Get to Know the WWT Board: Priscilla Hill-Ardoin
Welcome to a special section of the Chairman's Newsletter, where we highlight the backgrounds and expertise of each of our esteemed WWT board members.
Here we feature Priscilla Hill-Ardoin, who is considered to be a pioneer and visionary. Priscilla's intelligence, extensive business experience and acumen, and resilient nature embody every core value we embrace at WWT.
Her success despite the obstacles of being an African American woman is a testament to her perseverance. Her commitment to community service, particularly our underserved citizens, aligns perfectly with our own. I hope you enjoy reading this personal interview.
Q: Tell us a little about your background and personal life.
I'm a native Houstonian, born and raised. I left there and came to Missouri for college — I got my undergraduate in Springfield at Drury College — and wound up in St. Louis when I began my career with AT&T. My husband and I moved back to San Antonio, Texas as a result of my career about 15 years ago. Jim and I are looking forward to being married for 43 years this fall. We have two sons. Our oldest son, Aaron, is deceased. He passed away at 23 due to Sickle Cell Anemia, which is the largest inherited blood disorder in the world. We started and still maintain the Aaron Ardoin Foundation for Sickle Cell Anemia to support research and education of the disease, as well to help those whose lives are impacted by the disease. Our youngest son, Evan, was born in St. Louis and recently moved to New Jersey with my two, 17-month-old twin grandbabies. I'm an old wife, an old mom and a new grandmother! In San Antonio, I've worked with Haven for Hope, which is the city's response to homelessness. I tend to be attracted to extra-curricular or civic engagements that help families, children and underserved communities, and women's issues.
Q: How did you become engaged with WWT?
I lived in St. Louis for a long time and met Dave (Steward), first through business, and became acquainted with his family. I met Jim (Kavanaugh) many years ago as a partner of AT&T. Dave and I have worked together on many community projects, so our families have known each other for a very long time. To be reacquainted now with Jim and to have him really talk about and walk me through where this business has gone and where it is going has been great. This company has a lot of passion, and I believe passion fuels great things.
Q: You experienced a lot of transition and growth while with AT&T. Do you see any similarities between AT&T and WWT?
I can recall WWT being an extremely important partner, and a strategic partner, to help us achieve tremendous growth. But if you look at WWT on its own, it's a very exciting company that is in the right place at the right time. I compare it to being at the top of a mountain with skis on and ready to go before a big snowfall. And that big snowfall comes and you're just ready and prepared for it. There is something special about WWT, and I think it starts with the visionary leadership from Dave and Jim. Their partnership has been phenomenal and really has put in place the right foundation for success. They've seeded and nurtured the culture of the company and provided the right energy and passion that has brought so many outstanding employees into the company. I see tremendous growth opportunity because WWT is fueled by what it does for its customers.
Q: Diversity and inclusion are core to WWT's vision and mission. What types of challenges did you face as an African American woman coming up in the industry? And what advice would you give someone in a similar situation.
I am fortunate to have had a career with a company that grew to embrace diversity. I was AT&T's first director of diversity. But I started with the company in 1975, so you can imagine I had a challenge or two to overcome. My skills and talents were not always recognized or respected. My advice — and I had to learn this on my own — would be to not take it personally. Most of the time, peoples' innate prejudices or limitations on their thinking is about them, and not you. Don't take it personally, but don't ignore it. Don't suffer injustice lightly, and always be thoughtful and prayerful in how you address that.
Q: What are the business outcomes associated with a truly diverse and inclusive workplace?
I think most companies have transitioned from viewing diversity as the right thing to do to something that is absolutely the right thing to do, but also critical to their bottom line. A well-developed and nurtured environment that respects diversity and inclusiveness is now a business imperative and as important to the bottom line as net income. Many of us would argue it's critically related to net income, and there has been research that shows companies that value diversity perform better on the bottom line.
Q: Given your experience in the service provider industry, where do you see WWT providing value?
Certainly in supply chain and supply chain management, but also the innovative things WWT does on the application side of the house. You're not just moving a product, you're developing products based on what the customer needs and how they need it, which is taking time and expense out of their business and allowing them to have greater speed to market. The integration work and testing capabilities in the Advanced Technology Center (ATC) are critical. The ATC shows customers the critical function WWT is playing for service providers because they don't understand how all this technology works or have a space to experiment with it.
Q: What excites you about WWT?
What excites me about WWT today and moving into the future is the same thing: Fundamentally, it's the culture, the team you have and the commitment you have to growing a business that is based on market needs and customer needs. That's really an exciting proposition.