Modeling Diversity – Ep.12

Holding History – Ep.11
December 9, 2020
Celebrating Kwanzaa! – Ep.13
December 30, 2020

National channel manager for Eaton Corporation, Caltha Seymour explains why Eaton is committed to act as a model for diversity and inclusion, how her role at Eaton supports the company’s mission, and gives examples of different best practices that are used to ensure Eaton’s inclusive culture remains for generations. 

Melyssa Barrett:  Welcome to the Jali Podcast. I’m your host, Melyssa Barrett. This podcast is for those who are interested in the conversation around diversity, inclusion and equity. Each week, I’ll be interviewing a guest who has something special to share, or is actively part of building solutions in this space. Let’s get started.

Caltha Seymour is the national channel Manager, Industrial Control Division, where she’s responsible for developing and executing distribution channel partner sales and marketing strategic initiatives, including programs to cultivate sales growth and increase profitability. She’s originally from Canada and has held positions managing new product development, including a role as a cross-functional project leader for Eaton’s $1.5 billion commercial vehicle product line.

Prior to joining Eaton, Caltha leveraged her leadership skills in operations and consulting positions for institutions of higher education and professional sports including the National Football League and the United States Military Academy, West Point. She is a former elite track and field athlete, classically trained pianist with French as a second language, and currently serves on the AthLife Foundation Board of Directors and the Advisory Board of the Fox Foundation. I am so excited to have Caltha Seymour here with me today. Thank you for joining me.

Caltha Seymour:  Thank you so much for the opportunity to speak with you today as well.

So I am really interested and I usually start out asking people a little bit about their background, and I think you have an interesting one because I don’t think I have talked to anyone from Canada yet. So I would love for you to talk a little bit about how you got to where you are today and what that journey looks like.

Wow. Loaded question right off the bat. I like it.

Melyssa Barrett:  Right?

Caltha Seymour:  Well, again, I appreciate the perception that you have for my leadership value. My bio, as you mentioned, a lot of different things in there, but I wanted to talk to you a little bit about who I am, before coming to Eaton and working for the American company. Maybe just paint a small portrait if you will, of my leadership experience and the record that I have, the passion I have for Ind that has kinda run through all my experiences and championing and creating lasting impact through Ind Innovations is a passion of mine.

So I started as a professional athlete after college. I came to the U.S. for university and experienced so many great victories. And then as you can imagine, it’s been very humbling to see, which really developed a resilience for me. And that set me up for success for really everything else I would go on to do. And it gave me confidence to begin actually one of three entrepreneurial ventures which over the years that taught me creating value, delivering results and continuously improving all the elements of the work that I’m dealing in at that time with the vision center. So, I got to learn how to uphold the highest path, the more responsibility rights are within your customers. Then I had an opportunity to teach at West Point and there, preparing cadets at the United States Military Academy, the staff that I had there. We had an opportunity to do for the institution what had never really been done before.

And that was just to truly diversify the classes and give the country a generation of leaders because that thing very deeply rooted respect for very different people. So, that was at West Point. And then in the mix, there was also six years of working for the National Football League, and even there, my role is triple 90 mission to really ensure the life success of people who had been told, they had because something about them was different. I got an MBA about four years ago and I’m a nerd so my third degree, and I had a chance to manage a center of excellence and help women and men break boundaries there. There’s so many stereotypes that are out there about us. How we look like, what our gender is and what our beliefs are.

And so, it was an opportunity to help find excellence unrealized, and the people that we get to work with every day. And in doing that, just bringing great value to identities and to do anything you really set your mind to. So, it’s been fun to see kind of Ind lead throughout all the roles that I’ve had, that haven’t been Ind specific. And now at Eaton, my passion and commitment to Ind has continued through actively recruiting talent and getting to constantly engage with our IERGs. I actually recently led a live division wide race in equality panel with one of our divisions and it’s just been fun to continue that for where I am today.

