Consumer & retail companies
call on their techies to boost productivity
“Many increases in productivity and cost-cutting measures can be achieved through technology.”
– Ben-Saba Hasan, Wal-Mart
“It’s neat to see something you do impact the business and to see that your improvements save the company money.” – Andrea L. Ridgeway, 3M
By Laurel A. McKee Ranger
Diversity and inclusion in the consumer sector
The consumer sector of the economy is taking a hard hit from the economic downturn. But in some cases this will actually create opportunities for IT professionals and engineers, as companies look to increase productivity and reduce waste.
Sharon Bevis-Hoover of the Coca-Cola Co (Atlanta, GA), who is currently transitioning from CIO for Europe to director of global IT transformation, believes that “In general, the IT career market appears to be staying strong.”
A company that wants to reduce travel expenses “may bring in videoconferencing instead, for example,” Bevis-Hoover suggests, and open more jobs for techies that way. “Better use of technology and IT can bring a lot to the table in terms of addressing the overall need to keep costs down.
“IT suppliers are seeing some pressure on pricing, but the demand for services remains strong,” Bevis-Hoover concludes.
Gregory Marrufo is senior director of human resources at Wal-Mart (Bentonville, AR). He notes that “The economy has had an impact on every business, and one of the effects is that this has been a year of extremely low personnel turnover.
“Like most businesses, we won’t be adding to our headcount, at least during the first half of this year, but when we do we expect to bring in the best.”
Wal-Mart’s Ben-Saba Hasan:
unlimited demand for IT
“There is unlimited demand for IT services here, because many increases in productivity and cost-cutting measures can be attained through the use of technology,” says Ben-Saba Hasan. Hasan is VP of people systems at Wal-Mart (Bentonville, AR), which is probably the world’s largest retailer with more than two million employees worldwide and 350 company officers.
Of course, the “unlimited” demand for IT must adjust to limited resources and competing priorities. “That’s the challenge,” Hasan says. “But it is also the epitome of problem-solving, and what drew me to an IT career in the first place.”
Hasan and his teams are responsible for the IT systems that support functional areas like human resources, payroll, training and development, diversity, compensation, time and attendance and benefits systems. The teams also support corporate communications, in-store clinics, intranet, philanthropic efforts and much more.
For example, “We have a huge, privately run benefits organization to support. More than a million people are enrolled, and it’s our responsibility to ensure that the applications behind it run perfectly,” Hasan says.
His work also involves business initiatives intended to drive growth and increase productivity. Based on available resources, “There are constant trade-offs. You have to balance current needs, implement new applications and manage expectations,” he says.
Hasan has a 1983 bachelors of business admin with a concentration in CS from Temple University (Philadelphia, PA) and a 1994 MBA from Amber University (Dallas, TX). He grew up in North Philadelphia and began at the University of Idaho on a basketball scholarship before he went on to Temple.
He left school to work at various jobs and owned several small businesses before he went
back to complete his degree at Temple. He held three part-time jobs in his final year there,
Armed with his business degree and CS concentration he landed a job as a programmer with EDS (Dallas, TX). The next year he moved to a programming position with Enserch Corp (Dallas, TX), a company involved in oil and gas exploration, distribution and transmission. He stayed with Enserch for fourteen years, working in IT, HR, rate and regulatory affairs and customer service, and finally as an IT director.
In 1997 he joined Dell (Round Rock, TX) as director of IT. In 2002 he became VP of IT, directing teams that supported most business areas, including product group design centers in Austin, TX, Shanghai, Taipei, Singapore and Bangalore. “I spent a lot of time in Asia when I was with Dell,” he remembers.
At the end of 2007 he joined Wal-Mart. The decision was not made quickly.
“Three different people told me about the job: a friend at the IT Senior Management Forum (ITSMF), a Wal-Mart colleague and a recruiter. When I researched the company I was impressed by its corporate values,” he says.
ITSMF is an organization of high-level IT pros dedicated to advancing minorities into executive IT positions in major U.S. firms. Besides ITSMF, Hasan is a longtime member of BDPA and the National Black MBA Association. “Mentoring is one of the most rewarding things I do,” he says. “I love seeing the ‘Oh-I-get-it’ look on people’s faces!
