1. Tell us something about your childhood. What values had been instilled in you that helped you excel in multiple fields later in your life?
I’ve never really done things the easy way. It’s something my mother trained into me back when I was just a kid. If I wanted something, I had to work for it – nothing was handed to me.
2. When did you discover your passion for technology?
For me, the tech industry was something I fell into because a manager earlier in my career saw some attributes in me – I was granted an opportunity, and I took it. I often speak to girls and women, sharing my story and acknowledging that I did not come from a technology background. One of my many goals now is to continue with STEM and promote greater female representation by showcasing that technology is fun and cool. Female representation is a pressing issue in the technology sector. It’s a challenge, but I’m focused on thoughtful conversations that can bridge the gender divide.
3. How did you get into running?
I have always been an athlete. At a young age, I started off in the pool as a swimmer and was touted heavily by my coaches as a future ‘Olympic Team hopeful.’ In my adult years, life got in the way, and turning back to swimming which I loved so much was not feasible, so I turned to running as a way to clear my head. I call it my active meditation time.
4. What have been some of the biggest challenges in your life and how that has shaped you?
As a leader, I overcame being one of the youngest, female Managing Directors in the Finance Sector in my career. I didn’t know it at the time but in hindsight, it prepared me to have grit in many industries that were historically male-dominated and to have empathy for all walks of life. That’s why it’s my life mission to be a competitive, team-focused leader, mentor a diverse group of executives from all lines of business and to continue to use my platform to inspire others (most importantly women).
5. Could you share with us some interesting lessons you’ve learned while traveling?
One of the most interesting lessons that I’ve learned while traveling was the result of a precarious situation in which I was almost kidnapped that I put myself in my twenties when I was young, naïve, and unprepared. Long story short, I was given a dream-come-true opportunity to live and work overseas in Mumbai and was almost abducted after I didn’t take the proper precautions to keep myself safe in an unfamiliar environment.
I find myself revisiting that situation often as a reminder that overpreparation is extremely important to success in all aspects of life; whether it’s going to live and work in a foreign land, logging onto your next client call on Zoom, or training for your next race.
6. Tell us something about the social causes that you support.
One of the most important causes that I support is the BRAVE-Singita Grumeti Fund for All-Women Run Across the Serengeti. There’s a beautiful backstory to why they are the closest to my heart. It started with a year-long of planning for a birthday trip to South Africa that fell right in the middle of my training for the Eagleman 70.3-mile Triathlon. As someone who hates the mundane constraints of a treadmill, I prefer to run outside and what better scenery than the 350K acre Singita Grumeti Reserve. Unbeknownst to me, the Serengeti can be extremely dangerous, and the resort was not going to take any chances, so they provided me with armed security guards in a Jeep to trail me as I ran through the savannah of the African Wild. In must have been a really strange sight – one white woman running through a wildlife reserve being escorted by a small convoy of armed soldiers.
What was most amazing is that all these men who worked at the resort were waiting for me when I came out of my hotel the next day for another run. They wanted to join me in my training along with local women and children. Born out of this girl trip to South Africa and my necessity to continue my training was a run that would later become a 5-day, 55-mile run that raises money for the Singita Grumeti Fund for Women’s empowerment.
7. How would you define success?
I would define success as the completion of a task to a desired result, but there’s long-running list of these milestones that will continue in perpetuity. In business and in life, you have to be ready with the next thing, so when you meet a goal, don’t just stop and rest. You must continue on in the journey to the next goal, keep growing, learning, and finding more successes.
8. Looking back on your journey and knowing what you know now, what is one piece of advice you would have given yourself along the way?
The best advice that I’ve ever received was “You will never be so smart, so accomplished, or so advanced that you won’t benefit from learning from someone ahead of you.” This is why I place such a big emphasis on person-to-person mentorship and mentor so many. I am blessed with the opportunity to have so many experiences in my lifetime so far and it’s my goal to help others learn from those experiences.
9. In your opinion, what is the ideal way to lead in a crisis?
The most important tip that I can give any leader managing in a time of crisis is to stop and ‘listen’. It is vital to your success as an effective leader to learn to ‘problem solve’ under complex and rapidly changing situations, especially when definitive information isn’t readily available. I’ve developed a 3 step process that not only makes others feel understood and validated, but also helps me to process and react wisely.
Step 1, get the facts. The first thing you must do is not act, but gather all the available information so you must put yourself in ‘listen’ mode in order to do so.
Step 2, process the information. This includes everything that you are being briefed on, but also includes very important contextual visual and audio cues as well as the setting and any background information. Most importantly in step 2 is that you must ask questions to clarify.
Step 3, react. When you react, handle the most urgent matter first, and then work your way down the list, listening to hear and understand, process and pivot/tackle as you go.
10. What advice would you give to those who want to pursue a career in STEM or management?
First, learn how to play golf. That has been huge for my career and something that I wish I learned earlier on. So many important conversations and negotiations happen on the golf course. Golf is a game of strategy, intelligence, tactical approach and is very humbling. You can learn a lot about a person and how they approach life/business from how they approach the game.
Second, know your elevator pitch. You may find yourself with the opportunity to connect with a senior executive in passing and having that information at the tip of your tongue is key to be able to impress.
Finally, know that STEM is cool and puts you at the cutting edge of all technology which is a huge advantage in the digital first world that we live in. It is a fast-paced industry that is forever changing which makes every day excited.
11. How can more women shatter the glass ceiling at work?
I believe that the world is filled with distraction more than ever for aspiring leaders, and I suggest guarding against it. It is of utmost importance that the next generation of female leaders focus more on tangible business outcomes and value than getting tied into the social media/digital vortex. Instant gratification in one’s career does not happen overnight and it’s something that you have to work for day in and day out. For any professional, in order to succeed, the most important thing is to find a strong role model and a mentor who has a proven track record. Young leaders should have courage, speak up, take risks, take hard assignments outside of their homeland and find a mentor.
About Rhonda Vetere –
Recognized as one of the Most Powerful Women in Technology and a two-time author, Rhonda is an active leader — whether she’s spearheading corporate initiatives around the world, competing in another IRONMAN 70.3 mile triathlon, or mentoring students & athletes globally in STEM through sports.