Slalom’s first CTO discusses being the first throughout her career, staying true to yourself, and how she almost became an architect.
What attracted you to Slalom?
What made me say “yes” was just meeting the people. Everyone is completely reasonable, and that is super valuable to me. If I don’t feel good about the people or don’t feel like I’m going to be supported, I’m not going to take it.
As a Black executive and Slalom’s first CTO, do you feel any added pressure?
No pressure. I’ve been doing this for 30 years. I’ve been the first of just about any and everything I could possibly be in every role I've ever had, sadly. But to some degree that takes all the guesswork out of it. I’ve either been the first developer, the first woman, the first Black person—all in a very male, homogenous type of world. And since everything has always been a first, that removes the pressure. I am comfortable with what I know how to do, and I know what I don’t know how to do, and if I don’t know how to do it, I know how to ask the right person or hire the right people.
As you come into your new role, what do you plan to focus on first?
Listening to everyone. There are so many places we can start and so many things I can tackle, but I don’t quite know the thing that takes priority. I’ll take ideas from leadership, but also I need to listen to my peers and the folks who work for me, and be able to prioritize. Otherwise, you do too many things, and you don’t get anything done.
If you weren’t doing this, what would you be doing?
Architecture. I went to school to be an architect and thought from an early age that was what I was going to be. I always thought I was going to go back and be an architect, but then I shadowed a friend’s dad and realized it was not what I thought it was. It’s now something that I just enjoy, traveling and admiring architecture. One day I’ll build the house I want, but as a whole, it’s not something I would do now.
What’s one thing you hope to gain from joining Slalom?
It’ll be interesting to work for a business that not only is [consulting] their business, but it’s something we go out and solve for in the world and solve internally as well. The super exciting part of this is I don’t even have to go out and hire consultants and a whole bunch of advisers. They actually work for us!
The super exciting part of this is I don’t even have to go out and hire consultants and a whole bunch of advisers. They actually work for us!
What helps you bring your most authentic self to work?
As you get older, you get less concerned about what people think of you. My grandfather, when he died he was 101, and as he got older he would say anything, and you couldn’t take him anywhere. It really was a lot. But to some degree as I get older, I get that. I am who I am. I try very honestly and very sincerely to be who I am. It doesn’t mean I can’t be critiqued. It doesn’t mean there’s not something for me to learn. But if I’m constantly trying to adapt to every conversation and every situation, then you aren’t going to get the true version of me.
From your perspective, what makes a great leader?
Making sure that everybody is not like you. Looking for people who truly think different from you, that make you uncomfortable because you would do something a different way, is probably the best thing you can ever do.
Which of Slalom’s core values resonates with you most—and why?
Focus on outcomes. The fact that we will always make sure that our customers get what they need and we’re genuinely honest with them about that. When we hold to that as a company like we do with our customers, then we hold that value high for our employees too. I want to make sure that when we’re doing things from an internal perspective, we’re making sure we take care of our internal customers too, which are our team members.
The best advice I’ve ever been given was to make sure I find my own tribe. Everywhere is not for you. You are not for everyone. And that’s okay.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given?
The best advice I’ve ever been given was to make sure I find my own tribe. Everywhere is not for you. You are not for everyone. And that’s okay. Sometimes you may be okay at a moment in time, where it’s good for you now, but it won’t be good for you later. Noticing that and knowing when to move on and when not to move on.
What do you consider your greatest achievement?
I do a lot of mentoring for high school young women and people of color in the technology field. It feels like such a small thing that doesn’t have as much meaning, but then you find out years later when you showed someone a kindness or just heard them out, it made a huge difference in their lives. A lot of them have gone into executive roles and they still reach out and check in, and that feels great.
What do you like to do outside of work?
I read a lot. I only read fiction, a lot of fantasy too, and I’m always reading three books at a time. I'll have a couple that I’m reading because I don’t know which mood hits me, and then I’ll finish one and rotate a new one in. Because sometimes you have a bad day or you have a bad week, and the thing that’s dark is too dark, so you need something a little goofier, or you need something that's so unrealistic, which is where the fantasy will come in.
Anybody who knows me also knows that I like judge shows—they’re thoroughly entertaining. Other than that, I mostly hang out with my kid.