Melyssa Barrett:  That’s awesome. And, from my perspective, of course, I’ll call it inclusion and diversity is really everywhere, right? So from when we start talking about integrating it into everything that you do, I know specifically Eaton has been kind of a great proponent of inclusion and diversity. So maybe we can start off with you telling us a little bit about Eaton first and then maybe you can talk a little bit about some of the things that you all are doing certainly aside from the panel and some of the things you’re doing that just kind of is embedded in who the culture and the company is.

Caltha Seymour:  Yeah, that’s a great question. So Eaton just as a company, our mission is to improve the quality of life and the environment for the use of power management technologies and services. So, we provide sustainable solutions that help our customers effectively manage electrical, hydraulic and mechanical power and in a safe way and an efficient way and also very reliably. So we’re a large corporation. I like to say Eaton’s the undercover fortune 500 company you’ve never heard about because our revenues were almost $22 billion last year and we’re over 175 countries with over 90,000 employees. So, a very neat company that I had the privilege to get exposed to as I was finishing up my MBA and one of the things that was really exciting for me to work for a company like Eaton is the commitment to diverse work experiences and diversity of thought.

I was brought into the company through their global leadership development program for MBA graduates. I was one of six from the class of 2018 coming in 16, and it provided an opportunity to work in two different divisions of the company for one year. And so when you’re coming somewhere for one year, you’re an individual contributor, you’re leading without influence, you got to get work done. And I think if it wasn’t a culture where diverse experiences and the inclusiveness of working well with the people that you have on your team, it probably would be hard. And having to work in a year and so I even truly surprised myself in that couple of years of that program because I was just overly astonished at how well Ind is woven all through the DNA of the company from the person that’s welding some of our products up into our CEO. There’s a strong commitment.

And that commitment really is around the aspirational goal that Eaton has to be a model of inclusion and diversity in our industry. And, as we aspire to do that from the way we welcome people to the table, we include people by listening to what they have to offer and we’ve created an environment where all employees have an opportunity to be their best. And what I love about Eaton is that when I come to work every day, I can be my whole self. I don’t have to be somebody else. I don’t have to change the way my thought processes is. I don’t have to hide any interests that maybe I have and I’m worried that I may not be accepted. It is a place where you really can bring your whole self to work. So again, I’m so blessed to work for a company that sees our performance and our standards essential to our inclusion and diversity commitment.

Melyssa Barrett:  That’s fantastic. I mean, I love that quote. You can really bring your whole self because I think in a lot of cases, we try to fit in and make sure that we can be successful and that success sometimes kind of causes you to have to do things that maybe you don’t feel is as authentic as you would like to be. So, and I know you all are also doing some things with talent acquisition and some of those things. Are there specific things that you have done or that the company is doing to kind of set the stage in terms of those best practices? Things that you have found beneficial?

Caltha Seymour:  Yeah. I’m thinking of how we’re involved. Our resources to support Ind and how we’re committed to having a next generation of employees that will be more diverse. I guess I’d start answering that question by a statistic that I came across last year and it said that I think 1960, about 13% of the population was nonwhite. And now they’re saying in the early 2040, so 20 years from now, 50% of the population is going to be non-white. So when we think about that, how are we preparing for that? And what I see is how Eaton has integrated when you talk about talent acquisition.

I mentioned one of the things that I do in my role is I actually have a goal to recruit and help recruit diversified talent and not only culturally but experiences. I worked for a company that’s very heavy engineering baseline and I’m not an engineer. But the company saw the different experiences I had with different organizations as value add. And so I’ve made a commitment to help in recruiting every year. And I’m not an HR person. And sometimes people think I am the HR person because you’ve done such a great job of leaving the thought of building our next generation, we’re always thinking ahead. So as you mentioned in my bio, I’m the national channel manager. I work with our distribution channel partners nationally and our product line of industrial control.

Melyssa Barrett:  Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Caltha Seymour:  But in the fall, every year I will spend three or four days out on campuses like Georgia Tech and Michigan State and Iowa State and University of Wisconsin and looking at that next generation. That commitment. And we’re a global company so our competitive market consistently is shifting and that’s also going to shift the mix of talent. So we have to hire different people today than we are. And talking about back in the 1960s but we’ve talked 20 years from now, we need a difference. But in doing that, we have to cultivate that within our own employee network as well. So I liked that you feel called to be a part of that because you want to see the company grow and grow in the way of the diversity that we’re going to see kind of moving forward.

