Renée McKaskle starts her day the same way many of us do. After reviewing her sleep analytics on her phone (she does work in tech, after all), she pours herself a cup of coffee, slips on flip flops and opens the door leading to her backyard. That’s where she begins her work days by spending some time with her three dogs. Only, the scene McKaskle is met with on the other side of that door deviates a bit from the norm.
McKaskle is senior vice president and chief information officer of Hitachi Vantara, a wholly owned subsidiary of Hitachi, Ltd. (headquartered in Tokyo, Japan). Hitachi Vantara is headquartered in Santa Clara, California but for the time being, McKaskle has elected to have Hawaii serve as her home base. So, when she starts her day with her dogs, “listening to the birds and watching the sunrise,” she’s doing it in a setting that many would consider paradise.
McKaskle says that having the ability to work remotely from her home 7-10 days each month, when she is not traveling to other parts of the world is something she greatly appreciates. It’s also a testament to a broader set of values at Hitachi Vantara.
“Hitachi Vantara is a global business with a company culture that acknowledges our employees require flexibility. This includes the opportunity to work remotely,” says McKaskle, who came to Hitachi Vantara about four years ago from a lineup of companies including SC Johnson, Symantec, Oracle and Microsoft. “This flexibility doesn’t just focus on where we work, it also speaks to how we work.”
Here’s a great example of this is work-life balance. While struggling with “turning it off” at earlier points in her career, McKaskle says that in recent times she has been able to successfully unplug from work when needed and she’s seen the positive impact it has had on her, both personally and professionally.
“To say, ‘OK, I’m going to take a break now’ and walk with my dog to the farmer’s market in the middle of the day and not feel guilty is an incredible feeling,” she said. “I know I’ll come back feeling better and more focused. In fact, I often come up with new views and ideas on how my team can solve a business challenge or bring new efficiencies to the business, all because I was able to change my surroundings for a few minutes.” It’s when she returns that McKaskle starts the second part of her day, working with her Japan colleagues.
Regardless of who she is working with, McKaskle certainly has a diverse slate of challenges to solve with her work. Founded in 2017, Hitachi Vantara combines 100+ years of operational technology (OT) and 60+ years in to help businesses unlock and maximize their return on data. It does so through new innovations such as machine learning and artificial intelligence, which help customers store, enrich, activate and monetize their data to improve customer experiences, create new revenue streams and lower costs.
Part of what makes the company so successful is its commitment to maintaining a “startup spirit,” a trait that pervades all of the companies under the Hitachi Ltd. umbrella.
“We have a very inquisitive startup mindset in our DNA. It has been part of Hitachi for more than a century and now it’s part of Hitachi Vantara,” she explained. “As a technology company, that means being agile, reprioritizing on the fly, learning from failures and celebrating our successes. We do hundreds of releases each week, and you’re never going to have ‘perfect’ information. So, it’s about taking what you’ve got, sticking to it, and not second-guessing yourself.”
Beyond moving quickly and taking a startup-like approach to creativity, McKaskle added that Hitachi Vantara’s innovative spirit is also driven by its commitment to diversity.
“To successfully solve big problems, we must have diversity of thought, inclusion, and then a commitment to just challenging the heck out of each other,” she said. “I’m never the smartest person in the room. In fact, I love bringing those smarter than me to the table and then giving them the platform to voice their opinions. In today’s businesses world, everyone needs to be able to share their thoughts equally.”
Being seated around a table with her fellow colleagues in leadership keeps her work that much more dynamic and rewarding.
“At Hitachi Vantara I am able to have some pretty transparent conversations on topics I’m passionate about without having to watch my back. I can do this because I have an amazing executive leadership team that supports me and the company,” McKaskle said. “When we meet, it’s a little bit like a family coming together for Thanksgiving. We support each other 100 percent yet at the same time, we laugh until we cry. We solve problems, and we storm the hill. That speaks to the culture at Hitachi Vantara— it’s a people component.”
For women whose colleague collaborations may feel a little stale in comparison, McKaskle shared some advice for finding a workplace where they can truly feel challenged and engaged.
“You have to be curious and love what you’re doing,” she said. “Sometimes that means you have to find your voice, even when you think you’d already found it. I would challenge yourself— did you find “A” voice or “YOUR” voice. If it’s the former, that’s OK, just own it. You’ve just got to go find what makes you curious and what makes you happy and then go after it. I like to say that reticence is the enemy and if you give in to the enemy you’re not thriving, you are just working a job.”
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