Rodney Clark, the general manager of the small and medium business group at Microsoft, expresses that an employee resource group (ERG) “is critically important not only for Microsoft [but] at any company if you look at success, through a diversity lens, across the top 50 companies in the U.S.”
Clark, who has been in the technology industry for a little more than 20 years and at Microsoft for 13 of them, believes that companies can’t survive without programs like Microsoft’s signature ERG program – Blacks at Microsoft (BAM). “One of the key and critical components for that success from a diversity perspective is the presence of a thriving ERG program, or community, and BAM is our longest standing ERG within Microsoft and has served as a great connector to business and community for African American and black employees at the company,” offers the West Coast native.
“I started at IBM and had a number of sales, marketing and management responsibilities. [I] really focused on education and what we call our midrange computing systems within a high-tech environment. I have been in a number of managerial and executive capacities within Microsoft, working with our PC manufacturers in sales and marketing and building and designing our hardware peripheral devices – mice, keyboards and joysticks,” explains the California State University at Fresno graduate. “For the past seven years, I have managed technical teams, worked in the public sector and, now, my current responsibility is business operations.
“At the time, when I came and joined Microsoft, it was an incredible opportunity. I was on a great career path at IBM. I was looking at my development plan and saw some things that I wanted to do later in my career. I saw Microsoft as an opportunity to broaden my experience in different portions of business, not just along the sales and marketing pipeline, but gaining P&L management and product group management experience. Microsoft offered a good chance for me to accelerate that development and make an impact on things like BAM in our ERG.”
BAM was established in 1989 and is comprised of more than 800 employee members worldwide. There are chapters at Microsoft’s corporate headquarters in Redmond, Wash., as well as in Las Colinas, Texas; Charlotte, N.C.; New York, N.Y.; and Atlanta.
Clark is firm in his belief that the ERG is the only reason that he’s in the position he’s in today. “Mentorship is key and critical. It’s kind of like the coach that you have when you’re growing up, playing youth sports. You have some natural ability and talent. You’re going to get shaped and molded along the way, based on connections and conversations that you have with various people and various ranges of experience and based on your ability to take those pieces of input and put it into practice for yourself. It’s a critical element for any company’s success, period. It has been a critical key to my own personal development and coaching style,” he shares. “My advice is to get connected to organizations like BAM. It’s a source of potential leaders in the company.” –yvette caslin