And we do see diverse talent as a competitive edge. So with that within the company, many companies are now adapting all these resource. So we resources supporting Ind from our womens group, our military group, our group for Asia, we have a group for [inaudible 00:12:09] and Latinos, LGBT. We have enabled for disability. So, it’s not so much groups that you can just come and be a part of what the people that may look like you or have the same interests as you, but it’s bigger than that. How do we become allies for each other? How do we become supportive of understanding different cultures so that as we recruit that talent, we will also retain that talent.

Melyssa Barrett:  And retention is a big deal. Because I think we’ve had a lot of companies stand up especially over the last six to eight months that really wants to get involved with acquiring and retaining talent, especially for people of color. I think in many cases we may be talking African-American versus Latin or… but what’s interesting to me is a lot of times we think about talent acquisition coming from external. And yet we have all these people that likely are already working for us that we forget to really look and figure out how do we sponsor them? How do we advocate for them and how do we bring them up through the company.

And I think at one of my previous podcasts, Monique Nelson mentioned kind of this frozen middle where you have people trying to get up and you have the executives trying to drive things down, but there’s this kind of frozen middle that you have to get past to figure out how to retain folks. And how do you deal with some of that within the company? So, I mean, for 90,000 employees at Eaton, which is an amazing number of employees, are there specific things that you all do from, I mean, do the ERGs participate in, I would imagine helping to retain those employees or are there other best practices you have found?

Caltha Seymour:  Yeah. When you think about internal acquisition, internal advancement of your employees, I’ve seen that model really well within Eaton. I like what you mentioned about Monique and I listened to her podcast as well. And in that middle group, that’s a group that’s really trying time to move into different roles. Not only from a leadership standpoint, but a company like Eaton, we have different divisions. We’ve got our electrical sector, we have our industrial sector. And on the industrial side, we’ve got aerospace and our vehicle group, we actually have a filtration system. We even have 85% of the market share in Golf Pride which are Golf [inaudible 00:14:51]. So, within our company we have a lot of different areas that you can move to and the company embraced that. Somebody may think well, I’m in the electrical sector.

This is where I’ve worked my entire career. This is where I need to stay. This is where my experience is. But again, Eaton values diversity of experiences. So it is valued that after two years you’ve been in a role that you should be considering what are the next things that you’d like to do? Our managers, management, that’s an open conversation that is very highly encouraged twice a year. We have a system about evaluation that we work with our managers to talk about our goals and we have different pillars of excellence at each end. Everything from being a learner, being accountable, having the opportunity to be transparent and efficient in our work and how you achieve those is by having different experiences. So it’s nice to know that our company, and when you think about moving up or either laterally or wherever you’d like to move, you don’t necessarily have to think externally.

You can think internally because it is cultivated to get those experiences. And so when we look at the IERG, how do they play a part of that? And I think because we have these inclusion resources and they’re not just there as we’re reaching certain numbers or trying to achieve cultural diversity goals or racial and ethnicity goals from a hiring standpoint. But it’s more of again, diversity of experiences. And when you bring those experiences, you get a lot of different people. So I have found in the four and a half years that I’ve been with the company, just continue to get better where you feel a lot more supported, not only by knowing that you have groups that you can talk to about different experiences, but we have functional ERGs. If you want to learn more about sales and marketing, you want to learn more about operations.

Do you want to hear about what quality is doing, what’s the after market opportunity. We have those resources as well, where you can build those skills. One of my first year supervisor in the company, he worked with a group and piloted a program within Eaton where you can actually, as a manager, you can submit a project. Let’s say you’d like to have some data analysis around how our customers are experiencing a certain product, right? You can put a team together and they could be anybody from all over the company working together on a project in their spare time and a lot of times you’re putting this extra time in, but you have the opportunity to work on something completely out of your regular job scope and get additional experience. I actually participated in three of these projects in my first two years.

