The afternoon of January 17, NC State’s Poole College of Management hosted the Wells Fargo Executive Leadership series featuring a conversation with DeLisa Alexander, Executive Vice President and Chief People Office at Red Hat, and Frank Buckless, interim dean of the Poole College of Management.
Alexander began her career in the Triangle practicing business law at Kilpatrick Stockton prior to joining Red Hat in 2001. Alexander first served in the office of general counsel before moving into an executive position and founding the company’s Women’s Leadership Community.
The event consisted of a discussion between Buckless and Alexander of leadership and career experiences and concluded with an open Q&A session with students.
Open Business Practices
Red Hat prides itself on fostering an “open” community with employees that gives them a voice in company decision-making and in the development of their software. This open community mindset carries over to management roles, as well, where there is no hierarchy and all levels of the company are encouraged to engage and participate with one another.
“If you have to use your title to get something done, you’ve already failed,” said Alexander when touching on the topic of leading with influence versus authority.
Women in Tech
Unfortunately, as Alexander mentioned during the discussion with Buckless, fewer women are pursuing careers in tech because of a lack of female role models in the tech industry. Alexander shared that she did not know how large the diversity gap in tech was until she began her work with Red Hat and noticed a lack in female co-workers.
“If you don’t have a culture that supports different people, then it’s just an empty bucket you are trying to refill,” remarked Alexander on the importance of organizations hiring women for their value versus gender.
In response to this, Alexander and Red Hat created the Women’s Leadership Community and Diversity and Inclusion Community to further strengthen the culture and Red Hat’s commitment to those values.
When developing her own personal leadership style, Alexander observed those around her to determine the effective leader she wanted to be. After experiencing loud, demeaning leadership styles, Alexander said she gravitated toward a quieter, humble leadership approach that focuses on an appreciation of others’ ideas and opinions.
“Everyone is, and should be, a leader at Red Hat,” said Alexander. “We invest in everyone based on their leadership capabilities.”
While many would say that her Stevie Silver Women in Business award or her achievements in her career at Red Hat would be her biggest successes, but Alexander thinks differently.
“I would say the biggest of my ‘successes’ would be picking great bosses who supported me as me,” said Alexander when discussing her successes.
Alexander had the pick of law firms as a tech lawyer, but specifically focused on those who supported her as a whole person –– woman, lawyer and mother.
About the Wells Fargo Executive Leadership Series
The Wells Fargo Executive Leadership series provides students with the opportunity to learn for the nation’s leading executives and discuss their career and leadership experiences.