Deanna Self was just named one of Supply and Demand Chain Executive’s 2021 Pros to Know, but we think she is a person whom everyone should know. Deanna has faced many roadblocks in life on a personal and professional level, and to say her career path has been unconventional would be an understatement. Yet, she has figured out a way to achieve her goals – mostly because the failures she has endured have created the opportunity to become more creative to overcome them.
So, to kick off Pride Month, we asked Deanna to share her story of both strife and success as she trailblazed her way up the corporate ladder. Learn what has set her apart from other supply chain professionals the past 25+ years, why she insists on staying true to herself no matter the consequences, and why she has become a hero to so many in the LGBTQIA+ community who have big dreams like Deanna…
Your Edge Blog Team: First off, congratulations for being named one of Supply and Demand Chain Executive’s 2021 Pros to Know! I know it’s well deserved.
Deanna: Thank you. It was a nice surprise to find out I was one of the winners. There are some amazing people on that list.
Your Edge Blog Team: Can you tell us a little bit about your role at Zebra? What are your responsibilities? And what does your day to day look like?
Deanna: My main role here at Zebra is to help bring insights to our customers and the organization in terms of what’s happening within the industry. The goal is to help drive and define roadmaps and provide recommendations on where it makes sense to invest. At the end of the day, I really want to be able to help customers succeed and eliminate pain points within their operations, so I am proactive in sharing my expertise on what solutions would be most effective. Outside of that, as you can imagine, I also spend a lot of time immersing myself in the industry itself, keeping up to date on various technologies and solutions, and in turn, sharing and engaging in thought leadership to further those insights and validate trends.
Your Edge Blog Team: Why did you decide to work in sales?
Deanna: I have worked in sales or supported sales my entire career. For me, when you really believe in the products or solutions the company is selling, it makes you want to be a part of that because you understand the value it’s bringing to customers.
Your Edge Blog Team: What values are important to you from a career perspective?
Deanna: The first words that come to mind are trust and integrity, but those are immediately followed by having an innovative mindset and agile approach. I also consider diversity and inclusion very important. I’ve learned through past personal experiences that if you don’t have this strongly embedded into your culture, you don’t get the best from your people.
Your Edge Blog Team: Have you experienced those values here at Zebra?
Deanna: One of the most refreshing things for me to see here at Zebra is the innovative mindset. I love the curiousness and how people are always looking to improve. It’s also nice to see the pace at which some of that change can happen. Coming from a larger global company, the pace wasn’t near as fast. But in terms of the other values, it’s very clear in our stock price and relationships within the market that Zebra is a trusted company.
Your Edge Blog Team: Is that why chose to work at Zebra?
Deanna: Absolutely. I would never work for a company if I didn’t share the same values and vision. Zebra used to be my vendor when I was at my previous company, and the one thing I most valued was how much Zebra employees wanted to do the right thing at the end of the day – even if it meant they missed out on a sale. Doing the right thing and having a trusted relationship is what I value most.
Your Edge Blog Team: Well, we’re grateful you are a part of Zebra Nation. In fact, you’re making quite an impact beyond your day-to-day professional role as a champion of inclusion and diversity. Can you tell us about some of the I&D initiatives you’ve been involved in lately?
Deanna: I just recently joined the Zebra Equality Alliance, otherwise known as ZEAL, which is a resource group for the LGBTQIA+ community. I haven’t had a chance to really get involved yet, but I’m excited to do so. I am also a part of the I&D team for Zebra’s North America Sales organization. As part of our recent initiatives, we brought in an outside company to provide I&D training, and I was able to share some “cover” stories to help others realize what I go through when I can’t be authentic as well as the downside it has on my performance as well as the company’s performance.
I am married to a woman, and we have two small children. I can recall early in my career, and even occasionally now, when I felt that I had to “cover” for the safety or security of my family or job. When you have someone who can’t show up and be their full self every day, you’re losing out on so much greatness from that person. And for me, I got tired of not sharing my full self and not being treated equal because of it. It’s hugely important we provide support in every way possible to make sure everyone can show up every day and bring their true, best version of themselves – that’s what makes a company better. You’ll find the ideas, teamwork, and overall effectiveness of your employees go way up when this type of environment is fostered.