“I’ve had a lot of great coaches along the way and learned that building relationships and understanding the culture you’re working in is as important to your career as your performance,” he notes.
Hasan is looking forward to the emphasis on alternative energy in the Obama stimulus package. “Because Wal-Mart is so large, it’s one of the biggest consumers of electricity. Changes like alternative energy at a corporation of our size can have a large positive impact.”
IS VP Millie Marshall:
staying challenged at Toyota
As VP of information systems at Toyota Engineering and Manufacturing North America (Erlanger, KY), Millie Marshall is responsible for the systems behind everything from BlackBerries and email to preproduction drawings, and support for development of motor vehicles all the way to the production floor and on out the door. “Basically, the only things we are not responsible for are marketing and sales,” she notes with a smile.
Her group includes 300 IT folks, both employees and contractors, who work at Erlanger HQ
and ten affiliates around the country. Marshall has four direct reports: department heads for financial planning, project prioritizing, development and deployment. “These are key performance indicators, and all areas I’m involved in,” she says.
Marshall began her career right out of high school in the 1980s, starting in the engineering department of electrical component manufacturing company Square D (Lexington, KY; now part of Schneider Electric) as an assistant. “I decided I liked that kind of work,” she says,
“so I went back to school.” She got an associates degree in data processing from Lexington Community College (Lexington, KY) in 1989, and eventually went on to a 2000 BA in organizational management from Midway College (Midway, KY).
While at school Marshall continued to work at Square D, first as a third-shift computer operator, then as a first-shift junior programmer. After graduation she became a DBA, and the next year moved to Parker Hannifin (Lexington, KY) as a senior programmer/analyst in the O-ring division.
In 1991 she joined Toyota, working in manufacturing and EDI systems design and development. She moved up to assistant manager in database management and manager
of manufacturing systems planning, development and support.
“Over the course of my career at Toyota I’ve held positions in a number of departments, including HR and an engine facility,” she reports. By 2000 she was assistant general manager of supply chain management. Moving through several other jobs, she reached her current IS VP post in 2006.
Toyota wants capable business leaders, Marshall notes, so “It’s common to rotate at the company. At Toyota IT we have a balance of technical, business and project management skills. It keeps you challenged!”
Marshall does some mentoring at work, and works with inner-city high school kids as part of the Inner Alliance in nearby Cincinnati, OH. She’s also executive sponsor for the Women’s Leadership Forum at Toyota. “In these challenging times many companies are looking to cut, but because of our respect for people and diversity, we don’t expect to reduce or eliminate
our diversity efforts,” she notes.
Sharon Bevis-Hoover: global IT
transformation at Coca-Cola
Sharon Bevis-Hoover is currently CIO for Coca-Cola Europe, accountable for all aspects of IT across that continent. She focuses mainly on execution of strategic business plans and competitor organization economics, “delivering benefits to both the company and the end user,” she says.
“This is a fantastic job,” Bevis-Hoover declares. “I’m accountable for all IT across the group, a full scope of IT products and services.”
She currently has a team of forty-six with eight direct reports, but as she transitions into her new role as director of global IT transformation she’ll be working with a team of about ten and just three or four direct reports. She has been living with her family in England for the past two years; the two years before that they were in Spain; but now the family will return to the Atlanta, GA area.
Managing technology for Coca-Cola is a complex challenge. The company produces nearly 500 different sparkling and still beverages. The drinks are bottled in plants that may be owned by the company itself or by franchisees.
“A lot of the role of IT is to make sure shared operations work as one system from the customers’ point of view. That’s critical to our business,” Bevis-Hoover says. And so, she adds, are supply chain logistics and business intelligence, all part of the IT function.
Her new charge is to transform that function to make sure the company is well positioned for the future. “We’ll be doing IT process improvement and looking at organizational capability. These are areas I feel passionate about,” she declares.
Bevis-Hoover received a BA in economics and math from Agnes Scott College (Decatur, GA)
in 1984. She grew up around computers, since her father was a mathematician and computer scientist at Georgia State University. “When I was a child he would take me to the office on weekends, where there were lots of computers,” she says.