And one of the projects I got to work on was for one of our former COOs of the company who’s now gone on and she’s onto a CEO role. But we have some business practices and processes that we follow. And she wanted that updated. And I was on a team of four. I was the only native English speaker. I was with somebody from Brazil, Hungary, India and the four of us work together. And what was interesting about that experience is that you had to work on different time zones, you’ve got the language barrier, how different countries are operating. So it just gave you this global experience in an area that you’re not familiar with. Right? So these are the types of thing that Eaton has put in place to allow their internal staff to grow their skills.

Melyssa Barrett:  That’s awesome. I love the fact that functional ERDs. Because I think a lot of times we do only think of the Black Latin mix, differently abled LGBT resource groups but we don’t actually think about some of those functional components where you can actually build those skills, which is amazing. Let’s pause for a moment. We’ll be right back.

I know you also mentioned that and I want to say that you had told me that it was kind of after all of the heightened social injustice components that you all created a panel of leadership to speak to your employees. What was that experience like? Because I think I know in a lot of cases, there were a lot of people just giving space for people to talk about their experiences, but it sounds like you all even did something maybe even a little different.

Caltha Seymour:  Yeah. Different for sure. It’s interesting because our leadership, our CEO all our leaders did an outstanding job when civil unrest was really starting and the racial inequality conversation and we just have an outstanding leadership team and they let out a great message so we can understand where do we stand as a company and how do we continue to support each other, support our customers, support our stakeholders?

Because that’s very important to our business. And it was great to have that. A couple of colleagues and I who are, I’m one of our IEAG leaders and there’s four of us. And within my division we came together and ironically, we’re all non-American. So Canadian, Turkey, India and Zimbabwe. So we got together and we said we should put something together for our division. So we could kind of hear from our leaders on how they would like us to have conversations with our customers, with our colleagues. What’s the mission and the vision that we’re really putting forward from our division. We know company-wide, we absolutely understand that because those are the standards of expectation that we set and the standards of excellence. What do we want to do as a division until we held to this panel, I was able to moderate it.

And we had the president of our division and a couple of our VP, a couple of our Gms, director of operations and people from different backgrounds to talk about their experiences as either living in the U.S. or coming to the U.S. and their thought process around what has happened. We got as deep as different people’s upbringings and some of the awakening of just what’s been happening. And so it was great to have a very transparent and candid conversation with our leaders that told personal stories to offering challenges to us. And I mentioned that statistic about by 2040, we’ve got our population 50% being nonwhite. And we know as a company how we’re moving towards that, but what are we doing as a division? And we have to go beyond the metrics and this is where I’m challenged as well within the work that I do and the people I get to work with.

And some of the organizations I volunteer with and some of the boards that I sit on. But how do we go beyond the numbers? Because we can run our data about the women that we have, the LGBT folks that identify, people that are disabled, people that have Latino background. We need to run the numbers, but we should really be challenging ourselves to dig a little bit deeper. Get even more transparent. So we know where the gaps are. And this is not just to Eaton. This is really any organization and company. Even for [inaudible 00:22:29] rates. And if you look at everything from your salary bands, are you loosing women in the lower salary band, are you losing women in the higher salary bands. There’s so much that we can look at, but we have to go a little bit deeper than just our race and gender numbers.

And so it’s been neat to kind of see through the cultivation of Ind being in the DNA of the people that work at Eaton, that’s starting to get better. But our division also set our [inaudible 00:22:56] we need to improve. And we’ve made great gains, but we have a long way to go. And it’s nice to know that your division, your company is committed to the Ind mission. It’s not just a statement that’s on our website, but we’re actually doing the things to get there. So it’s nice to be involved and to have those open conversations and to know what are our goals and aspirations moving forward especially knowing the statistics that we’ve been talking about over the last year and how are we going to get there and how do we continue to press on?

