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Intel exec Dawn Jones’ non-traditional road to the C-suite

March 8, 2022, 11:33 AM UTC

Good morning and Happy International Women’s Day,

Almost 25 years ago, long before Dawn Jones became Intel’s chief diversity and inclusion officer and VP of social impact, she worked as an executive recruiter at a firm based in Arizona. But her job was making her sick. 

“I started getting migraines on a very frequent basis because of the stress of the work,” Jones told me in a conversation about her career journey. “I was a single mom with two kids, and I couldn’t go home every day and say, ‘I have a headache; I can’t do anything.’”

The day she decided to resign from the position, her life changed. 

Dawn Jones, Intel’s chief diversity and inclusion officer and vice president of social impact.
Courtesy of Intel

“I put in my two week’s notice,” she explains. “I was walking out the door, and someone who worked in our legal firm downstairs said to me, “I just got a job at Intel as an administrative assistant. If you’re looking for a job that pays really well, maybe you should try it, just to get your foot in the door.'”

Jones was a temp at Intel for six months before landing a permanent role in 1997 as an administrative assistant in the finance department of a Fab/Sort Manufacturing (FSM) facility supporting the controller. “My main goal was twofold,” Jones told me. “It was to work for a company where I had health insurance benefits for my kids. And to work for a company that eventually would afford me the opportunity to send both of my kids to college.”

Little did Jones know that job would build the foundation for a 24-year career at Intel. “I was an administrative assistant, but I also did some general ledger reconciliation,” she explains. “In my role, it was all about thinking two steps ahead of my leader, more like a project manager. I really had an opportunity to grow.”

‘I probably got about four hours of sleep at night’

Jones realized that in order to reach the goal of paying for her children’s college education, she needed to work towards a higher-paying position, she says. That meant going back to school herself to complete her undergraduate degree. Jones asked her boss about pursuing coursework. 

“She told me that Intel will pay and approved for me to go back to school,” Jones says. “So, for about a year and a half, I worked full time, went to school full time, and I took care of my kids. During that time, I probably got about four hours of sleep at night.”

As she was completing her degree in Broadcast Journalism, Jones decided to leave the finance department and head to an administrative assistant role with the public affairs team at Intel, which encompassed media, community education, and government divisions. “About eight months after I moved to that team, I graduated and became a media apprentice doing community reporting,” Jones says. She then pursued a graduate degree in communications management at Syracuse University through an executive master’s program that allowed her to continue working.

“Once I earned my degree, I was able to continue to grow in my career and send both of my girls to college,” she says of her daughters, now ages 26 and 30.

All roads led to diversity and inclusion

Next, the Arizona native relocated to Texas in the role of public affairs manager of community and education investments at Intel. “There was an opportunity to go to South Africa for six weeks,” she says. “I helped the team establish a digital literacy program that would touch 5 million African women on the continent. As the project manager, I was tasked with creating realistic benchmarks and tracking them.”

In her next career move, Jones returned to Arizona and became director of policy and external partnerships leading a team in the Global Diversity and Inclusion Group for almost five years. She then began serving as acting chief diversity and inclusion officer (CDIO) in January 2021 after the departure of Barbara Whye. In April 2021, Jones started in the role of CDIO and vice president of social impact for the tech giant that boasts a worldwide workforce of north of 100,000 employees. She prioritizes cross-company and industry-wide initiatives to achieve Intel’s 10-year 2030 RISE Strategy

“I have had at least 10 mentors and sponsors throughout my career,” Jones told me. “Throughout my 24 years, I have connected with people who have advised, coached, corrected and supported me on my journey.”


See you tomorrow.

Sheryl Estrada
sheryl.estrada@fortune.com

Big deal

Laurel Road, a digital banking platform of KeyBank, released its fifth-annual survey exploring financial literacy and management. Many women are making career moves this year and either plan to ask for a raise or are willing to switch jobs for the pay they feel they've earned, according to the survey. About 68% of women surveyed said they'd leave their current job for one with higher pay. The survey also found that 44% of women overall and 48% of women of color do not believe their employers have been successful in narrowing the pay gap. The findings are based on a survey of 1,000 U.S. college-educated adults.

Going deeper

The yogurt brand Light + Fit is launching its “Returnship” program called, The Comeback. The pilot six-week paid summer program is designed to help women return to their professional careers after a break. Eligible candidates should have at least three to five years of experience in marketing or sales. Hired candidates will work on the Light + Fit marketing team, receive training and support to further their skills. After the program, participants have the option to apply for full-time employment, according to the company. This is the first return-to-work program from Danone North America. 

Leaderboard

Kelly Gast was named CFO of the Crop Science division at Bayer, effective April 1. Gast succeeds Michael A. Schulz, who decided to leave Bayer for personal reasons after 16 years with the company. Gast has served as CFO for Bayer’s U.S. organization since June 2018. She was previously the VP of commercial finance at Monsanto Company.

Erica Tingley was named CFO at Kit Check, a provider of automated medication tracking.  Tingley brings over 20 years of experience serving healthcare companies around strategy, finance, and M&A. Tingley started her career and spent nearly 10 years in investment banking at Merrill Lynch and Bank of America Merrill Lynch. She subsequently held senior positions and drove corporate development and corporate finance efforts at G100, The Advisory Board, and Perrigo.

Overheard

“We came out of COVID after 2020, and we declared that we were on offense for the first time in six years, and in 2022 we’re going to continue to be on offense.”

—Fran Horowitz, CEO of Abercrombie & Fitch Co., on the company's turnaround and returning to expansion mode, as told to Fortune.

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