Diversity Woman Magazine

SUM 2016

Leadership and Executive Development for women of all races, cultures and backgrounds

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d i v e r s i t y w o m a n . c o m S u m m e r 2 0 1 6 D I V E R S I T Y W O M A N 17 Debbie Roberts Embracing Her Path The zone president at a huge global brand learned her love of business working in a corner store Power Suit By Katr ina Brown Hunt W hen she started really moving up in her career at a certain global brand, Debbie Roberts took time to do one important thing: fip burgers. An accountant-turned-marketing-director who had been working on the corporate side of McDonald's since 1990, she was tapped in 2004 to join the company's Accelerated Operations Program, which lets employees rotate through various operations positions. "I was nervous," admits the Illinois na- tive. "I started as a crew member, and then you're a shift manager, and ultimately a restaurant manager. I was on my feet all day, and I had never done that before." And while her feet got a workout, she also learned some big lessons in manage- ment and strategy. "You're managing the working mom and the teenager who's working part-time," she says of her time in the stores. "You're making sure equip- ment is calibrated. You're also learning how to be a part of the community—de- veloping relationships with schools, busi- nesses, local aldermen. It's a lot you're balancing every single day—but it was the best learning of my career." Today, Roberts is the zone president for the eastern United States at McDonald's, managing roughly 5,600 stores and half of the company's US business. Diversity Woman spoke with Roberts about her own working- teenager ambitions, her ini- tial perceptions about the Golden Arches, and how the company now happily blurs lines among its diverse set of groups. Diversity Woman: As a child in Chicago, what did you want to be when you grew up? Debbie Roberts: It almost makes me laugh, it feels so far away. I was always into sciences, and I wanted to be a den- tist. I loved, and still do love, teeth. As a kid, it was kind of weird. I would say to my parents, "You gotta foss your teeth." But at college, it all changed. I wimped out. I was a biology major, and I took a class where you had to work with cadav- ers. I changed my major. I was at the Uni- versity of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and, at that time, it was one of the tough- est colleges for accounting, so I went af- ter that. I was a strong math student, and I really liked it. DW: Are you still "into" teeth? DR: I defnitely have nice teeth, but I do know now that things happen for a rea- son, which lets you course-correct. I can't imagine looking down someone's throat every day of my life now. We Mean Business >

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