Melyssa Barrett:  Yeah. Absolutely. So, I mean, just some great things going on at Eaton which is fantastic because it’s a company I will tell you that I hadn’t heard of but I will definitely be looking more towards these days. And I think what’s interesting to me is that the backgrounds that you all have, you mentioned that Eaton touches, I think 175 countries with 90,000 employees. And the global nature of that really, I would imagine really does allow for lots of diversity of thought and perspectives from all different areas. From markets to the different divisions that you’re talking about and all of the skillsets. So it’s interesting to me, when you start talking about kind of your own background. I know you were born and raised in Canada if I remember correctly, if that’s right?

Caltha Seymour: Yeah.

Melyssa Barrett:  And so I know there’s also I think in a lot of cases, when people see someone, they assume they fit in a particular box. And so my guess is that when people see you, they may make an assumption that you’re American rather than Canadian. And kind of, I’m not sure if you’ve had any of those types of experiences and kind of how that has shaped you. Because I think you’re fairly well-traveled even prior to being at Eaton, you tended to travel a lot in your youth as well.

Caltha Seymour:  Yes. I travel. We should just start a podcast and just talk about traveling. That’s where I feel so many of my experiences have come from. But yes, I do enjoy traveling. I’ve actually been in 24 countries. So I’m hoping to be at 25 by next year. COVID slowed us down a little bit with international travel. Yeah. But I think this is also just in my love for travel. My parents traveled us at a younger age but I’ve just always enjoyed it. And I’ve enjoyed different cultures. And probably because Canada is a country similar to America. I mean the U.S. is the original melting pot. And Canada is very similar. I had a lot of different cultures that come into Canada. And even my parents, for example, who originally from Jamaica and both my mom was educated in England. And then my dad educated in Canada and they got married there and had my sisters and I. So we have always grown up in a very kind of multicultural environment.

Caltha Seymour:

And even in growing up in the suburbs, it was always very mixed there, just racially. I classically trained on the piano and studied at the Royal Conservatory of Music growing up and had a lot of different friends from Japan and China and Korea that were part of my everyday training at the Conservatory. And those became families and friends and play dates and things like that. So from a young age, I was always just exposed to different cultures and people through church affiliation, ice skating, swimming, all the different sports that we enjoy, we ski, toboggan. And so it has really continued to kind of weave in my DNA that whole DNI thought process because life has kind of been that way and traveling and experiencing different cultures.

I will say, I have found for people who maybe haven’t traveled as much, or haven’t been able to kind of been out of their own bubble, sometimes it’s hard to think that… let’s just say somebody that is doing a certain speed. And they may well, I just know that this culture enjoys food and everybody in that culture probably enjoys that food. Or an activity. For example, it’s not a large population of black people that ski, but I love to ski. It’s one of my favorite things to do. I grew up, I’ve been skiing since I was very young, but sometimes they’ll say, “Oh, I’m surprised that you’re skiing” because not a lot of black people ski. So sometimes you’re trying to help people to kind of get outside of the norm of what we think people are supposed to be or do or look like or what their experiences are or where they should be.

Melyssa Barrett:  Yeah.

Caltha Seymour:  And so I’m always trying to challenge people when we have conversations or if it’s a learning opportunity. I really truly think that [inaudible 00:28:05] it’s an ongoing responsibility and privilege and it shouldn’t be something that should be where we take offense, but we look it at as an opportunity to educate. Or sometimes I’ve had to [inaudible 00:28:19] a lot of black people in Canada. There’s a lot of black people everywhere.

Melyssa Barrett:  Yes indeed.

Caltha Seymour:  Of course, if you haven’t been exposed to the different cultures and the different thought processes. And I think that’s what’s kind of neat about growing up internationally because you do have a little bit of different perspectives and that’s what’s cultivated and encouraged and you’re around that. And when you’re not around that environment, you know what? You can put yourself in that environment. It’s all about learning. I mean, I’m such a nerd. And I think if I wasn’t so curious, I wouldn’t have traveled to places like Estonia where people wanted to touch my hair and touch my skin because they’ve only seen black people on TV. I had an opportunity part of a learning and cultural experience. It wasn’t offensive to me at all because I’m in an environment where the people I was with had never seen a live black person and that’s okay. Make it a learning experience. Make it fun. So I think there’s a way for us to… I’m a little bit of a disruptor. So, and I find when you disrupt, you get change.

