Tracey Brown is an inspiring businesswoman, mother and even a drummer! After becoming the first CEO of the American Diabetes Association to actually be living with the condition, she is now moving further into the healthcare sphere, becoming CCO and President of Retail Products for Walgreens. She took some time out of her busy schedule to talk to the LNNY team recently and we are so grateful. Here's what she had to say:
The work you have done is so inspiring. Tell us a little bit about your professional journey?
I have an unquenchable thirst to learn and have always been a problem solver, which is what led me to become a Chemical Engineer. My first job out of college was with Product & Gamble, where I worked on developing new soap products. This is where I really began to cut my teeth from a leadership perspective and brand management (I think P&G is one of the best in the world in terms of developing leaders). I then went back to get my MBA from Columbia University and developed a passion for international business and this led me to work in an accelerated management program at Exxon International where I learned a ton about finance, supply & transportation, and operations. I quickly learned that my engineering problem-solving background, mixed with my desire to drive change and impact equipped me to be successful in a number of industries: High Tech (AMD, DELL Computers), Data-Driven Marketing Agencies (Peppers & Rogers, Direct Impact, RAPP), Retail (Walmart/Sam’s Club, Best Buy, Fossil) and most recently the non-profit space where I was the CEO of the American Diabetes Association. I have also learned the bigger the problem, the more excited I am to solve it. Thus, my reason for now joining Walgreens as the President of Retail Products and Chief Customer Officer is to help transform our Health Care System and help increase the health & well-being of people all around the world! (I start this journey on November 1, 2021)
Is there any one moment in your life that altered your career path unexpectedly?
Yes, back in early 2000, I had reached the goal I had set for myself to become a part of the C-suite for an organization before 40. I was psyched and I did a great job! But, I quickly discovered that I wasn’t fulfilled and that perhaps I wasn’t living my “purpose”. I went on an exploration to understand my unique God-given reason for being; my unique purpose for being on this earth. Through a lot of self-discovery and prayer, I began to understand that my unique reason for being was really to help people become the best version of themselves. I realised that having these C-title roles just gave me a bigger platform to reach more people. This absolutely changed my thinking and changed what I defined as success. So, now I only take roles that align with my purpose and passions.
When you first wore the Elizabeth Suit that you bought from us, you wrote to us and told us that ‘this suit is fire’ (and thank you!). How does your professional wardrobe affect how you feel when you work? I love being able to express my authentic self through clothes. I have a diverse style that allows one to pair cowboy boots with pearls, bold color suits with unique shoes. My wardrobe reflects my authentic self, and when you are your authentic self, you emotionally connect with people better and you are a better leader! And I LOVE my Elizabeth Suit, it looks great, and I feel great when I wear it….it is indeed fire!!
Tracey in the Elizabeth Suit... We agree, it is FIRE!
You’ve held some extremely impressive positions in your career and are moving into yet another one. What grounds you when you experience stressful times in your professional life?
My grounding comes from my faith and staying centered with God. I have a philosophy that I abide by regarding keeping “my rings” in order. The first ring is to stay centered & find ways to continue to feed and water myself. The second ring is family: make sure my family is happy and that I am present for them, and then the third ring is work. If you get those rings out of order… you can’t be your best self.
Who or what inspires you the most?
This is a tough one…I have a few people who inspire me. My mom has always been a great inspiration, instilling confidence in me early and telling me that I could do and be anything I wanted. She also taught me to work hard and push through obstacles. My husband is the yin to my yang. I’m grateful for him, his love, support, and balance. My daughter is one of my greatest blessings. She inspires me to be the best that I can be, I know she watches my every move. I love being her mom.
You’re a CEO, a mom, a wife, an athlete and even a drummer. How do you balance all of these roles? Do you ever find they intertwine with one another?
All these things definitely intertwine and make up the rich diverse tapestry of who I am. We are all multi-dimensional, complex people with lots of layers. The great Maya Angelo says, “We all should know that diversity makes for a rich tapestry, and we must understand that all the threads of the tapestry are equal in life.” I apply this quote to not only myself, but this country and the world.
If you were to give some advice to your younger self, what would it be?
I would tell my younger self that the impossible is made possible by faith, gift & strategy. Utilize all your gifts, never give up, keep the faith and always have a strategy/plan. Anything is possible.