After graduation Bevis-Hoover tried a short stint at General Electrical Professional Services, Inc. Then she started her own company doing IT consulting, with Coca-Cola as a contract client. She joined Coca-Cola as a fulltime employee in 1992, starting as a senior IS account manager.
She moved up to group manager in 1994, and in 2000 she was made program director for Coca-Cola’s technical and science divisions. In 2005 she became IT director of the Iberia division, covering Spain and Portugal. In 2007 she assumed the role she’s now leaving: CIO
of the Europe group.
IT consulting, she reminisces, was fun while it lasted, but “Although I loved the flexibility and challenge, consulting didn’t give me the chance to do organizational development and team leadership or to drive change within the company.
“That’s what I love about my current job and my new one,” she notes. “I can focus on long-term improvements and drive bigger and more challenging change.
“In a market like we’re facing today, it’s essential to get the right balance between efficiency, productivity and budget control on one hand, and investing in initiatives for the future on the other.
“It’s something all CIOs face.”
Coca-Cola looks for techies
Steve Bucherati, director of global diversity at Coca-Cola, notes that in the area of IT, the company typically looks for global solutions leaders, delivery managers, software platform architects and SAP experts. “In addition, we hire talent in food sciences, nutrition and regulatory affairs, especially in areas of R&D, innovation and quality,” he adds.
In general, global solutions leaders, delivery managers and platform architects “need the ability to analyze business needs and help deliver solutions that touch a broad range of functions and geographies,” he says.
networking at The Home Depot
Mohamed Doulfikhar, a principal engineer in the networking group at The Home Depot (Atlanta, GA), has traveled a long way from his origins in Morocco. He went to French grade schools in Morocco, then finished high school in France and went on to a 1992 BSCE from Paris Nanterre University and a 1995 MS in network engineering from Paris Nord University. He worked as a project manager in charge of a construction site while completing the MS, then worked in IT for a small company.
In 2000 he traveled to the U.S. where he met his future wife, an American. He decided to stay in the States, studying English while waiting for his work permit.
“Once I got the permit, I applied to join Home Depot. My in-laws had suggested it as a good company with great benefits. I started working in a store, transferred to corporate HQ and got into engineering after a few months.” Coming up that way made sense, Doulfikhar says: “I learned a lot about the company, so now I know how we need to support many areas of the business.”
As a principal engineer in IT, Doulfikhar ensures that IT teams are following best practices; he also interacts with senior leadership. “I evaluate deployment, support and certification for all the Home Depot networks,” he explains, including network engineering, tech services and application teams in both design and ongoing support.
Doulfikhar notes that although every new directive is a challenge, it is also an opportunity. “We’re always trying to make Home Depot better.”
He’s found Home Depot’s workplace very comfortably inclusive. In fact, he recalls, “When we were faced with the horror of 9/11, my manager and the IT director took me aside. They told me to let them know if I experienced any harassment because it wouldn’t be tolerated here. But I didn’t experience any.”
Soccer is a passion for Doulfikhar. “I used to play on a team here at Home Depot. We’d play
at lunch two times a week and it was great, but lately I’m so busy I can’t fit it in.”
He still finds time for playing at home with his three sons, and for coaching kids’ soccer. “I love doing that,” he says.
Deborah A. Ross: working toward sustainability at Cargill
“My job is evaluating cleaner technologies, renewable energy, and product life cycle metrics,” says Deborah A. Ross. “I help understand and improve our company’s sustainability performance.” Ross is a technical manager in the process solutions technology development center at Cargill (Wayzata, MN), an international producer of food and agricultural products, industrial products and financial solutions. The huge multinational company has more than 160,000 employees in sixty-seven countries.
Ross works on a multidisciplinary team formed to evaluate sustainability. Sustainability, she explains, applies to more than reducing your carbon footprint; it includes water and land use
“I work with several of our business units to understand their impact in terms of greenhouse gases, water and land use. You have to look at the whole value chain, from agriculture through transport and the work we do here, and right on to the end user.”
Ross has a BS and MS in ChE plus an MS in environmental engineering, all from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. She finished her last degree in 2001 and began her career as a ChE in a professional development program at Abbott Laboratories (Abbott Park, IL). It was a rotational program, and gave her experience in several different business units.
