Always Put People First: Kitty Chaney Reed’s Journey with IBM
Creating a strong network helped Kitty build an amazing career, and now she’s focusing her efforts on growing diversity and inclusion at IBM!
Hi Kitty! To start with, can you tell us bit about your job at IBM?
My team and I are responsible for the end-to-end sales support process. We engage from the proposal with the team all the way through the end to end process of registering a contract, invoicing the client and the collecting and applying the cash. We are the heart and lungs of the IBM corporation. I explain this the same way to my mom as I do to internal IBMers!
What set you on the road to where you are?
I’ve always been interested in ensuring things are executed well, but having been an account executive, I have a special level of empathy and understanding of what our clients and our sellers expect from us in the quote to cash space. As for technology, I have my husband to thank; he is a techie and always told me I should get into technology because of my curiosity regarding what makes things work and my knack for problem-solving. I’m the one that troubleshoots when the washing machine doesn’t work or the oven decides to flake out.
What are the biggest challenges you’ve faced in your career? How have you tackled them?
Being underestimated was one of the biggest challenges I faced early on. I was hardworking and focused on delivering results, I thought (and still do, to some extent) that my work should speak louder than I do, but I learned that often that is not enough. I figured out that I needed to be seen and heard and as such, having a strong network was important. So, I got to work on creating some very strong relationships with people who I could learn from. I also learned that I needed to showcase my entire skill set by getting involved in things that were not directly connected to my job; things like volunteering, employee engagement activities and special projects. That was one of the smartest decisions I made in terms of career progression.
What or who has inspired you along the way?
Helping others to grow and develop has been my biggest inspiration. As for people who inspire me, I tend to pay attention to people who use their gifts and talent to move others forward. Those are the real heroes and sheroes!
Why did you choose IBM?
I chose IBM because of its history of promoting diversity and inclusion dating back to the 1950s. Another reason was the stellar reputation it has for developing technology with the ability to change the world as we know it.
What do you enjoy doing outside of work? How do you find balance?
Family is first for me – I love cooking for my family, especially for holidays and family gatherings. I also enjoy spending time alone early in the mornings for my quiet time with the creator – often during those times I read and journal. And of course, I love shopping! It’s difficult to find the time, but if you want to stay sane you have to. I get up early in the morning, around 5:00 am, and then I set aside time every quarter to take a long weekend away from work, usually at the beach.
What does Black History Month mean to you?
Last year, I posted a blog on Black History Month. I talked about how, as I have progressed in my career, diversity and inclusion are no longer negotiable for me. Black History Month signifies the sacrifice and the accomplishments of men and women who, in spite of the odds, have made lasting impacts on the Black community. Awareness around the value and the impact of diversity on business, on relationships, on the world, is unquestionable. Black History Month is a time to reflect and highlight the value and impact of Black Americans and the importance of their contributions.
STEM sectors receive a lot of criticism for a lack of diversity. What do you think is needed to affect change in this area?
I sit on the board of Women in Technology, an organization focused on progressing young women from the classroom to the boardroom. Diversity in terms of color and gender will ensure that the future of technology is not one dimensional. Technologies such as artificial intelligence must include diverse perspectives. What better way to ensure that than to ensure the professionals developing this technology represent all of us?
What has been your experience with inclusion in the workplace?
Diversity is sometimes a mandate, but inclusion is a choice, as someone recently pointed out to me. I have worked hard to debunk stereotypes and ignore the oftentimes insensitive nature of people in the workplace. This way, what shines is the work I do and the results I deliver. So you won’t find me standing on the stump yelling about diversity. But you will see me proudly bringing my whole self to work, seeking out and progressing talent across all communities of people and across all gender types. Giving everyone a voice and a chance to succeed is a right – not a privilege. I believe action speaks louder than words – always.
Finally, what is your top piece of career advice for those getting started with their careers?
Work harder than the best. Always put people first and always do what’s right, even when others disagree.