Melyssa Barrett:  Absolutely.

Caltha Seymour:  And you can move forward into the goals and the initiatives that you want.

Melyssa Barrett:  And I love that you talk about curiosity because I talk about that a lot. Because I think sometimes when we get older, we grow up and we’re not as curious, it’s like, “Eh, I don’t care about that.” But the more curious we get, the more information we get and the more intentional we can be about what we really want to be as we live our life. And whether that shows up in terms of goals for a company or how you manage or how you’re delivering services to customers, all of those things kind of begin to come into play because your experience now becomes different because you’re on kind of another level. So I love all these nuggets that you’re giving us in terms of not only the ability to be your own self, but really, the creation of some functional ERGs, going beyond the metrics, traveling and kind of utilizing some of those experiences to teach.

Because I think a lot of times, especially when all the civil unrest kind of came to a head I’ll say, there was a lot of people that were just exhausted because there were people that felt maybe they were just being awakened for the first time to understand the depths of what some of the things that go on. But now they were looking to kind of our group I’ll say to teach them about what the experiences was which can be exhausting when you’re constantly trying to deliver and live up to specific standards because you kind of carry a bit of a burden, I think based on just the American culture. So it’s interesting to have other perspectives because I think it kind of challenges us to kind of re-energize and really kind of utilize those opportunities to teach others. Teachable moments.

Caltha Seymour:  Yeah, definitely. And I think just [inaudible 00:32:01] and I love that challenge of gaining hearts and minds around. For me it’s always a critical business system because that’s my work every day, but I think it’s also our challenge in the time that we’re living in right now. Let’s be solution oriented but find ways to continue educating, to continue bringing awareness and also helping to be open to different perspectives. Again, I just think it always comes down to perspective and when we can really unite and celebrate and acknowledge and accept different perspectives, we’re going to be able to reach whatever goal it is that we have. It does come down to everybody uniting and having that willingness to do so.

Melyssa Barrett:  Absolutely. That intentionality is so important. So I think you all have been doing such wonderful things that I just appreciate the fact that you are willing to share some of these. Are you seeing specific impacts in terms of how it’s affecting the company as a whole that you can share, or?

Caltha Seymour:  What I really appreciated about this time is that it has opened up the door for more candid conversations. Open and honest and transparent conversations. And I think one of the top reasons that we really wanted to host the panel that we did is because we knew we wanted to hear from our own leaders and how they’re experiencing. How are they talking to their children about this? How are they relating to their upbringing and now kind of being that awakening of okay, this is a serious issue. It is something we do need to talk about. And we can’t not talk about it at work. I have some former colleagues who haven’t felt comfortable to have those conversations with their supervisors and it’s been nice to know that we have at least from our leadership standpoint, within our division and our company, our executives are outstanding, but they have welcomed, they have embraced those conversations. And again, it goes back to the very first thing I said I love about this company is that I can bring my whole self to work.

Melyssa Barrett:  Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Caltha Seymour:  We have to create that environment where people feel comfortable. That they can be open and honest about what is happening. I think for some people the reminder of sometimes you don’t want to be reminded every single day that there is a demographic of people that don’t think that you’re really worth much of anything. Or that you don’t have value. But everybody has value. But we’ll have to create the culture and cultivate the culture where that value can be exercised. It can be embraced, it can be accepted but it can also help with the solution mindset.

Melyssa Barrett:  Wow. That is phenomenal. I don’t even know if I can say anything else. I think we just want to end on that note. So Caltha Seymour, thank you so much for joining me and I am so excited to have this conversation and looking forward to staying in touch.

Caltha Seymour:  Absolutely. My pleasure Melyssa. Have a great afternoon.

Melyssa Barrett:  You too. Thanks so much for being here. Thanks for joining me on the Jali podcast. Please subscribe. So you won’t miss an episode. See you next week.