From pharmaceuticals she moved to consulting as an engagement manager at Kline Management Consulting (Little Falls, NJ). There she managed project-based business strategy and techno-economic assessments for several Fortune 25 chemical companies.
Last year she joined Cargill as technology manager for environmental finance. She recently moved into her new role in the development center.
Ross has been interested in the environment since she was a teenager. “My first job was working for a small town on the St. Clair River, which runs between Michigan and Ontario, Canada,” she remembers.
“Whenever there was an industrial spill in the river it was reported to the city. Spills were frequent, and seeing that made me think about changing things proactively.”
The big challenge in her current position, Ross says, is building sponsorship and raising capital for the work she’s doing. “Some of it involves fairly new concepts. Navigating the company and finding the right individuals to help is important.” She gets tremendous satisfaction from the connections she’s made with the many stakeholders who share her enthusiasm for sharpening the company’s environmental focus.
Walgreens’ Ronald Brady enjoys the challenge of retail healthcare
Ronald Brady is a systems engineer II at Walgreens (Deerfield, IL), a nationwide chain of more than 6,700 stores with a focus on pharmacy and healthcare services and products.
The team that Brady works on is responsible for the primary infrastructure. “My duties are administrative,” he notes: areas like upgrades, version and
OS control, hardware installs and procurement. The team, like the stores themselves, is “a one-stop shopping environment,” he says with a smile.
“We handle all aspects, from solution design and hardware procurement to project management. We meet with the application developers who are our customers, and build servers and the environment for them.
“We don’t interact with actual end users,” he explains.
The IT area that Brady works in is geared to the pharmacy portion of the business; it lets customers get their prescriptions at any Walgreens store nationwide. “Our systems handle millions of transactions every day,” Brady says.
“We also have websites as part of the business architecture. I float between business architecture, which handles the e-com servers, and wellness architecture, which handles the store pharmacy systems.”
Brady joined Walgreens in 1997 as a senior system analyst, brought in to install the new electronic payment systems. “That was my baby. I was the only person hired to get it up and running. There were applications people, of course, but I built the server.”
Brady graduated from Merritt College (Oakland, CA) in 1986 with an associates in CS. He began as a manager for Footlocker/Kinney Shoe Corp, and in 1990 moved to a job as a computer operator with MCI (Fremont, CA). At first he monitored the mainframes; then he moved up to network surveillance engineer III, monitoring the company’s worldwide network.
In 1996 Brady left MCI to work for Kaiser Permanente (Walnut Creek, CA) as an operations analyst and then a programmer analyst. A year later he moved to Rockwell International (Wood Dale, IL) as senior system technical support.
Late in 1997 Brady began his first stint at Walgreens. He worked there for five years before moving to ABN-AMRO, a Dutch bank, as a senior systems engineer, and on to IBM (Armonk, NY) as a senior IT professional, servicing ABN-AMRO. In 2006 he rejoined Walgreens as a systems engineer III.
Brady says working in retail pharmacy is very challenging. “The complexity is much greater in retail. You interact with so many different areas, and there are so many different users on the system, and you have inventory and federal and state standards and regulations to keep track of.
“The system also tracks all a patient’s prescriptions and alerts the pharmacist to drug interactions. A lot goes on in the background, and it all has to work seamlessly.”
Systems that handle people’s prescriptions have to be up and running all the time. “If something goes down we have to get it back online soonest,” Brady emphasizes.
At home, Brady has two daughters, one in college and one just about to start school, as well
as a son in sixth grade. He’s involved with BDPA and takes time to work with inner-city kids through the organization’s programs. This summer he’s also coaching his son’s baseball team.
And this fall, if all goes well, Brady plans to start on his BSCS and MSCS at night. “It’s going to be a tough schedule,” he says. But he knows it will be worth it, and he’s already used to working hard.
Sharon Cowart is in R&D
at Michelin Americas Research
Sharon Cowart is a project leader at Michelin Americas Research Co (Greenville, SC). She works in the tire manufacturer’s R&D branch, which is responsible for developing innovative new tire products and bringing them to market.
