ABOUT TODAY’S GUEST | BRIAN TIPPENS
Brian Tippens has been an impactful leader in the IT industry for the past 25 years, primarily with Hewlett-Packard Enterprise. As Chief Sustainability Officer at HPE, Brian leads a global organization focused on driving measurable and transparent Environmental, Social, and Governance strategies that benefit HPE’s customers, investors, team members, and the communities in which they work and live. Additionally, Brian serves as President of HPE Foundation, a non-profit corporation with a mission to deploy skills, resources, and technology to address social challenges and advance the way people live and work. Brian has been a powerful force for “Doing Well By Doing Good” through impacting diversity and sustainability, and helping legions of others to identify and achieve purpose in their life and career.
Q&A WITH BRIAN TIPPENS
Q: Let’s start by having the audience get to know you on a personal level. Tell us a little bit about your background and growing up in Oakland, California.
- I was born in west Oakland. It was the lower income portion of town.
- My parents had a great value for education even though they weren’t highly educated themselves. I was able to go to a private catholic high school, Bishop O’Dowd.
- From that early upbringing, I always had appreciation for wanting to give back to my home community. That’s something that stuck with me to this day.
- After high school, I went first to San Francisco State University, then I transferred to the University of San Francisco. I studied Management Information Systems. The idea was I thought I was going to be a CIO or CTO when I grew up. Shortly after finishing my undergraduate studies, I reasoned I needed some more letters after my name. I wanted to be a more distinguished professional. I decided to go to law school at the University of Pacific Law School.
- Early on in my career, I’d done time with a local telephone company doing technical work. I migrated to Intel doing mostly hands-on technology work. I pivoted from doing technical work for Intel to move into the contract licensing department.
- I graduated law school in 2000 and then pivoted to Hewlett Packard. It was a company I thought really aligned with my own values and approach. I did contract licensing, intellectual property, and other legal work. The company moved me and my family to Houston, Texas in 2003.
- In 2010, I took a career risk and joined our global real estate organization looking after energy and sustainability. This role was great for my career and gave me the reputation for getting things done, moving the big rocks, handling challenges, cost savings and operational efficiency.
- Then, they knocked on my door in 2014 and asked if I could take the role of Chief Diversity Officer. I pushed back on this at first, but eventually realized I was the right person for this role.
- As I look back, everything I’ve done has been about purpose and being able to leverage people and purpose and driving business values.
Q: I’d love to hear more of the foundations of Hewlett Packard and the ethos of the company. What did you see when you got into it back then?
- HP has made great products. Out of that came a culture of the Silicon Valley management attributes like management by walking around, being transparent and open-door policies.
- In the 1950s, the co-founders wrote out the company’s core values. We’re committed to meaningful innovation. We’re committed to be an intellectual, social and economic asset in every community where we do business. The company was always focused in giving back. HP was one of the companies with an early commitment to diversity and inclusion.
Q: Tell us a little bit about the intentionality that went into building diversity at HPE.
- We have the benefit of not being new in this journey.
- Between 2014-2015, there was a heightened scrutiny around diversity in tech. When you talk about diversity and inclusion, particularly in Silicon Valley, a lot of it lies in the numbers. You have to have intentionality. You are casting a broad net and reaching those diverse communities to bring in a set of reflective new team members.
- But it doesn’t stop there. Once you’ve got that team, it will be how you’re being intentional. How you are growing and developing them. Providing tools and training they need to be successful in their careers
- Finally, how do you leverage that for business value? You can’t have diversity for the sake of diversity. We’ll never succeed unless there’s business value behind that. For example, having a diverse workforce lets us attract and retain the best and brightest talent. Also, we leverage diversity because it comes with a spirit of innovation.
Dan reads a passage writing by Jonathan Haidt:
If we’re going to create diverse societies, diverse schools, diverse corporations, we have to be turning down the us versus them, turning down the tribal sentiments. Our minds track group distinctions, they track race and gender and everything else. If those distinctions are useful, thinking is for doing. So the more you play up these distinctions, the more you make conversations frightening because you could be called out for insensitivity. The more people will notice who they’re talking to, self-censor in regards to that group or person, and the more you move away from the kind of outcome that we all really want, which is a peaceful, harmonious, productive, diverse society. So I think the untruth of us versus them is that life is a battle between good people and evil people. There are conditions that turn that down and we need to look for those conditions in all of our institutions. That’s part of what leadership should be.
Q: What’s your reaction to what Haidt wrote, and how do we find balance here where we’re rejecting identity politics, not just in corporations, but in our society at large, while we’re simultaneously building diverse communities?
- It’s a huge challenge. The fact is we have these biases. It’s natural that we gravitate towards those who look like us, have some affinity with us. We have to challenge those in a way that doesn’t create “us vs. them.”
Q: How do you think we can employ more positive and embracing methods to destroy prejudice and biases to build diverse communities?
- After the murder of George Floyd, we were trying to figure out what to do as a company. One of the first things we decided was to pull everyone together in a multi-member meeting.
- There’s a role for all to play. It’s about creating a “call-in culture” vs. “call-out culture.”
Q: Let’s talk a little bit about your current role you’ve being playing for the last few years; it’s Chief Sustainability Officer. What’s HPE’s environmental social governance mission and what does your role entail?
- We’ve long had a commitment to being good stewards of the environment. We recycle our products at the end of their lives. How we produce products to be environmentally-friendly. How we think about our real estate footprint, our use of water.
- I came into this program 1 ½ years ago with the primary goal of taking what’s a strong environmental program and turn it into a stronger environmental and social governance program. Our sustainability approach is called Living Progress and every year, we release a report.
Q: How does this concept speak to your mission of leaving a legacy?
- I’ve always been planting seeds and putting structures in place that will live beyond me.
- That’s been my focus in all my roles here.
Q: What do you feel is your personal mission?
- I’m passionate about helping people find and achieve purpose.
Q: What advice would you give young entrepreneurs who want to focus on this idea of doing well while doing good?
- I’d say being able to identify what that purpose is.
- It’s okay if your primary focus, especially if you’re young, is to pay bills, make money and be successful. But at some point, you have to find a purpose beyond that.
Q: As you look into the future, what are you most excited about?
- I’m super-excited about the work we’ve being able to do in HP and HPE, but also influencing the technology industry globally.
- We’ve also planted the seeds for programs around diversity, inclusion and environmental sustainability.
- I’ve announced I’ll be leaving HPE later this year to take on new challenges that are yet to be determined.
- What really resonated for me was the idea of considering and identifying your purpose. What’s the purpose in what you do?
- We’re all in business to make a living, lead the lifestyle we want, pay the bills and all those things. But what else? What else are you in business for? What legacy are you there to leave behind?
- Brian developed an appreciation for giving back very early on in life. I think that’s a healthy mindset to have. Are you contributing to society and to the positive benefit of everyone you encounter or are you subtracting through the way you live your life, operate your business and interact with other people on a day-to-day basis?
- Follow Brian on social media or at BrianTippens.com
Show Notes for this episode provided by Brian Njenga.
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