Cultivating Autonomy and Inclusivity at Illinois Tool Works

Whenever I stood at the Greensboro Four Monument at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University (NCA&T) as a college student, I was inspired and reminded that I was not an anomaly as a Black engineer. At NCA&T, a Historically Black College and University (HBCU) known for its engineering program and graduating some of the top Black engineers in their fields, I cultivated a deep network with other accomplished Black professionals, which has been invaluable to my success throughout my career. Being educated at an HBCU gave me the confidence to succeed, shaped the way I operate, and helped me realize that my talents were second to none.

That confidence, coupled with hard work and demonstrated results, opened many doors in my career pathway and eventually led me to Illinois Tool Works (ITW), a multi-industrial manufacturing leader that operates in over 50 countries with over $15 billion in revenue. After nearly a decade at ITW, I can think of many contributing factors to my growth trajectory from being a Vice President General Manager (VPGM) in our Welding segment to now being the Executive Vice President of our Specialty Products segment. One of the main reasons is that the culture at ITW is inclusive and enables us to reach our full potential. If we want our businesses to drive meaningful results, we need the unique skills, experiences, and insights of our diverse employees. We are at our best when we create a culture where people are heard, valued, and engaged. This culture empowers me to be my authentic self every day at work, and in turn, empowers others to do so as well.

At ITW, diversity and inclusion is not simply a representation story. It provides the opportunity to look at issues and leadership through a more diverse lens. Our African American Network (AAN) was established by a few of us that wanted to paint a path for other Black leaders to build successful careers. I am constantly inspired by Black leaders at ITW who are exemplifying strong leadership and flourishing professionally, such as my colleagues Justin Blount and Mihyar Mohamed, who lead AAN with me. My colleague Shawn Welch is a Xavier University of Louisiana graduate, another HBCU, and is now a Group President. These three leaders have had the opportunity to develop professionally in positions of growing responsibilities, with each serving as VPGMs of different businesses during their ITW careers, and they exemplify what it means for a Black leader to achieve their full potential.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that success doesn’t occur in a vacuum. The teamwork at ITW has been a core pillar of my success, and teamwork, along with this recognition, creates a path forward for many others that will come after me. I’m deeply honored to be recognized among Savoy Magazine’s 100 Most Influential Black Executives in Corporate America. It’s humbling to be acknowledged in an environment where others look like you, and I hope together we will continue to build a strong sense of community in workplaces where Black professionals can thrive.

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