I have been greatly influenced by diverse teachers and colleagues who have pushed me out of my comfort zone, forced me to see issues from different perspectives and demonstrated by personal example what it means to overcome obstacles and persevere. Their lessons shape my professional life to this day:
Speak up. Your opinion matters! Early on in my career, I was hesitant to speak up if I disagreed or if I was less senior than others in the room. One of my male bosses noticed this and told me that the whole team is impacted by a person who holds back; and that age, gender or experience do not mean that your opinion is any better or worse than anyone else’s.
Get out of your comfort zone! When I was asked to work overseas for Seagate, I turned down the opportunity twice because I wasn’t comfortable leaving home. I since have spent seven years living and working in Asia. I now realize that some of my best accomplishments and many of my closest friends came from getting out of my comfort zone.
Make diversity a part of your core people-management processes, not a separate initiative. At Seagate, we have embedded diversity into our corporate goal-setting process, our performance evaluation process, our employee surveys, our hiring process, our learning and development process, our communication processes and our succession planning process.
Global doesn’t mean “the way we do it in the United States.” After seeing our U.S. “employment at will” policy, a colleague in Thailand told me, “We will never have that policy or language in this country…we will not treat our employees that way.” It made me realize that some U.S. business policies can be counterproductive to creating a team environment. We now engage global teams of employees to work on Seagate policies and programs to ensure that the “U.S. way” does not necessarily end up being the “global way.”
Learn from all kinds of people! Those of us who are parents learn as much from our children as they learn from us. At work, I have learned some of my best lessons from colleagues who are not necessarily above me in the traditional organization structure. In today’s world, we need to learn from people of different ages, cultures, gender and skills to keep pace with the future.