Embracing Diversity and Building Community at Work
As part of our recognition of Black History Month, #LifeAtK interviewed Viveca and Amani about their career paths, why they volunteer to lead our Kellogg African-American Resource Group (KAARG) and what black leaders inspire them.
Tell us a bit about your journeys to Kellogg.
Viveca: I’d been with Procter & Gamble for more than 21 years and was working on the Pringles business in 2012 when Kellogg acquired it. I was offered a role at Kellogg and saw it as an opportunity to grow my career while remaining with an iconic consumer packaged goods (CPG) company in the Midwest. I also saw an opportunity at Kellogg to pursue my passion of helping drive the retention, development and recruitment of African-American employees as an enabler for business growth.
Amani: I spent almost 10 years in sales before pursuing my MBA and making a switch to marketing. When the opportunity at Kellogg came up, I was excited to work at a great CPG company with iconic brands that people care passionately about. Kellogg also brought me back home to Michigan; it wasn’t something I was planning on but I’ve really enjoyed being back.
Why do you take time out of your busy schedules to serve as co-chairs of KAARG?
Amani: Since I joined Kellogg, KAARG has given me the opportunity to be of service to the company’s African-American community, plus I get to practice and expand my skills in my chosen field. I first got involved as the KAARG communications chair. When I was asked to join Viveca as co-chair three years ago, I carefully considered the requirements of the role to be sure I could meet KAARG’s and my expectations. Now, I’m continuously excited to bring important programs to all Kellogg employees - not just African-American employees - that help us do our jobs better and deliver better business results.
Viveca: I’m a strategic thinker and my role with KAARG allows me to directly shape the strategy that helps our company create an environment where we all can grow our careers. I also take a lot of satisfaction in increasing the sense of community among my African-American colleagues. As I reflect on the four and a half years that I have served as co-chair, I’m very proud of the difference that KAARG has made in the organization.
Of all the work KAARG has done, what makes you the most proud?
Viveca: I am most proud of our 2018 program year with the theme “Leading and Navigating Culture Change Through Storytelling.” The highlight was hosting Carla Harris, Vice Chairman, Managing Director and Senior Client Advisor at Morgan Stanley and member of the Walmart Board of Directors. Having a recognized leader at the top of her game sharing candid perspective on pivoting to growth and developing a diverse talent bench with our CEO, our North America president and other key leaders, along with our broad employee base, was incredibly impactful.
Amani (left) and Viveca (right) snap a selfie with Carla Harris (middle) after Carla speaks at a KAARG event at Kellogg’s Global Headquarters.
Amani: There is a misnomer that affinity groups like KAARG are for socializing. While we certainly do socialize, we also bring valuable programs to all employees like those Viveca described. And we play an important role in opening up conversations that are informative and provocative. Conversations around race are often taboo in the workplace, but that’s not realistic. I’m proud of KAARG for creating a forum for people to have these uncomfortable conversations. As one of our speakers, MSNBC’s Jeff Johnson, said, “We have to get comfortable being uncomfortable."
In celebration of Black History Month, what black leader has inspired you and why?
Amani: That has to be Ray Bennett, Marriott International’s Chief Global Operations Officer. We had the privilege of having him speak at Kellogg in 2018. He is a great team builder. He has a very approachable leadership style and wields his power humbly and benevolently, but clearly. As an example, he shares his performance reviews with his team. I find that incredibly courageous and inspiring. In fact, since meeting with us at Kellogg, Ray has become a mentor of mine and, now that I know him personally, I especially value his traits of being faith-based, diligent and transparent.
Viveca: It might seem like a bit of a cliché, but President Obama inspires me. He role models intelligence, grace and resilience. He had a vision and inspired others to believe, something all leaders must do, whether in politics, business or the community. I, too, try to operate with resilience and grace. Even when people don’t like the answer, they know they’ll get the truth; it’s how we do our best work.
Across Kellogg, our employee-led Business/Employee Resource Groups continue to be instrumental in advancing our diverse and inclusive culture. In addition to KAARG, these groups include:
- ¡HOLA! Latino Employee Resource Group;
- KAPABLE People with Disabilities and Supporters;
- KMERG (Kellogg’s Multicultural Employee Resource Group);
- K Pride and Allies;
- K Vets & Supporters;
- Women of Kellogg; and,
- YP (Young Professionals).