Third in a Series – In the spirit of Women’s History Month in the U.S., and International Women’s Day globally, I was compelled to capture & share stories from some of the incredible women in our infrastructure business. Over the month of March, each Monday I’ll be highlighting inspirational females – women who go above and beyond and are intrinsic to our success. I feel fortunate to be leading the digital infrastructure team and to be working with such talented individuals. I’m proud to introduce them to you.
In this third blog, I’d like to present Tracy Peterson, Vice President, Global Learning, within our Digital Infrastructure Services group at Hitachi Vantara. Tracy joined the company in January 2017 after holding senior leadership positions at SAP, HP, Lawson Software and ADP. A life-long learning advocate, she has played an immense role in advancing the discipline here. The company profiled Tracy one year ago in support of the ‘Breaking the Bias’ campaign. I was pleased to catch up with her myself from her home office in St. George, Utah, which is practically a stone’s throw from the Grand Canyon. I was able to glean even more about her journey and what’s changed the most in the last year. The following is an excerpt.
MARK ABLETT: First, how has life at Hitachi Vantara changed for you since we last spoke with you a year ago?
TRACY PETERSON: A year ago, I was leading the Women of Hitachi Employee Resource Group (ERG) and I turned that over to some fresh new leaders who are doing a phenomenal job. International Women’s Day this year was absolutely one of the best that we’ve seen, and the participation was phenomenal. We have also taken a giant step forward in appointing our first Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer, Claire Thomas, and we’re starting to see great momentum.
At the heart of everything I do is to “help people get better at what they do,” and outside of work, I joined a the non-profit, CorStone, on their Board of Directors around a year ago, as their Treasurer. CorStone is dedicated to teaching resilience in young people especially young women. So far it has helped over 100,000 young people across 50 countries.
The pandemic had made me think about what my bigger purpose is and how I was giving back to the community and the world at large. Because CorStone is learning based, I knew I could add value with my experience and skillset.
ABLETT: Anyone who works with you can see the passion you have for learning. What does the role with CorStone involve?
PETERSON: A large portion of what we do is fundraise. We’ve just held a fundraising event on a yacht in Florida with high-net-worth individuals. That’s always the interesting dichotomy of a non-profit – the two extremes from the very vulnerable to those with material wealth. In India, we’re working on the curriculum to scale out across the country. I’ll lend my expertise in helping to bring in digitization to their learning processes so we can expand and grow. In the corporate world, we’re focused on ROI, so I’m also working on ways to measure long-term success and retention. The new curriculum in India has the potential to touch millions of people.
ABLETT: You’re making a huge impact. How can people find out more about CorStone’s work?
PETERSON: CorStone’s website shares more about their purpose and current projects. If you’re interested in getting involved, we’re always looking for volunteers, so reach out to me and we can have a conversation. We’re always looking for donations too.
ABLETT: I’d also heard that your team had won a Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Award. Can you tell me a little more about that?
PETERSON: During the pandemic, I asked the team to suggest social innovation/corporate social responsibility projects that we could support, with a learning focus. The first project was in South Africa and we helped to close the divide in Mmakgabo Senior Secondary School. We provided simple things – 100 scientific calculators and over 150 school uniforms, which were preventing disadvantaged children from having an education. Their scores jumped tremendously because they had the right tools. We’re now working with the Media, Information and Communications Technology (MICT) government organization on building a computer science curriculum and a lab at the school, with new laptops donated by our office in South Africa and software donated by Microsoft. Alex Johnson and Khaya Malinga from my team and I have been invited to the official launch in May.
We recently won Hitachi’s “Inspiration of the Year Global Award” for CSR for this work and received the award at a ceremony in Phoenix, Arizona, earlier this month. I’m so incredibly proud of what my team has achieved. It just shows that a little time, and a little money can achieve great things. Because we are representing Hitachi Vantara too, we have had support for many other teams, including Legal, Procurement and Finance, and we’ve been fortunate that people have moved mountains to help us to make this positive difference.
Our second project was to set up an urban gardening project in Mexico City, helping disadvantaged children to grow their own food. And our third project has been helping a nonprofit based in Massachusetts, called “Lift,” build a curriculum for their volunteers. Their aim is to help young women get out of the sex trade. Now we’re looking ahead to our focus projects for FY23.
ABLETT: This is fantastic, Tracy, I can see all of Hitachi’s values at play in what you’re doing with your team and CorStone. Your work here shows that we can really make a difference to society. What would your advice be to anyone who wants to volunteer, or make a great impact like you’re doing?
PETERSON: My team is not an official corporate social responsibility group, and we focused on doing something that was important to us, important to our organization and to our employees. I gave them the space and funding to drive these initiatives forward.
I’d recommend that you let your network know what you want to do, and see what opportunities arise. This is what happened with CorStone. I didn’t apply for the role, it found me because they had a particular learning problem that I could help with. Or suggest something you want to do to your manager and get their support. It didn’t take a lot of time or money to get these started.
ABLETT: That’s so true! Thanks Tracy. As we celebrate Women’s History Month, what advice can you give me to ensure that we’re developing the female talent in our team?
PETERSON: Awareness is a great first step, and I’m honored to be featured in this series with my wonderful colleagues in digital infrastructure. We’ve made great strides since I started, we just need to make sure our systems are fair. We need to question how we are promoting people and whether we are falling into the stereotype of promoting men on potential and women when they are doing the job. It’s our responsibility to make sure our talent pool is richly diverse. And you need to ask your leaders what they are doing to sponsor women in your organization, too.
ABLETT: That’s great insight and advice, thanks Tracy. I’ll raise that with my leadership team.