The Social Impact Heroes of Social Media: Rhonda Vetere is using her platform to inspire women to pursue STEM opportunities
Learn to play golf early. You’ll find as you grow that so many of your best business conversations will happen on the golf course. Golf brings business to a space that feels friendlier. You have the ability to network with colleagues, senior leaders of management, and clients. Give yourself the opportunity to grow by learning new hobbies and pushing yourself as far as you can. Furthermore, know your elevator pitch. You will at some point be caught in an elevator with the CEO of your company. Be prepared to tell them who you are and what you’re working on. The goal is for them to leave, knowing who you are. And while you’re at it, dress for the job you want. You truly never know when an opportunity might present itself, so you better be dressed to impress at all times.
As a part of my series about social media stars who are using their platform to make a significant social impact, I had the pleasure of interviewing Rhonda Vetere. Rhonda is a Global C-Suite technology icon, two-time author, mentor, speaker, and corporate athlete. A passionate leader in technology across industries, Rhonda has lived and worked all over the world– in New York, Hong Kong, Singapore, London, Mumbai, and across India — and managed teams of more than 20,000 people and managed teams in over 162 countries. Rhonda is a change agent for digital transformation who has led the way for growth with more than 23 mergers and acquisitions at companies. She has worked in global executive positions at Estée Lauder Companies, AIG, HP Enterprise Services, Barclays / Lehman, Bank One / JPMorgan Chase, CompuServe, UUNET, MCI, and Worldcom. As an industry expert and influencer, Vetere has been a keynote speaker and panelist at many conferences and events, including the World Economic Forum in Davos, WIT (Women in Technology) Connect, Microsoft Global CIO Summit, Dell EMC World, and the U.S. Vice Presidential Candidate Debate. Rhonda has been recognized for her leadership and influence, notably with the 2019 Human Forward Award, in 2018 being the first female to run 55 miles through the Serengeti, and as a multi-year Top 100 CIO/CTO Executive Leader in STEM by STEMconnector. Rhonda was recently named “Top 50 Most Powerful Women in Technology,” “Top 50 Tech Visionaries” and nominated “CIO of the Year” Award. Rhonda has recently joined the Advisory Board of ITPeopleNetwork and is helping organizations by adding value through consultations on transformation and how to manage change. Grit & Grind is Vetere’s second book — she is also the co-author of an HP special edition book, Enterprise Service Management for Dummies. An avid sports fan and real-world corporate athlete, Rhonda stays focused and sharp by competing in marathons and triathlons on a regular basis — over 70 events thus far, including triathlons, half-marathons, marathons, and IRONMAN 70.3 mile triathlons. She recently ran 55 miles in the Serengeti as part of a girls and women’s empowerment fundraiser: the first women-only run of its kind.
Thank you so much for doing this with us Rhonda! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
I stumbled into technology accidentally. A manager, who ended up being a mentor saw certain skills that I possessed in change management and moved me into a technical role. This was an amazing opportunity and I always now look for folks who show potential across lines of business or even levels down and move them into roles that fit them.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
My funniest mistake was not packing the right temperature clothes for where I was going early on in my career overseas. I learned, and now implement, one of my 10 guiding principles listed in my book, Grit & Grind: always be prepared. Know where you are going and prepare accordingly for the background, weather, politics, etc. Being prepared not only lines you up for success, but makes every aspect of travel, meetings, or anything in between easier.
Ok super. Let’s now jump to the core focus of our interview. Can you describe to our readers how you are using your platform to make a significant social impact?
I use my platform to inspire others. I am a female technology executive, but I want to show others how important balancing health is as well. I showcase my training and races that I compete in. I have 10 Guiding Principles that I live by. I recently was featured on Fox Business News and talked briefly about the concept of “leaning out.” It is all about no excuses, getting it done, and being metrics driven. I have been the only woman in the room for most of my technology career, but I never thought of it this way and I want to inspire others to as well.
Wow! Can you tell us a story about a particular individual who was impacted by this cause?
Many of my mentees have said this approach has been extremely impactful for them. It’s a mindshift and believing in yourself. You need to have bone-deep confidence and trust yourselves, be metrics driven, and showcase your skills.
Was there a tipping point the made you decide to focus on this particular area? Can you share a story about that?
I saw many people entering the workforce and not having the skills that they needed to be successful. There are so many conflicting methodologies out there and many do overlap. I was frankly frustrated with always being asking questions about being “the only woman in the room” when I did not feel that way. At the end of the day it is metrics and that is what people care about. I was at a tipping point when I wanted to impact others early in the career and let them know that they can take charge of their career path.
Are there things the community/society/politicians can do help you address the root of the problem you are trying to solve?
Keep promoting STEM opportunities. These are very viable careers and it is important to show the next generation the types of opportunities that are out there.
What specific strategies have you been using to promote and advance this cause? Can you recommend any good tips for people who want to follow your lead and use their social platform for a social good?
I wrote my book, Grit & Grind and I was able to share my methodology in leadership style and what has worked for me throughout my career. I am speaking around the world and trying to instill confidence to others.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
- Start being mobile. Move outside of where you’re most comfortable and leave the United States. Starting living in multiple countries and experiencing as much of the world as possible. There is no line on the globe other than the equator, don’t allow any borders within your mind to keep you from seeing the world.
- When you’re traveling, don’t just stay in the boardroom, you have the rest of your life to climb your way to the top. I wish I could rewind and spend the time I devoted entirely to working, to actually experiencing what was just outside my hotel room. Get outside and actually see the world. Take weekend trips to neighboring places and soak it in. I wish I could rewind and make myself spend more time doing just that. Learn and live in the different places that make up the world, and truly embrace the culture. You’ll discover that those cultures, while different from your own, will begin to directly shape the woman you’re becoming.
- Learn to play golf early. You’ll find as you grow that so many of your best business conversations will happen on the golf course. Golf brings business to a space that feels friendlier. You have the ability to network with colleagues, senior leaders of management, and clients. Give yourself the opportunity to grow by learning new hobbies and pushing yourself as far as you can. Furthermore, know your elevator pitch. You will at some point be caught in an elevator with the CEO of your company. Be prepared to tell them who you are and what you’re working on. The goal is for them to leave, knowing who you are. And while you’re at it, dress for the job you want. You truly never know when an opportunity might present itself, so you better be dressed to impress at all times.
- While you’re in what will be one of the busiest times of your life, don’t forget to slow down and enjoy where you’re at. It’s easy to throw yourself completely into work and forget to take care of yourself as a person. Take time separate from work to grow your mental and physical health as well. You won’t be of any use to anyone if you’re not mentally healthy. Pour time into developing those aspects of yourself as well.
- Continue to be confident in everything you do. Believing in yourself and demanding that same level of respect from others, will take you far. Your success can only go as far as you believe you’re capable of. Push through to your dreams and don’t be afraid to ask for help if you need it along the way. You’ll witness so many others being afraid to pick up the phone and call to ask for help. Be unafraid and courageous.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“You can’t take care of your team if you are not taking care of yourself.” I am very passionate and make sure that my team takes care of themselves and maintains a healthy lifestyle. For me, training is so important and helps me with decision making.
Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. :-)
Since I am a sports fanatic, I would love to stand on the sidelines with the head coach and of the Washington Redskins, Jay Gruden, during a game and watch him in action and help coach the game!
How can our readers follow you on social media?
Twitter — RhondaVetereH
Instagram — rhondamvetere
LinkedIN — https://www.linkedin.com/in/rhondavetere
This was very meaningful, thank you so much!