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.
As a part of my series about strong female leaders, I had the pleasure of interviewing Rhonda Vetere, a seasoned C-Suite technology icon, two-time author, mentor, speaker, and corporate athlete. A passionate leader in technology across industries, Rhonda has lived and worked internationally — 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,” and nominated “CIO of the Year” Award. 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.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
I am really focused on giving back to others around the world. Going and speaking to individuals and groups on STEM, motivation, self-confidence, and career advice. I will be speaking to the girls of Tanzania again and running 55-miles in Africa and continuing my training to run, and complete 16 planned races this year including full marathons and IRONMAN 70.3.
I’m a firm believer that hearing from other influential or successful people in similar fields helps to gleam perspective and knowledge that an audience might not have considered before. I’ve never left a speech similar to what I’m doing now, and not felt encouraged.
I have recently joined ITPeopleNetwork’s CIO Advisory Board to help C-Suite executives through change management, digital transformation, and to create a high performance culture.
What advice would you give to other female leaders to help their team to thrive?
For young individuals I would tell them to set boundaries and make sure you are respectful of others time.As much as I preach on not allowing gender to set you apart in the work place, it’s imperative that as a woman you create concrete boundaries as a means of demanding respect. This is also crucial for structuring your personal life outside of the office. Having personal and family time set aside helps to build a stronger, more balanced person overall.
What advice would you give to other female leaders about the best way to manage a large team?
Be metrics driven. Results speak for everything. If a team doubts your capabilities upon first glance, having proven results helps you as a leader to alleviate doubt brought on by preconceived notions.
Furthermore, when building your team know the personalities you have, and hire complementary skill sets. Building a team of individuals who compliment each others working styles helps to create an atmosphere that can spur positive change.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
My mentor who told me to learn to play golf in my twenties. I was told a lot of business was done on golf courses. Fast forward, I am now a member at Winged Foot Golf Club and enjoy everyone at the club!
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
I bring goodness to the World by giving back to the USA Olympic Team as a trustee and believe in helping place athletes in the business world after their career in the Olympics. I mentor folks around the world and industry to help them in their career. Along with adopting orphans in India and speaking to youth in Africa, I am very focused on helping others.
In addition, I believe in helping college students make their curriculum choices and am one two Advisory Boards for colleges.
I’m on the Advisory Board for Miss Fashion Week. Miss Fashion Week is the first organization that bridges modeling with pageantry. We are also the very first organization that truly embraces diversity. We crown in five categories including petite, plus, runway, teen and international. Having inclusivity in all aspects of young women’s lives is essential. Through such we offer everyone a platform to pursue their passion while also promoting positive self-image, self-love, and self-confidence.
I spend time mentoring women globally, and I’m passionate about women supporting other women and lifting one another up. With this same belief, I’ve become passionate about STEM. I want to encourage young girls and women to find careers in this space, because there is so much opportunity.
In October 2018, I participated in the first-ever women-only run across the Serengeti wilderness as part of a fundraiser for female empowerment programs hosted by the Singita Grumeti Fund and BRAVE. The run aims to raise funds and awareness about the challenges facing girls and women living in nearby communities and seek sustainable solutions. On the first day, I spoke to a crowd of 400 local high school girls and then joined the other participating women for a solidarity ‘fun run’ with girls from the local community. For the Serengeti Run itself, I ran 30 km, 18 miles, each day for three days (for a total of 90 km, 55 miles), accompanied by the Singita Grumeti Fund anti-poaching scouts. While running, Rmyself and the team were able to witness the wildlife in the plains. I am going back next year to do it again and I’m looking for other ways to give back!
What are your “5 Leadership Lessons I Learned From My Experience” 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.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
My movement would be around ‘Leaning Out.’ This philosophy is all about leveraging the skills that you have and being focused and results driven. No need to focus on a gender, just be an executive, show up, and execute. Results provide all the information someone needs to know.
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.
Some of the biggest names in business, VC funding, sports, and entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂
Since I am a sports fanatic, the NFL Commissioner would be at the top of the list.
Thank you for joining us!