In part 2 of this Exclusive Interview, Tracey Brown explains her varied stops along her road to becoming the CEO of the ADA in a conversation with Diabetes in Control Publisher Steve Freed.
Tracey Brown, MBA, BChE, is CEO of the American Diabetes Association.
Transcript of this video segment:
Freed: What is your background? Because I know you’re not in the medical field.
Brown: No. So, I am a chemical engineer. I started my career on the lab benches at Procter and Gamble actually developing soap. In fact, if you’ve used Clear Ivory dish washing liquid that was kind of the thing that I worked on. But I had a great mentor there who basically said, “You not only understand how to develop these products, you also have a great business mind. And it would be great to have someone on the business side of our organization who actually knows how to make these products.” And so, that was the entry point for me. I said, “Well, what do I have to do?” He’s like, “I think you should be a brand manager,” I was like, “All right. What do I need to do that?” and he said, “You need your MBA.” So, I went back. I took a leave of absence. I went back to get my MBA and I went to Columbia Business School with the thought that I would actually go back to Procter and Gamble. I graduated with my MBA in the late 90s. Jobs were aplenty. Jobs were particularly aplenty for those with a technical degree with their business degree. And so, I didn’t end up going back. I had developed a passion for international business while I was in school. And so, I went to work for Exxon Company International.
And from there, Steve, I worked in a variety of places. I did supply and transportation, strategic finance, aviation, marketing, corporate strategy, just a whole host of things while I was there. And from Exxon, ended up going to work for several other corporate companies, (such as) American Express. I developed a strong, with my quantitative background, interest in data and how to use data to drive in businesses and how to use data to connect with people. That led me to working in a large host of organizations trying to help them amass their data and actually use it as a competitive advantage. So, I did that for Dell, I did that for Advanced Micro Devices. And then, I took a hard right turn and went to go work for an advertising agency. So, the CEO of an advertising agency but at that time basically there were a lot of clients across all industries trying to figure out how do you use big data, how do you take the data and make smarter business decisions, how do you actually take data to connect and relate with people. And so, I’ve kind of been on this journey.
My last role before taking this job was with Walmart Sam’s Club, where again I was their Chief Member and Marketing Officer really helping them how to develop loyalty with members. And then. I had the opportunity to move over and become our Chief Experience Officer there, where I was working across our 650 clubs across the country, really trying to figure out how do you create a better experience, a better connection, better engagement with folks who are actually shopping in the club. So, it’s kind of an interesting windy way to this current job. But again, I think everything happens for a reason and I’m really, really excited to take what I’ve applied in my previous jobs right here at the ADA.
Freed: All I can say is wow.
Freed: But I’m still a little confused. I still don’t see how you got to here. You were in corporations and retail, and so many other things. Somehow you got to the American Diabetes Association and they chose you to become CEO.
Freed: There’s got to be some kind of relationship there.
Brown: Well, so the relationships goes back to the fact that I am a diabetic. And so, I don’t know if you’re familiar with, Steve, in the Northwest Arkansas area, one of the ADA’s biggest events is this gala, that is called the Kiss a Pig Gala. I was the 2017 candidate for the Kiss a Pig Gala. And basically the idea is I represented Sam’s Club, Walmart, against 10 other competitors where we are competing against who can fund raise the most money. And the honor, which I had this backwards, the honor is to actually kiss the pig. I was thinking the person who raised the most money wouldn’t have to kiss the pig, so I had it backwards. Nonetheless, I won that competition and I raised more money than any prior competitor in the history of the event. I raised about $300,000 for the American Diabetes Association. My tenure, ever since I made that commitment of thriving with diabetes, I’ve always taken the opportunity to tell my story unapologetically. I’ve always taken the opportunity to educate as many people as I possibly could. And so, my footprint of all of those jobs that I have had always has a component of diabetes in educating and/or fund raising. I became a member of the National Board of the ADA in 2017, the end of 2017. And so, that is where the closer connection to the national organization came. And again, from my seat on the board, lots of thoughts and ideas about how to continue to accelerate this organization. One conversation led to another and here I am.