Tracie Gildea has been with Stanley Black & Decker since 2006, and joined STANLEY Security as chief marketing officer in July 2019. In this role, Tracie is the driving force behind creating a commercially focused global marketing organization that is building brand advocacy, commercialization excellence and a digital-first mindset with the customer at the center. Tracie is a vocal advocate for diversity and inclusion in the workplace as an ally of Stanley Black & Decker’s employee resource groups and cofounder of “Abilities,” supporting employees with disabilities and employee caregivers of those with disabilities. Her goal is to support creating a culture of acceptance, understanding and opportunity for people of all abilities.
I had the opportunity to interview Tracie recently. Here are the highlights of that interview:
Jill Griffin: Where did you grow up? Describe your early childhood and its significance on your life.
Tracie Gildea: I grew up in Oakville, Connecticut. My mother was a stay-at-home mom who raised my younger brother and me. My father, a Vietnam War veteran, was a business owner in commercial construction but also had a background in industrial design. Growing up, I was very much a “daddy’s girl” (and still am!). Both of my parents, and especially my Dad, had a big impact on my future career choices.
Both of my parents believed that I should pursue a career that I was passionate about. It was an active conversation, but they always left it up to me to decide what I wanted to do and where I wanted to take my career.
Griffin: When did you first get the whisper you belonged in business?
Gildea: The first whisper came when I was in high school. I had developed a few different interests that remain interests today — the first being public policy. Early on in high school, I thought I would pursue a career in politics. My second area of interest was graphic design (likely because of my Dad).
However, the interest that carried many of my career choices was marketing and business. In high school, I joined a national club called Distributed Education Clubs of America (DECA). Within DECA, there were several different paths you could choose and I chose to pursue marketing. I went on to be president of the state chapter and attended the national competition in Florida during my senior year. From that point on, it became pretty clear that my future was going to follow that interest.
Griffin: Was there an early teacher that inspired you? Who and how?
Gildea: My father went to a trade school and took design classes, but I was the first one in my family to go to a four-year college. While my family was very encouraging, they didn’t have much insight as to what I needed in order to pursue my college career. Because of this, a large portion of my inspiration came from my DECA, art, history and public policy teachers. They were very encouraging toward women pursuing careers and made time to sit down with me to talk about what I wanted to do in my career and how I could get there.
Griffin: Describe a painful setback in your life and what it taught you. (For example, I lost my dad when I was 15. It was a “hard scrabble” to get my education. It taught me to speak up and ask for what I needed.)
Gildea: When my eldest son was in first grade, he was diagnosed on the autism spectrum. Learning how to make choices to balance what was happening with my family and what was happening in my career was challenging as both a mom and professional. Not knowing if I would be able to balance my responsibilities, I actually resigned from my job at the time.
I was in a position where I was doing a lot of traveling and assumed, incorrectly, that our company wouldn’t be open to me transitioning to something more flexible.
Fortunately, people are more understanding and accommodating for life’s challenges than you often think. My leader at the time ended up creating a new job for me that allowed me to travel less. This new role created calmness in my personal life, allowed for much needed balance and provided a fantastic learning and skill-building experience.
More recently, that experience became an opportunity to create a platform for others as cofounder of our Stanley Black & Decker Abilities employee resource group (ERG). This voluntary, employee-led group focuses on supporting employees with disabilities and caregivers of those with disabilities…both visible and invisible.
Fifteen percent of our global population, over 1B people, are living with a disability of one kind or another. A greater percentage are caregivers and the under/unemployment rates for people with disabilities is heart-breakingly high. This is now very much a part of my personal purpose in my career. My son is my silent partner and it’s become a really enriching family learning experience.
It has been incredibly gratifying to see our employees, both publicly and privately, disclose that they too are caring for someone, or living with a disability themselves. All of this begins to dispel the stigma and fear around disability…and allows people to bring their full selves to work, be happier in their careers and perform at their highest.
Griffin: As you rose in your career, what obstacles did you encounter and how did you deal with these?
Gildea: As a woman in a male-dominated industry, it was common to be the only woman, or one of the few women, sitting in a meeting. It was sometimes difficult to be comfortable enough to say what I was thinking and feel as though my feedback was regarded in the same way as everyone else at the table.
Our company has made tremendous progress in diversity in an environment that truly supports everyone having a voice. As a female leader, I consider it part of my job to ensure that the voices of my female colleagues are heard.
Griffin: What’s a great piece of business or life advice you received, who gave it to you, and how has it enhanced your life?
Gildea: A great piece of business advice I received is that if you’re interested in something, raise your hand and ask for it. Women are often fantastic advocates for others, but not always for ourselves. Over the years, I am grateful to have found mentors who really encouraged me to have those conversations. It’s made all the difference.
Griffin: Please give me the top 3 bullet points in your Personal Leadership Credo.
– Be humble and inclusive
– Be an active listener
– Be curious and surround yourself with people you can learn from
Griffin: What advice do you have for young, talented, ambitious women who want to rise?
Gildea: Build a support network that you can learn from, get advice from and lean on. Over the years, I have had a lot of help and support from my husband, family and industry mentors. Without that support, I wouldn’t be in this position.
Griffin: Tell me a little bit more about your journey as a woman in a male-dominated industry like security. What are some lessons you learned along the way that helped you succeed?
Gildea: I’ve learned not to try to be one of the guys. I don’t hide the fact that I’m married and the mom of 2 young boys. Some of the most important advice I’ve received is, “just be who you are.”
I’m so proud and honored to work for one of the world’s most innovative companies. At 176 years young, we continue to learn, grow and provide opportunities for everyone from any background