“I am currently one of the leaders of an international project aimed at accelerating our process for bringing new tire products to market,” she explains. Her group is in the second year of the three-year special project which, she says, “has taken me and my partners to manufacturing sites in Poland, France, Thailand and the U.S. In all these places we’ve worked with local teams to help them streamline their manufacturing processes.”
Cowart got her BSME at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University in 1987, and a 1994 MBA from Clemson University (Clemson, SC). When she completed the BS she went to work for E.I. DuPont de Nemours (Wilmington, DE) as a project engineer at the Savannah River Nuclear Facility (Aiken, SC). In 1989 Westinghouse Electric Corp (Monroeville, PA) took over the plant. Cowart stayed on as a project engineer for a year, then decided to try a new career as a tire-mold designer with Michelin.
In her career at Michelin she moved to field service engineer in 1993, programming manager in 1996, tire mold design manager in 2000, and retread product development leader in 2003. She joined her current international project in 2007.
“I’ve been with Michelin almost twenty years and have enjoyed my varied career in mold design, product development and engineering management. I’ve been given tremendous opportunities with Michelin,” she says with pleasure.
“I’ve even had the opportunity to learn the French language, as my current job involves working with primary partners in France, as well as Poland and Thailand. The challenge is making sure we all understand each other and can see each others’ points of view.”
As a working mother with three active daughters, Cowart worries about giving both sides of her life enough time and attention. But, she adds with a smile, “As long as I’m worrying about both sides equally, maybe I’ve achieved some kind of balance.” She and her husband make sure to take time for sailing and water sports with their daughters on nearby Lake Hartwell.
Andrea L. Ridgeway:
product engineer for 3M
Andrea L. Ridgeway had several internships during school, including one in 2005 with the Army Research Lab in Aberdeen, MD, and another as a project manager with Research Experience for Undergraduates (Urbana, IL) in 2004. When she received her BSChE from the University of Illinois in 2006 she went to work for 3M (Minneapolis, MN) as a product engineer in the company’s Knoxville, IA plant.
3M began with tape, of course, but it now makes thousands of products including abrasives for shingles and adhesives used in cars, medical products and personal products like diapers.
Diaper adhesives are, in fact, the focus of Ridgeway’s current job. “We try to find ways to improve the product and troubleshoot problems. We’re close to the manufacturing line, which helps us figure out improvements. Our customers are the manufacturers of kids’ and adult diapers.”
On a day-to-day basis she interacts with planners and team leaders. The company lab in St. Paul, MN does the analytical work, while the techies at the plant focus on implementing new ideas and seeing if they make practical sense.
Ridgeway’s parents inspired her to try a ChE career. “Chemistry is not a simple major, and when you combine it with engineering you’re expected to have a broad knowledge base. That means you can use it in a lot of areas,” Ridgeway says.
Is it difficult being a woman in this very technical field? “You have to prove that you have the technical expertise, then do more still to show that you’re contributing to the team,” she’s found. “You have to take control of your career.”
Especially important, she notes, is connecting and relating to people as an engineer. “You can have great ideas, but if you don’t get others’ buy-in, they won’t get implemented.”
Ridgeway thinks her sports background helped hone her people skills. She played soccer at the University of Illinois and competed in the NCAA tournament three years; one of them her team reached the Elite 8. She received several scholarship awards in school, and she was president of her school’s chapter of the National Organization for the Professional Advancement of Black Chemists and Chemical Engineers (NOBCChE) in 2006. Today, despite her busy schedule, she finds time to mentor at Orchard Place, a program for children with behavioral issues, and to referee youth soccer.
What does she like best about her job? “It’s neat to see something you do impact the business and to see that your improvements save the company money,” she says.
Diageo techies win BEYA awards
Diageo (Norwalk, CT) is one of the world’s largest premium beer, wine and spirits companies. It produces and markets alcoholic beverages including Smirnoff vodka, Guinness malt beverages and Sterling Vineyards wines.
This February two of the company’s technical employees received Black Engineer of the Year (BEYA) awards at the annual BEYA STEM global competitiveness conference held in Baltimore, MD. Both Weldon Williams and Michael Williams, who is no relation to Weldon, were recognized as modern-day technology leaders.
