I like to create results that change things for the better - Linda Keene Solomon
I’m meeting Linda Solomon in Washington, DC at the Institute of Peace. An iconic building facing the Lincoln Memorial and the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, it stands for collaboration among business, government and nonprofit. Its symbolism holds great significance for her.
Linda is a trailblazer with 30 years of leadership, managerial, and board director experience. She advanced quickly and left her legacy as a senior executive and partner at Deloitte Consulting. A woman of many “firsts,” she was a founding partner of Deloitte’s federal practice and one of the first three African-American partners in Deloitte Consulting USA. She also launched Deloitte Consulting’s diversity effort on a global basis.
An attractive, positive dynamo, she smiles and greets me warmly. We stroll and talk.
I hear your family realized you were on this path toward lifelong learning, mentoring and leadership early in life?
She laughs and tells me that as a six-year-old ballerina she auspiciously ‘stopped the show’ in the middle of a “Hansel & Gretel” recital. She stepped out of the group to “help” other fellow budding ballerinas with their dance steps. “I was proud of the fact that I’d actually learned the dance steps. My ‘good intentioned’ lesson during the middle of the performance was toward making all of us, as a team, in partnership, the “best Bluebirds dancing in the forest”!
When did you first realize your passion for intercultural exchange and connections?
“When I was 13, I had an amazing experience. I flew to Turkey on my own to spend the summer living with a family of 7”. It was a thrilling, exotic and enriching adventure. The time Linda spent in Turkey made a lasting imprint. And from then on, she knew she wanted to be a world citizen and work internationally.
Ever the teacher and leader, Linda’s Turkish family became her “team,” and despite the language barrier, she found a way to engage and communicate with them. That summer she taught every teen in the community to play the board game of Backgammon. Linda reminisces: “The new normal for my Turkish community of young people became playing Backgammon on the beach for hours every day! It was a special summer for me and for them”.
Your university major and minor choices seem a bit ‘bipolar’. Tell me about them.
She laughs. “I’ve heard that! Math is about problem-solving and becoming solution-oriented so it made sense to me as a major. I also have a strong, international, cross-cultural side so I minored in French.” This dichotomy of interests served her extremely well in her business career.
Your first job out of university was in manufacturing and technology?
“Yes. I worked for Procter & Gamble at the Ivorydale Technical Center in Cincinnati.” Charged with developing broad relationships with 14 manufacturing plants across the country, she solved problems, found solutions and created new technologies.
Linda loved her job at P&G but realized she wanted more: To work on a broader scale with different companies; on an international basis and to take part in creating transformational change. To that end, Linda earned her MBA and made her move into global management consulting with Deloitte. She confides: “It may sound cliché but I like to create results that change things for the better. I love to remove roadblocks and help people and organizations accomplish big things just like that six-year-old ballerina! That’s what I do”!
Over the course of her education and career, there were many times when Linda was the only woman in the room and/or the only person of color in the entire division. I can imagine that it wasn’t easy to be a 22-year-old woman and person of color working in manufacturing and technology at a plant in Augusta, Georgia or Lima, Ohio in 1986. Yet, in Linda’s telling, there is only the appreciation of the learning, results, and the relationships she built.
I’m inspired by her accomplishments and optimism and leave with a plan to follow up soon to learn more.