Joan K. Motsinger, Senior Vice President, Business Excellence at Seagate Technology, starts and ends each work day by saying good morning and goodbye to her colleagues. This routine is actually more exceptional than it might sound, considering the distractions and multitasking that tend to permeate our lives — and considering that Motsinger has been working at Seagate for more than 30 years! But her explanation is simple: “My colleagues are my work family, and I value being able to connect and engage with them.”
She recently shared with Fairygodboss what she loves most about Seagate, what she learned from her favorite mistake, and the best quality of the best boss she’s ever had.
How long have you been in your current role, and what were you doing previously?
Since October 2017. Before that I was Vice President of our Global Operations Strategy Group, a position I’d held for five and a half years. In total, I’ve been with Seagate for over 30 years.
What’s the first and last thing you do at work every day?
The first thing I do when I come into work in the morning is say good morning to my colleagues. The last thing I do before leaving in the evening is say goodbye to them. My colleagues are my work family, and I value being able to connect and engage with them.
What’s the most unique or interesting aspect of Seagate?
I’d have to say the most interesting aspect of Seagate is the atomic level of our engineering and the precision of our manufacturing. We call it High-Volume Precision Manufacturing. As a former engineer, I’m most excited by the science and technology behind our products. It really speaks to my passion.
What’s something you think most people (perhaps even current employees) don’t know about Seagate that you think they should?
I don’t think a lot of people realize that our products not only save the world’s data, but helps protect lives and personal information. We’re making truly amazing and innovative technology, and we do so in an inclusive environment with integrity.
What’s something you’re especially good at at work?
I’d like to think that I’m an effective and inclusive leader. I love engaging with my team, and work hard to ensure that my colleagues feel included and valued at all levels. It’s all about building a supportive and inclusive team on the foundation of respect, safety, and shared success.
What about outside of work?
Outside of work I love to sing, though most of my performances are at weddings or funerals these days. I also love to have family gatherings and cook for my family.
What are you trying to improve on?
I’m really trying to improve my ability to listen objectively to what others have to say and always being aware of unconscious bias and how to fight it.
What’s your favorite mistake?
Once, while in Thailand, I made the mistake of putting my feet on the desk. I didn’t think it was a big deal, but in Thailand such an action is interpreted as a grave insult. It taught me the value of being aware of the culture you’re interacting with, and to recognize that each country and culture brings its own rich diversity to the world. We should embrace that.
What’s the one career move you’ve made that you’re most proud of?
I was asked to move to Singapore with my three kids (who were one, three, and eight years old at the time) and my husband. It was a major decision, but I was smart enough to recognize the amazing opportunity and responded overnight with a yes. It’s an experience I’m grateful to have been able to share with my family.
What do you love most about your job or your company?
I love having the opportunity to travel and see everybody, all of my colleagues, because they’re all a part of my work family. I’ve also benefited from diversity throughout my career—across several disciplines, leadership assignments and thought. I draw on this diversity every day to help meet responsibilities required by the breadth of my job. My current responsibilities, which involve working across many functions, come very naturally because I’ve worked with these disciplines and teams throughout my career. I understand the demands of the business, what strategies need to be developed, and how to tap the expertise of very capable colleagues across the company.
What are you currently reading/watching/listening to?
A few of the books currently on my kindle are How to Raise an Adult, Love Does, Everybody Lies and Presence. I’m currently streaming “Scandal,” and love the message of a strong and empowered female that the show portrays.
What’s your #1 piece of advice for women who are looking for jobs right now?
My advice is this: be present and capable. Develop the skills you need to embrace each opportunity as it surfaces, and don’t be afraid to be spontaneous so that you have the freedom to say “yes” to the opportunities you want.
Who is/was the most influential person in your life and why?
There are two people: my father and my high school math teacher. Though my father never got an education beyond high school and worked as a farmer, he made sure each of his children got a strong education in a substantial field so they wouldn’t have to work on the farm forever. As for my high school math teacher, he was the first one to really help me see my talent for math. Here’s the story: we were all in class one day, and he tells everybody to stop what they’re doing. He told me that I was the only one who aced the test, and that I could leave for the rest of the week while the class stayed to work. He later told me that I was the only one who really understood the material. It meant a lot to be recognized for my skill, and his confidence and belief in me made a huge impact.
What’s the most memorable piece of career advice you’ve received?
There are many, but here are three. First, the value of stoic leadership: to be in it but not of it. Second, the value of being highly present without always having to speak. Third, to go with your gut and know when to say yes.
What was the best quality of the best boss you’ve ever had?
I’d have to say the best quality of my best boss as the willingness to commit to and invest in me and my leadership skills. Recently after being promoted to Vice President, I was asked to give my first enterprise-wide presentation on a three-year plan we’d been working on. My boss took it upon himself to ensure I had meticulous preparation in the material, a deep understanding of the material, and impeccable presentation skills. I had to practice every day in his office. I was in tears one night from the pressure, but in the end it was his commitment to my success and development as a leader that made all the difference.
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