Donnebra McClendon considers her colleagues at Ceridian to be like her extended family. So when she saw an opportunity for the organization to be better, she knew she had to fight for it.
McClendon advocated for an increased focus on inclusion at the company and became its Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. It was a large jump from her Customer Support career path that she believes was possible in part due to Ceridian’s supportive culture that encourages change.
Now, McClendon spends her days focused on that culture. She ensures every one of her colleagues — and Ceridian’s recruits — experience success in an inclusive environment.
In a recent interview with Fairygodboss, McClendon gave us a closer look at how she advocated for change at Ceridian and what makes the company an especially great place to work. She also gave us insights into the people and advice that helped her climb the career ladder, and the mindset she’s used to stay nimble and create the career opportunities of her dreams.
How long have you been with Ceridian and what about it made you first want to join?
I’ve been at Ceridian for 16 years. I had friends who worked for Ceridian and they couldn’t stop talking about the “extended family” culture. I love that I can work with people who are passionate about helping other people.
Tell me about the roles that you’ve held at Ceridian, as well as your current one. What about this role most excites you?
Most of my career has been in the area of operations. I’ve held several leadership roles including Manager of the contact center, Sr. Manager of the implementations team and I was Director of North American Customer Support. In my current role, Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, I have the privilege of serving a greater purpose, one that impacts our entire organization. I’ve always loved working closely with people and cultivating relationships.
How did you get to where you are now in your career?
I’ve had great mentors and executive sponsors. The difference between the two is key. My mentors helped me to identify areas where I could develop professionally, and they provided me guidance through the process. My sponsors advocated for me with their peers, colleagues and organizational leaders. Sponsors are the people who speak up for you in those places that you aren’t yet invited to. Everybody needs a sponsor.
A lot of people believe that developing your career means changing companies, and not infrequently. What has enabled you to advance your career without job-hopping?
Most people change jobs because they outgrow their role or they don’t feel valued. I’ve always made it a priority to seek opportunities where I could use my talents to add value. It’s important to not tie your talents to doing a specific job.
You helped to propose change in Ceridian Diversity, Equity and Inclusion programs. How did you become involved in that process?
I’ve always felt that Ceridian was an extension of my family. As an employee, I spend one-third or more of my day with the people that I get the pleasure of working with. When I saw an opportunity for us to do better, I proposed a solution to the people who could help make it happen. In a family, we are all responsible for each other, and likewise for my work family. We all play a role in creating a place that values diversity, seeks opportunities to be more equitable and fosters inclusion.
Who did you work with to get the ball rolling? What did you do to make your case, and whose buy-in did you need?
I asked a question and proposed a solution. All significant changes start with a question and a proposed solution. One without the other goes nowhere.
It wasn’t hard to make my case, because I was able to demonstrate a need and I proposed a sustainable solution with measurements of success.
What’s the no. 1 thing you think women should know about working at your company?
Ceridian has an opportunity for everyone. We are a global technology organization that does an amazing job matching an employee’s talent with an opportunity to make a meaningful impact on our business.
What’s the most memorable piece of career advice you’ve received?
My advice is not original. Dr. Angela Davis said: “I am no longer accepting the things I cannot change; I am changing the things I cannot accept.”
If you want to be successful, you must be ready to change the things you can no longer accept. This will require you to DO something different. You may need to invest in your professional development by taking a class, earning a certification or obtaining a higher degree. You can even make a less formal commitment by joining a professional organization.
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