Women in Business Q&A: Jackie Glenn, VP/Global Chief Diversity Officer, EMC

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Jackie Glenn

Jackie Glenn is a highly accomplished Human Resources Executive practicing across the HR spectrum including HR Strategic plans, Talent Development, and Diversity and Inclusion. She is currently Vice President/Global Chief Diversity Officer for EMC Corporation. In this position, she leads EMC's worldwide diversity and inclusion strategy, continuously reinforcing global diversity and inclusion as a business imperative. Through collaborations with senior leadership on assessment, action planning and cultural change, she designs and delivers creative initiatives tied to the development of an innovative and inclusive workforce, as well as related components of talent management, employee relations, change management and compliance.

Jackie joined EMC in 2000, as the Director of HR Operations for the Sales Division. In that capacity, she provided strategic and tactical Human Resources support to EMC sales groups, comprising more than 2,000 employees at both domestic and international sites. Overall, in her 20 plus year career across the Human Resources spectrum, Jackie has managed and implemented programs in Employee Relations, Training and Development, Recruiting, Organizational Development, and Consulting and Coaching.

How has your life experience made you the leader you are today?
The first person who influenced me was my mom. She was a hard worker, and although she did not obtain an advanced degree - her education stopped after 8th grade - she was extremely wise, highly intelligent and taught me to work diligently and do my best at everything that I take on.

I really do think that the experience gained from waiting and mastering your craft is truly important. My mom was a woman who loved to give quotes. She always said, "Good things come to those who wait." When I think about being in Corporate America and the struggles that I endured in learning to stay "uncomfortable to get comfortable," I often think of that quote. I know if she heard this story, she would say, "See Jackie, good things come to those who wait." That's why that quote is so applicable and another reason why I have to attribute all I am doing and all I have accomplished to my mother, above anyone else.

From my mother, I also obtained this desire to help people - that's what really got me into the career of Human Resources, and of course, my current role of Vice President and Chief Diversity Officer. Along the way I have had great women and men mentors who have reinforced that I excel at what I do, and contributed to my development, but my mom was my first mentor.

How has your previous employment experience aided your tenure at EMC?
I believe that it is the sum of all our experiences--negative and positive that help us to become good leaders and good employees. I previously worked in health care and my experience there with just the personal interactions with people--patients and employees alike--helped me to shape the person that I am and the leader that I have become. Adaptability and flexibility are important and critical skills--especially in a dynamic and changing climate like the one at EMC. I've learned and refined these skills over time and believe they have contributed greatly to my professional effectiveness and success.

What have the highlights and challenges been during your tenure at EMC?
My experience, not just as a woman, but as a woman of color at EMC, was good. I never experienced anything blatantly offensive, but there were many unconscious and implicit things that went on. Though I don't think it was ever intentional, it did come across that way at times. Getting ahead was slow - it could have been faster - but I think people tend to get comfortable in who they promote and move ahead. When I first started at the company there were still a lot of men at the top, so naturally if there was a promotion it went to a man since they were the ones with the most experience and had been with the company the longest. Things have changed since then, but that was my experience in the beginning.

What advice can you offer to women who want a career in your industry?
Studies have shown that when women reach a certain level in an organization, they stop focusing on their development. That development aspect is pivotal to building a successful career. Get away for a couple of days, focus on your development, and reflect on areas where you are strong as well as areas you can strengthen.

There's such a wide variety of resources out there. I know we're all busy and running like crazy, but that's not an excuse to neglect your growth. Get around development when you can through webinars or conferences such as the 2016 everywoman Technology Forum. These avenues offer specific and focused leadership skills with reasonably sized groups of like-minded people. This provides for not only excellent skill and leadership development but extended learning opportunities through the expanded network of like-minded professionals with whom you will share the formal training.

But, when you reach a certain level within an organization and are looking ways in which you may shore up areas where you can strengthen and even develop new competencies and skills, focused programs for leadership in those areas are best--whether offered by your internal organization or through specialized leadership development programs through universities and other accredited organizations.

What is the most important lesson you've learned in your career to date?
Hard work does pay off, but, you must also be strategic in your choices and career path decisions. For instance, making a lateral more to gain valuable experience that you may lack or where you may have little tenure, consider carefully how this may be a strategic move that will ultimately get you to your desired next level and/ or job. If you know you are consistently going above and beyond but are not getting ahead, you need to take stock of the situation and make a strategic decision.

How do you maintain a work/life balance?
I actually don't like the term "work/life balance"; I prefer "work/life management". Balance - the idea that you can devote an equal amount of time to everything you do - is nearly impossible to achieve. In my experience, once you've balanced one aspect of your life, something else eventually becomes unbalanced. In life, we're constantly required to make sacrifices; forced into letting go of one thing to gain another. That's why I believe in realism and practicing work/life management.

Some people want to have it all - the kids, the big job, the husband, the volunteer opportunities - all at once. Personally, I think that's unrealistic to balance but you can manage your life so that in time you can have it all. When my kids were little I had to place some of my bigger career aspirations on hold. I didn't want to go for a high-level management position until my kids were a little older and I no longer felt a need to be hands on and home all of the time. When my kids got older, I was able to start going for those higher level positions. That's how managing allowed me to have it all.

What do you think is the biggest issue for women in the workplace?
The demographics or our work worlds and the world that we live in are rapidly changing. For those of us in the technology arena, the changes are even more impactful. While women constitute about 50% of the workplace today, we are not graduating enough females to take the advantage of the opportunities presented in the STEM industry. STEM opportunities will continue to rise and unless women are fully prepared to take advantage of these, we will continue to lag in preparation for the executive level opportunities not only in the tech arena but within other organizations where technology plays an increasingly important role in the day to day operations and success of top players in retail, health care, financial and all other industries. Technical literacy and preparation is an important issue that we must address head on beginning with encouraging young women early on to consider STEM oriented subject matter and career choices.

How has mentorship made a difference in your professional and personal life?
Throughout my life I have had both formal and informal mentors. All have played a huge role in my career, growth, and development. It was actually a mentor of mine, a headhunter at the time, who pushed me to take a job at EMC.

I find that people get caught up in looking for a mentor that looks like them. I understand the logic and reasoning behind it, but by limiting yourself to being mentored by people who share the same qualities as you, you miss out on fresh perspectives. A good mentor is someone who is going to tell you the truth, not necessarily someone that looks like you.

I have gained so much as a woman and person of color by having a white male mentor. In fact many crucial job opportunities I have received have come from white men who took interest in me, recognized my talent, and were willing to invest in me by taking a chance and putting me into roles I didn't feel qualified for YET they knew I could do it and do it WELL.

Which other female leaders do you admire and why?
I really admire Ursula Burns, the President and CEO of Xerox. Though she came from a poor family, she was resilient, ambitious, pursued her education and worked her way up to the top. She's a true trailblazer. It's people such as herself that I aspire to be more like. They reaffirm hard work and education can help you to rise up out of any situation.

I also admire my first lady, Michelle Obama. I believe she has served the country as first Lady with great dignity and respect in spite of all the mean spiritedness that has been shown towards her.

And last but certainly not least, I admire my current boss, Erin McSweeney. She gives me the opportunity to be the best that I can and truly respects the expertise and craft I bring to the work I do by giving me autonomy to do it well without her micromanaging.

What do you want EMC to accomplish in the next year?
I would like EMC to meet their diversity goals of having more women in senior roles and more people of color.