Leaders and administrators are often deeply concerned with the most efficient way to increase their profits, minimize their expenses, and maintain customer satisfaction. While these are indeed vital components to the success of a business, it is not unlikely that someone may fall through the cracks in the process. Rhonda Vetere, President at nThrive and former Chief Technology Officer at Estee Lauder, is intent on making sure this does not happen on her watch. This savvy business mogul who does not shy away from any task set before her, is a fierce competitor in her field. However, what makes her a more incredible force with which to be reckoned is the side of her that does not always appear in the board room. It is her compassion for others, her zeal for life, her quest to impact diverse individuals around the globe, and her desire to share every piece of her heart she can possibly give, that places her in a league of her own. “Travel” with her as she takes you on a journey for your soul.
Rachel: Describe what it is that you do professionally.
Rhonda: A day in my life is getting up and exercising. It is a part of who I am before I start work and doing emails. My profession is leadership so no matter what industry I’m in, I’m all about leading by example. Managing people through problems, executing on the strategy in or out of the board room, executing on change. My day to day profession is also coaching folks on leadership, their business plans, what company from a technology [perspective] is working or not working. Dealing with technology production issues, dealing with fire drills, dealing with merging companies, and leading folks to meet our company goals and meet our department goals is what I do each day.
Rachel: How does your knowledge of global issues influence the work that you do?
Rhonda: I feel like the global issues really influence it because what is going on in Korea influences how the U.S. does business. Visiting all of these countries I see it first-hand. I’ll give you an example. I was in India when the demonetization literally happened. Everyone woke up in India last year and the currency wasn’t worth anything. Now that didn’t really make the U.S. news. There was a little blurb about it, but I was actually living over there managing globally, having a team all around. I couldn’t have the work force get to work because there were miles of people trying to get the new currency out of the ATM. The security was havoc; I was in the middle of all of it! That was a global issue that impacted the world, but people were blind to it in the U.S. even though we were right in the middle of it. Another example is I was at the DMZ literally in a tunnel in Korea when the first test ballistic missile went off. I was doing business and we were taking a tour of the DMZ in Korea. This was before all the missiles started happening and all the Korea world issues came to light. Being over there impacted how I managed because the sensitivity was higher, quite frankly. We didn’t even know about the news. People were slow to do business because they were concerned about coming towards the war. So I think awareness is important and a lot of executives don’t have that touch around the world, which they miss.
Rachel: Is it that they miss it intentionally because they do not want to be involved in it or are they just out of touch and do not pay close attention?
Rhonda: [Executives are] out of touch, don’t pay attention, think the world revolves around North America, and I always say there is no line on the globe other than the equator. They need to take their blinders off. I just don’t think they’ve been exposed to it, which is scary. How can you lead a global team if you haven’t been exposed to it?
Rachel: Human interaction is a critical component of life. How have your travel experiences influenced how you interact with others?
Rhonda: It has influenced a lot! The nonverbals in the board room, I’m really into learning that form of speech. The Asians, the way they do business, and the Brits; sometimes when they say “yes”, they mean “no”. The way they look at you, the way you hand your business card to an Asian [businessperson], you have to hand it with two hands — bow — repeat it — look at it — put their name on the back, write something that reminds you of them so they know that you are taking them seriously. All of these are nonverbals. How you shake someone’s hand in another culture means something else. Not hugging someone and being a woman in business, they shake the hand hard. The grip of the hand is a nonverbal, the eyes are nonverbal, the arms, the body language… I read that all into it. I find it fascinating: the non-verbal aspects of doing business. I’m a hugger! I’m Italian, but in business it doesn’t go a long way!
Rachel: What have you seen in your travels that has caused you to question who you are as an individual and what your purpose is?
