By Barbara Frankel
As a direct report to President and CEO Carlos Rodriguez, Debbie Dyson is a powerhouse at ADP. She’s the person charged with continuous improvement and client experience, and is critical to the company’s growth and sustainability.
Dyson is only the second person to hold this position—and the first woman and the first Black. She has 12 direct reports and is responsible for more than 14,000 employees globally. Her task is to use Lean Six Sigma methodology to transform the business to better operate and deliver service to clients.
A Major Promotion
Dyson has come a long way. Many people in the organization look to her as a role model, she noted, because she started as a customer-service rep and has worked her way up. Her accession to corporate vice president has been surprising even to her.
She officially started the job last July but was involved since her promotion was announced in April 2014.
“Did I see this coming? Well, it was a good surprise. I had a moment when I thought, ‘Really?’” she said. “Not to say somebody dialed the wrong number, but I couldn’t think that this was really happening.”
Corporate Vice President, Client Experience and Continuous Improvement, ADP (No. 24 in the DiversityInc Top 50)Previous Position
Division Vice President/General Manager of the Major Account Services’ South Service Center, ADPEducation
Bachelor’s Degree in Finance, Santa Clara University
She didn’t know the significance “of my sitting in this seat until I started,” she said.
“I have worn multiple hats at ADP and one of the things that was always important was remaining visible, not only as an individual contributor but as a leader. No matter what opportunity came up, I was always raising my hand and wanted to perform beyond expectations,” she explained.
In her last job, as a general manager and division vice president, she noted that people were often surprised when they met her.
“Before I landed in New Jersey I was in Atlanta. When I got there, people were shocked by the magnitude of an African-American woman being in this job,” she recalled.
Family, Job Loyalties
She started working at ADP four days before she graduated from Santa Clara University, where she majored in finance. She went to a job fair at school and saw the ADP table with the big red logo. The recruiter had come all the way from New Jersey and there was no one else at the table.
“We had an instant connection. She was describing what they did, which at that time was mainly payroll,” she said.
She particularly valued the training she received in her first job as a key account manager. The training was very thorough and prepared her to work successfully at ADP. It consisted of two weeks in New Jersey alternating with two weeks in Northern California for three months.
“They were hiring hungry graduates who had that edge they were looking for. I knew nothing about payroll but it fascinated me. I loved working with clients but still dealing with numbers,” she said.
She grew up in Northern California, where her father was a master sergeant in the U.S. Air Force and her mother was a registered nurse.
Her father is now retired. Her brother, who was three years older than Debbie, passed away when she was 16 and her mother died five years ago from breast cancer.
“I’m very motivated to make them proud,” she maintained. “They are not here so I can represent what they weren’t able to do. My mom wrote me a note to make sure that you give back—and I do.”
Building an Inclusive Company
Diversity of thought and experience, she stressed, is crucial to her team’s succeeding. “Innovation comes in so many different packages, regardless of age, gender, race, et cetera. I’ve welcomed the opportunity to think of business in such a broad manner as I do now,” she said.
Dyson been involved with ADP’s employee resource groups from the beginning. She was one of the core members who started the African-American group a decade ago, and she has served as its executive sponsor.
She’s had many mentors, “and I took the best from all of them to evolve myself and learn how I can interact with different people,” she said. Today, she receives many requests from people at ADP for mentoring advice.
“I tell them they can call me whenever they want. I never say no,” she added.