When Andre Davis was 12 years old and living in Spanish Town, Jamaica, a Coca-Cola in a classic glass bottle was a special treat on a hot day. But the company that made Coke was a world away. No one could have convinced him that, one day, he’d be so closely connected to the famous company. Today, one of Davis’ favorite childhood treats is a large part of his life.
As the global chief diversity and inclusion officer of The Coca-Cola Company, he is tasked with the responsibility of creating an environment that promotes fairness, respect and appreciation of the similarities and differences within the company. With humble beginnings in the food service industry, he prepared for this position by gaining an understanding that every role, no matter the level, matters. Here, Davis shares his journey and the experiences that have shaped him.
How did you determine that this would be your career path?
The job picked me and this has been true for probably most of my career as well. I never saw myself in the diversity role specifically but there has been a greater force at work throughout my career that seems to land me exactly where I need to be. I will say that when you demonstrate the ability to drive positive change, lead and inspire people, doors can open up for you. From a human resources standpoint, I’ve always had an affinity to do this work. You can get so much more out of people when you find a way to understand them, what their drivers are and what environment they thrive in. It’s been a privilege and honor to serve in leadership positions throughout my career.
What has been the secret for you to get where you are?
Having a mindset of adaptability, resilience and taking advantage of opportunities as they present themselves. If you can be adaptable in moments when you’re not comfortable, life will reward you. If you can be resilient when things aren’t going well and fight through, it will build your character. When you view small opportunities as a stepping stone, it’s a game changer. The first job I ever had was washing dishes at a Pizza Hut restaurant. I was a teenager in high school, and even then, a job like that would have been beneath most people but I looked at it as an opportunity to achieve a goal. That mindset of seizing opportunities has set me apart in my journey. It has helped to keep me humble. If you can embrace even the smallest opportunities, the big ones will come.
What are your thoughts on professional mentors?
I believe they are critical partners, development coaches and sounding boards. Mentors are a really important part of the equation in terms of helping you see your blind spots, navigate company culture and giving you insights into being a great leader.
What was it like living in Asia?
I spent nine months on an international assignment working in Southeast Asia, living in Cambodia. Before I arrived in Cambodia, I considered myself well-traveled and senior enough to grasp a completely different culture, even one on the other side of the world. However, I quickly learned that you don’t know what you don’t know until you experience it. Living and working in Southeast Asia was an amazing life and career-enriching experience that has given me an even greater appreciation for diversity and Inclusion.
My biggest learning there was that people are people wherever you go, and at our core, we need the same things. We need direction; which is leadership, we need to grow our capabilities; which is development and we need a great place to work; which is culture. Operating from this core principle is where diversity and inclusion can play a critical role.
Reflect on your role, the journey and tell us what you see as your future?
I see my role simply as the ultimate air traffic controller for diversity, inclusion and equality. My job is to build awareness of differences, which leads to understanding, then to appreciation and ultimately to inclusion of those differences. Operating from that framework is where diversity and inclusion can change the future.”
“I’m not sure what the next chapter will bring, but I plan to embrace it,” he said. “For now, I will draw from all the life experiences that have made me who I am today, and as I continue to evolve, I will continue to lean on my life principles of living by faith, appreciating family and pursuing purpose.