’s management training program, merging more fully into the HR department. 

She split the next 25-plus years between First Data—ultimately reaching the level of VP of HR—and the University of Nebraska Medical Center, where she’d serve as associate vice chancellor and director of Human Resources. 

Warren has been a fixture in the community, serving multiple organizations including Women’s Fund of Omaha and Omaha Home for Boys. She is the 2022 president of Omaha Downtown Rotary and a member of Urban League of Nebraska Guild.

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This article originally appeared in the April/May 2022  issue of B2B Magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.  

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