Rhonda: I would say my travels have caused more of a spiritual connection in India and Africa. I was just talking about this yesterday with someone that I love that it has caused my eyes to be more open that way and not be so “U.S. focused”. There is just something about giving back in the community and spiritual connections around the world. It has enabled me to open up and I wouldn’t say I question myself. It’s pushed me to give back whether it’s in India with an orphanage, which I do, or in Africa which Lauren [Gill] knows has taken on a whole new life since my last trip. We are doing Women Empowerment and Boy Empowerment, running through the Serengeti. It has caused me to take a pause and say, “I want to continue to give back and help others even more around the world. I want to share my heart around the world, literally, not just in the United States.”
Rachel: That is a strong point. Do you mind talking a little bit about that quote “Share your heart more”? I can see that on a t-shirt!
Rhonda: I want to share my heart more in just giving and loving and in an expressional way. People in school in Africa don’t have the opportunities that we do, but I want to show them that anything is possible. To bring a smile to someone’s face goes a long way. To create laughter, to give them hope, and inspire them. I mean, the world’s our oyster and there are not a lot of role models that show that. They all think that you have to have a bunch of money, but just to share my heart… just the goodness of the soul. How’s that, Rachel? That’s what I mean by that.
Rachel: If you could sit next to a person in first class on a 3 hour flight, who would be it (famous or non-famous)? What would you want to say to that person?
Rhonda: Do I have to sit next to someone? I fly 19 hours and I sleep! That’s how I catch up on sleep. I have to pick someone I would want to sit next to and talk the whole way?
Rachel: You don’t have to talk the entire way. Let’s say you have to wait in the airport and your flight is delayed. You could have a conversation there.
Rhonda: I would say an athlete. I’m into sports. It would not be anyone in particular. Maybe a ball player or someone in the NFL. My mom would be nice! I don’t get to see her very often. I see the folks I want to see, so I do not feel like I am missing out on seeing anyone. I don’t like silence!
Rachel: Tell my readers about a funny or interesting travel experience.
Rhonda: A humorous one is when I first went to Indian and went shoe shopping and the shoes were falling from the ceiling. I wasn’t used to that. It scared the heck out of me because you would call up a size and the shoes would come tumbling down. I love my shoes. It’s humorous now because they throw them down on top of your head, but at the time it was like, “What’s going on?” I’m a fashion girl!
Rachel: What are 2–3 items that you pack when you travel that others might find interesting?
Rhonda: I always take Ritz peanut butter crackers because I’m in training for my Iron Man races. That’s a secret. I take lip balm because everything gets so dehydrated. I also take my athletic watch for training. Everything is in kilometers overseas and I was gone 237 days last year overseas for work.
Rachel: Many travelers are also collectors. What “conversation piece” have you brought back with you from a trip that you have taken? Why is that memento significant to you?
Rhonda: I just brought back a Maasai Tribe necklace that was hand-made out of beads and it’s a rainbow color. It is very significant from Africa. No one else has it; it’s one of a kind and it’s very colorful. I wore it this weekend. It is very precious to me because I watched them make it so I do not wear it very much, but I will take it out for a special occasion. It is a statement piece and it is close to my heart when I wear it.
Rachel: Finish this sentence: “I am not concerned (about/with/for)__________________ because in my travels I have learned _________________.”
Rhonda: I am not concerned with ending up in any part of the world (I have been to Afghanistan and Pakistan), because in my travels I have learned to adapt and mesh into any culture. So if am in a Muslim culture I will wear the black hood around my head. If I am in India I will wear a saree. Wherever I am, I blend.
Rachel: What are 3 lessons or advice from your travel experiences that you can share with my readers?
1) Never get on a plane without picking up the country you’re landing or the state you’re landing in; learn the news.
2) Know your surroundings.
3) Know the culture that you’re going into because you can really offend someone, whether it’s non-verbal communication, you could offend them in a different way or how you say something.
4) Learn a couple of words in the native language, whether it’s hello, goodbye, or good day.
5) No matter where you are going you should always have the right currency in your pocket.