5 Questions for VP of Strategy and Operations, Americas Tracy-Ann Palmer
Tracy-Ann Palmer is a connector and pioneer. Whether it’s people or ideas, if she sees connections and new paths that need to be ventured down, she says it’s in her DNA to make them happen.
That’s how she ended up launching and leading both Midwest Tech Leaders and We Build Character, Michigan-based nonprofits that connect tech CIOs and mentor new leaders respectively.
Now Tracy-Ann is trading frigid Detroit winters for sweltering San Antonio summers as she brings her passion for connection and transformation to Rackspace, where she’ll serve as vice president of strategy and operations for the Americas.
Before joining Rackspace, Tracy-Ann worked for Cisco, where she led the team responsible for a go-to-market, $2.1B architecture portfolio, strategy and business operations, supporting 127 of Cisco’s Fortune 500 customers. During her tenure, all three architecture portfolios exceeded company growth expectations. Prior to Cisco, Tracy-Ann spent five years at Salesforce, where she created the partner marketing and GTM plans and field engagement process. In 2005, she launched and ran her own experiential marketing company, Arzika, for six years.
Tracy-Ann chatted with us about culture, customers and why she stayed in the U.S. after immigrating from South Africa.
Welcome, Tracy-Ann! What attracted you to Rackspace?
Thank you, I am so excited to be here. Coming to Rackspace for me means being part of the incredible culture you’ve built here, to be part of the growth and transformation journey that we’re on, and that our customers are building on the incredible capabilities we’ve developed over the past two decades.
What we offer, from a cloud professional services perspective, gets right at the heart of what our customers are working on, and what they need help and support with. With our partnerships and technology expertise, Rackspace is able to create the right solution for each individual customer, no matter their needs or challenges. Digital transformation is a big growth opportunity, so the entrepreneur in me wanted to jump in feet first. Culture is always near and dear to my heart, and Rackspace is known for that – I am thrilled to be a Racker.
Why is workplace culture important to you?
Culture is the personality of an organization. It defines the environment in which employees work.
We spend more time with the people we work with than with our families and that is why culture is the lifeblood of the company and its people. There are many statistics that have proven what impact engaged employees have on an organization. Engagement means employees feel valued, challenged and part of the overall mission and values of the company. They feel directly tied to the success.
For me, the most critical aspect of a trusting team environment is communication, transparency and accountability. I want my team members to feel valued and appreciated. Taking and receiving open, honest and constructive feedback is a must for a healthy culture — your team needs to understand that you have their back, and they have yours, and we need to be accountable to one another. When you have a strong culture, you can focus on the things that will drive the organization forward: growth and positively impacting the lives of our people and our customers.
What does “customer focused” mean to you?
I’ve always been in sales and sales leadership, but throughout my career, the roles I have taken have been transformational in nature, and that’s one of the things I’m passionate about. I always connect the dots, with people, industry, customers, organizations and teams… it’s really in my DNA. So when I see customers who need to be connected to a larger strategic vision, I want to help them do that.
Everything I’ve ever done — and this is another reason I feel like Rackspace is a great fit — centers on the customer. When we think about the market, and transformation, and the immense challenges our customers are facing — how fast technology is moving, how quickly they have to move to keep up, to lead — we’ve got to know how to support and partner with them. We have to ensure that whether it’s service or support, we are best of breed in how we consult and partner. We have to always be thinking about them, about the holistic nature of the customer lifecycle. Every interaction we have with a customer should illustrate how intensely we care about them and their success. When our customers want to know what others are doing in this industry and what the future looks like we need to be thought leaders and partners and share that. This is not a one and done thing, this is a journey, and our customers are relying on us to guide them.
Do you think most customers understand digital transformation as a journey?
I do, however, in my experience, most don’t realize how challenging the journey will be. We see companies are in all different stages, yet very few say they’re where they want to be – many feel they’re behind, or that they don’t have what they need for a successful transformation. So many companies need to accelerate, while others have maybe gone down a road that turned out to be not the right path, and so they’re looking for guidance and expertise.
For example, I’ve seen companies that initially decided on an ‘all public cloud’ strategy, yet now they’re realizing they may need something more agile, whether it’s hybrid cloud or colocation.
Rackspace’s own transformation has been instructive. For years we focused on hosting, then helping companies manage whatever cloud they chose. Today, we start with a consultative approach, to help assess and advise customers as they’re going through this journey. What’s unique about Rackspace is our broad portfolio; it allows us to have a pulse on technology and the entire market, not just one facet. We can give customers the data they need to make the right decisions.
Michigan is a long way from South Africa; what brought you to the U.S.?
I was born in Zimbabwe and lived there until age 11, then my parents immigrated to South Africa, and I lived there until I was 28. I got an opportunity with the company I was working for there to work in the U.S. I lived in six cities in six years, doing transformational work for them around North America. And then I stayed, because when you are given an opportunity to come and live in the United States of America, and you realize what a privilege that is, you do it – and you make every day count.
After spending 15 years in Detroit, I am incredibly excited to move to San Antonio where I can get to back to warm weather again.
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