I’m a Vice President — This is the Step I Can Never Skip When Managing My To-Do List

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Photo Courtesy of Gartner.

Photo Courtesy of Gartner.

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Fairygodboss
April 16, 2024 at 9:23PM UTC

Rhonda Scales-Thacker has spent the last few months creating what she calls her “COVID-19 recipe” to success. It involves a lot of self-care — spinning, meditating, running  — and logging off at a reasonable hour. It also involves checking in on her team, something that comes naturally to the leader, who believes in supporting her team first and foremost. 

“I always say that I manage the way I want to be managed,” she recently told Fairygodboss. “A manager that’s always willing to roll up their sleeves and support their team is a manager who has team members who will do the same in return.”

As Vice President, Software Engineering, Finance Technology at Gartner, this approach has helped Scales-Thacker deliver results across a series of projects, despite the remote working situation. 

“There is no hierarchy when it comes to delivery!,” she shared. 

But it’s not just her management skills that have helped Scales-Thacker climb her way to an impactful software development position at a company she loves. From managing her to-do list to spotting room to grow to making time to mentor (and be mentored), Scales-Thacker achieves excellence in and through everyday actions. 

Recently, she took the time to share some of her pathways to success with us. This is what she had to say. 

How long have you been in your current role, and what were you doing previously? 

I have been with Gartner for three years and in my current role for one year. Prior to moving to Finance Technology, I led program management for Gartner.com and Cloud Operations. Prior to Gartner, I held various leadership roles in both Finance and IT in healthcare and distribution industries.

What first got you interested in Software Engineering and Finance Technology? 

Finance Technology interests me because it allows me to blend both my finance and application development background to solve complex business problems. I always thought there was a gap in the “finance” understanding of supporting finance applications and operations, from a system perspective, because they didn’t understand the business side and vice versa. This gap identification catapulted me in my initiative to bridge the gap between the two.

 What projects or programs are you currently working on? What about this type of work most excites you?  

My team is heavily involved in numerous projects supporting Gartner Finance teams in a variety of initiatives — from cost savings efforts to consolidating merchant services for credit card processing to legacy system retirement for our Finance Transformation efforts. These projects excite me because what I do on a day-to-day basis will impact Gartner’s bottom line, as well as hopefully make someone’s day a little better by making it more efficient. 

How do you prioritize and deal with your to-do list each day? 

First, I start by listing everything that I need to consider for the week and then I tackle it in day-by-day chunks based upon deliverable dates, as well as considering whether a task is a fire that’s roaring and needs to be handled A.S.A.P. One of the most important aspects to me is highlighting what’s done at the end of each day. Regardless of how long that list may be, highlighting completed tasks one by one allows me to recognize each victory. 

How would you describe your leadership style?  

I feel that my leadership style is that of a “coach.” I try to motivate, teach and inspire my team to be a better version of themselves — whether it’s through their work or through their personal lives. I have a very down-to-earth management style where my approachability and transparency is at the forefront. This allows me to have a connection with my team where they know I will be there to support them as much as I can. This, in turn, has allowed me to see an overwhelming commitment from my team, which allows us to be such a successful, high-delivery team. 

What’s one strategy you’ve used when managing an individual (or team) that you think has been particularly effective? 

I always say that I manage the way I want to be managed. The core of my management is approachability, transparency and, last but not least, a “we are in this together” mindset. For example, we ran into an issue with an upgrade in the past and when my team was on the call at 3 a.m., I was right there alongside them. A manager that’s always willing to roll up their sleeves and support their team is a manager that has team members who will do the same in return. There is no hierarchy when it comes to delivery!

How have you used your role to help bring up other women behind you? How do you build time into your schedule for this kind of work?  

I try to lead by example and since I have had great opportunities throughout my career, I try to share my experiences and preparation with hopes that it will benefit a peer, team member, mentee, or someone else. I build time into my schedule to meet with entry-level female engineers on my team in order to serve as a mentor and have brainstorm sessions, etc. 

How has your day-to-day changed amidst COVID-19 both professionally and personally? 

COVID-19 has forced me to become even more regimented than I already was. For me, being at home made it increasingly important to have a schedule. From a professional perspective, I’m often reminding myself to walk away from my computer at a reasonable time, as it’s very easy to sit at your desk from home for 12 hours without realizing it due to the convenience. I am also encouraging my team to do the same, as well as making sure that I am connecting with my team members to make sure that they are OK. 

In addition, building in self-care as a part of my schedule is critical. Meditation, running and spinning have been what I call my “COVID-19 recipe” to manage my day-to-day. 

What’s the most memorable piece of career advice you’ve received? 

When speaking to a mentor early on in my career, they told me the following quote by Martin Luther King Jr. that has always stuck with me as I go through my career and try to become a better leader each day: “A genuine leader is not a searcher for consensus but a molder of consensus.”

What advice do you have for women in your industry who want to take their career path to the next level? 

Seek out experiences that allow you to build upon your foundation. If you have put in the time to build upon what you can already bring to the table and are confident about that, this might sound cliché, but just do it. 

Learn about Rhonda’s experience at Gartner and her advice to the next generation of business leaders by tuning into her episode of Inner Workings, a Gartner Careers podcast: jobs.gartner.com/podcast.

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