Women In Tech: Najuma Atkinson
Najuma Atkinson is a Dell’s senior vice president for customer advocacy, insights & analytics. She is Dell’s only African American female SVP.
“How did you start your career?
I graduated from Fisk University with a science degree. But I went to the financial industry because they’re willing to give you any opportunities. So I actually worked for SunTrust bank first as an analyst. And that’s where I found that I have a proclivity for data, and information, and for numbers. I came to Dell Technologies as the front line tech support manager. At Dell, we were opening up our first call center outside of Central Texas, and they wanted leaders. They really didn’t care that you had technical capability or capacity. But they wanted to make sure that you had good leadership skills; I had those. And that’s how I got the first opportunity. About 18 months later, I moved into HR.
You built up a 20-year career in HR. Why did you decide to make a transition?
When you think about the skills, it really was a natural transition. I started to look for opportunities that would leverage those skills—how do I bring together groups of individuals, using facts and data to solve problems and create solutions that empower people and make situations better? HR is definitely one of those places to do it. But I wanted to do it for our customer.
I had an opportunity to see our chief customer officer, Karen Quintos, in action. She was talking about the work that she did in the broad organization and I’m like, ‘Well, that’s fascinating.’ So I was at an event with Michael Dell, and I took the opportunity. I said, ‘You know what really interests me, Michael? I think my next career should be in the chief customer office. I’m really interested in that space, and I’d like to explore it more if I’m ever given the opportunity.’Karen heard about that. And Karen is one who looks for skills and capabilities, not necessarily job titles, as she’s adding individuals to her team. She felt like if this was something I wanted to explore, I should be given that opportunity.
The more I interviewed and the more I spoke to people, the more I said, ‘Yeah, this is for me.’ This is an organization that I think is at a pivot. It’s got broad, complex things that they’re looking at. And I do that very well. I take the complex and make it really, really simple. So I was bringing the skills that I had so that we could drive strategy for the organization.”
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