Your Edge Blog Team: Have you always been actively involved in I&D initiatives such as this?
Deanna: Prior to coming to Zebra, I was involved with a group that’s very similar to ZEAL. I feel it is super important to support the community in a number of ways, such as by listening, coaching/ mentoring, standing up, and even sharing in my own personal experiences.
Your Edge Blog Team: What advice would you give to allies? How can they help foster a culture of belonging, whether in the workplace, social settings or within their homes?
Deanna: Be conscious about the things you say and what you’re joking about. Speak up, educate, and stop behaviors that don’t support an inclusive culture. Don’t just assume things. For example, I think many people assume I am straight because I don’t fit the typical lesbian stereotype. It makes it very difficult for me to be myself when you think I’m something else. Be a friend and listen, and ask questions about how you can help or even maybe how you can challenge your own biases.
Your Edge Blog Team: What advice would you give to members of the LGBTQIA+ community who are faced with biases in their personal or professional lives? Is there something you would say to help give them the strength and courage to continue to forge a path forward – and up the career ladder?
Deanna: If you’re surrounding yourself with people, professional or personal, that don’t support you being the full you, then go find those that do. From a professional standpoint, it’s okay to ask questions regarding inclusion and diversity when you’re thinking of switching roles or careers. It’s important to understand the culture you’re entering and whether or not it allows you to flourish. I used to work for a company that wasn’t supportive and created a lot of fear and uncertainty about my career. It took me a few years to realize it was in my power to address this. Ask yourself if you’re able to bring the best version of yourself to work every day – and, if not, why not? Address those “whys” until there is nothing stopping you from being the awesome person you were born to be.
Your Edge Blog Team: That is great advice! Now that you’re able to put your full self forward at work each day, we know you’re probably running full steam ahead. What do you enjoy doing in your free time to help rebalance yourself? What brings you joy?
Deanna: My twin two-year-old boys take most of my free time. You can generally find us outdoors playing and exploring. But when they are sleeping, or when my wife and I sneak away for a couple hours, I enjoy all kinds of things from catching up with friends, to trying new foods/restaurants, going out for cocktails, and fun events – anything music or sports, you can count me in.
Your Edge Blog Team: Is that how you’re going to celebrate Pride Month, or do you have something else planned?
Deanna: Ahhh…Pride Month! We’ve been in the process of selling our home and will be moving the majority of Pride Month. I know that sounds like a terrific way to celebrate. HA! But in all seriousness, I support Pride Month by taking time to listen, educate myself on how I can continue to improve, challenge myself to create more inclusion. This is outside of work, but right now my main focus on this topic has been with my kids’ daycare because I also want to make sure they have a diverse and inclusive environment to thrive in. I work with the principal there to expose them to various books, and I recommend ways to incorporate I&D both inside the class and with their staff.
Your Edge Blog Team: What is your proudest accomplishment in life thus far, either personally, professionally, or both?
Deanna: When I graduated high school, I already had a passion for business and was ready to get started, so I never went to undergrad school. Instead, I opened my first business by the age of 20. Once I did that, I never looked back at college. That was until I realized, after I joined the corporate world, that the policies in place were going to stop me from further climbing the ladder. And at that point, companies were really looking for more than a bachelor’s degree, they were seeking master’s degrees. So, I set out on a personal mission to figure out how to get a masters, but not via the traditional method. I’ll be honest, I had zero desire to get a bachelor’s degree, so I wasn’t quite sure how I could possibly make this happen. After a lot of research, a lot of testing, and a lot of interviewing, I’m proud to say I’m probably the only person you know that has a Master’s in Business Administration (MBA) without an undergrad degree. I graduated from the McColl’s School of Business at Queen’s University in Charlotte in 2014. So, my advice to everyone out there: don’t let all the rules, policies, or politics in place stop you from achieving your goals. Figure out how to change or work around them!
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