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Oates-Forney Makes the World a Better Place at Waste Management
Through her professional and life experience, Tamla Oates-Forney has learned one critical lesson: to thine own self be true.
“You can’t be who you’re not,” says Oates-Forney, who joined Waste Management as its senior vice president and chief people officer about one year ago. “It’s important that you find a profession that fuels your passion, and enables you to be the person who you were called to be.”
The daughter of a single mother, Oates-Forney graduated from high school just 0.1 grade points away from being salutatorian. A first-generation college graduate, she earned her bachelor’s degree in business administration from UNC Chapel Hill.
After college she worked in various personnel and human resources roles before joining GE in 1998. There for 20 years, Oates-Forney worked in nine different industries and geographies, including five years on the continent of Africa as the company’s HR leader.
“Ultimately, I became the highest-ranking African-American female in the company. When I left in 2018, I was the third, and final to date, African-American female officer,” she says.
Oates-Forney left GE to start her own philanthropic organization, Tamla Oates-Forney Investments (TOFi), to help women and girls of color via thought leadership, fiscal investments, and philanthropy.
What led her to Houston, TX-headquartered Waste Management in December 2018 was the chance to work for a company that brought together what was most important to her: “It’s a company where my passion for people, purpose for leaving the world better than I found it and the HR profession all come to bear.”
With the company for just over a year, this position has taught Oates-Forney about the value of patience and not judging a book by its cover: “I’ve found that the view of working in the environmental services/waste industry is narrow, and not aligned with who the company or industry is. Imagine a world without environmental services [and] garbage collection!”
Oates-Forney further advises young professionals that flexibility and adaptability are key, and that continuous learning is a must.
In addition, having achieved top positions in two companies, Oates-Forney has found that the higher you go, the fewer people you find that look like you. As such, she also advises the importance of building your tribe: “You never accomplish anything by yourself.”
She continues: “In a position of influence, you need to leverage influence to create opportunities to those who have typically been overlooked and underserved. Because there are so few of us, unfortunately, while we’re individuals, we represent a collective. You may be the only African-American leader, and this becomes the view by which others are viewed.”
Find career opportunities with Waste Management at careers.wm.com, and connect with the company on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, and Instagram.
Benjamin Believes in the Impact of People at Henry Schein
Gerald Benjamin’s position as executive vice president, chief administrative officer, member of the board of directors at Henry Schein, Inc. has taught him that every person is important, and plays a role in your success and in the success of the company.
“We all have an impact on an organization - from entry level to more senior positions,” he says.
With Melville, NY-headquartered Henry Schein for 31 years, Benjamin was initially attracted to the organization for the chance to work with what was, at the time, “a younger company.”
He continues: “I felt I had the opportunity to make an impact on the company’s culture, from a people’s perspective, as well as impact the overall financial profitability of this growing organization. For me, working with a younger team, both in management and throughout the organization, was an opportunity that I didn’t want to miss. I saw both as potentially very rewarding experiences.”
In fact, Benjamin adds: “One of the most important things I’ve learned over the years is that a company’s greatest asset is its people.”
With the company for a little more than three decades, Benjamin notes that his position has taught him just about every aspect of business by taking opportunities to learn something he may not have known before. He also recommends this to others.
“Whether finance, sales and marketing, legal, or regulatory, even though they all fall out of my realm of responsibility, I still look to learn all I can from them. And this is something that I would recommend to others,” he shares.
“If you go into a situation with your ears open and listening, then you’ll likely walk away learning something you didn’t know before. And, by doing so, it makes you a better and more experienced professional. In my opinion, listening is one of the biggest keys to success.”
Benjamin also advises young professionals to look for opportunities to open their horizons and learn new things by listening to others.
“In the end, the best advice I can give is be passionate about what you’re doing, work hard and don’t worry about the next rung on the ladder of your career. With hard work and passion, that next advancement will come. Volunteer for lots of things because when you do, you learn more, and become more valuable and indispensable. To me, this is critical to a successful career.”
And he adds this gem: “Say to yourself that everything is your job, and go out and make it happen!”
Find career opportunities with Henry Schein at henryschein.com/careers, and connect with the company on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, and Instagram.
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