Weldon Williams: QA for
consistent quality at Diageo
Weldon Williams is a quality assurance manager. “I work to guarantee that every bottle Diageo produces is a premium product that delivers consistent quality to consumers,” he says. He has a quality team of two team leaders and five technicians. Williams oversees the quality process, while the team leaders manage quality decisions, one on each shift, and the technicians do analytical and process checks to ensure compliance.
Williams has a 1986 BS in science and engineering from Duke University (Durham, NC) and a 1991 MS in divinity from Westminster Theological Seminary (Philadelphia, PA). In school he was a member of NSBE, and he’s currently a senior member of the American Society for Quality.
He was drawn into a technical career by the example of his father, who worked his way up from a general laborer on a manufacturing floor to supervisor, and eventually became an industrial engineer for Allis-Chalmers. “Seeing what he did and the path he took enthralled me with technology as a career path. When I went to college there was no question that I was going to be an engineer. The only question was what kind of engineer,” he says.
Landing his current job with Diageo was “a stroke of luck,” Williams declares. “I was working with a cardboard box company as a quality manager, and out of the blue I received a call from Diageo asking me to come interview. I was really lucky to get that phone call because it’s the best company I’ve ever worked for. It’s the complete package, from consumer consciousness to corporate consciousness to community consciousness, a really unbelievable place to work.
“It’s not by chance that I chose engineering as a career,” Weldon Williams reflects. “In my role I have absolutely no problem moving from group to group or network to network. When confronted with challenges related to race, I deal with them head-on and get back to where we’re talking about capabilities.
“At the end of the day,” he says, “it’s important to realize that, as members of the diverse workforce, we’re standing on the shoulders of people who came before us and worked tirelessly to lift us up.”
Michael Williams: conversion
quality at Diageo
Michael Williams is a senior conversion quality manager at Diageo. He works in corporate quality.
“We work with Diageo’s brands to support and enhance the company’s reputation and commitment to excellence by guaranteeing quality and satisfying our customers,” he says.
He is the single point of contact between Diageo’s conversion site and its North American technical center, and works with the center “to address all their compliance and technical issues.”
Michael Williams graduated from Purdue University (West Lafayette, IN) with a BS in ME and technology in 1995 and went on to an MS in management. Like Weldon Williams, he’s a senior member of the American Society for Quality. While at school he co-opped with Allied Signal Automotive Brake Systems (Smithfield, MI).
At Diageo he enjoys helping find solutions to problems and issues and seeing the results of the hard work and effort the quality teams put in to achieve continuous site improvements.
The big challenge on this job is working with third-party plants and contractors, since he’s not in the direct chain of command to them. “Nevertheless, I need to find ways to get them to embrace Diageo’s objectives for quality and excellence. It’s always a unique and interesting challenge, and one that I enjoy,” he declares.
In his off hours Michael Williams enjoys doing community work through his church. He is media ministries team leader, in charge of all the audiovisual needs of the church. He’s also proud to say that he’s a newly ordained Baptist deacon.
DIVERSITY-MINDED CONSUMER & RETAIL COMPANIES
See websites for latest openings.
|Company and location
|3M (Minneapolis, MN)
|Household products, manufacturing
|BookSurge (an Amazon company, Charleston, SC)
|Inventory-free publishing and printing for authors, musicians and filmmakers
|Cargill Corp (Wayzata, MN)
|Food and agricultural, financial and industrial
|The Coca-Cola Co (Atlanta, GA)
|Sparkling beverages, teas, coffees, juice and
juice drinks, sports drinks, packaged water and
|CreateSpace (an Amazon company, Scotts Valley, CA)
|Inventory-free publishing and printing for authors, musicians and filmmakers
|Diageo (Norwalk, CT)
|Beer, wine and spirits
|Eastman Kodak Co (Rochester, NY)
|The Home Depot (Atlanta, GA)
|Home building supplies
|Michelin North America (Greenville, SC)
|Staples (Framingham, MA)
|Office products, technology, copy and
|Toyota North America (Erlanger, KY)
|Walgreens (Deerfield, IL)
|Wal-Mart (Bentonville, AR)
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