UPTOWN Professional Jun 26, 2014

Sodexo’s Tag Team Gerri Mason-Hall and Aster Angagaw Master the Art of the Possible

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By Beverly Richards and James Michael Brodie
Photographed By Tre’ Lynn

Gerri Mason-Hall and Aster AngagawGerri Mason Hall is one of a handful of women of color to ascend to the C-Suite of a global corporation. Recently tapped by Sodexo leadership to transition into the Chief Human Resources Officer position for North America this summer, Mason Hall attributes her rise to the top to a combination of great mentors and sponsors.

“I came to Sodexo with great experience and was highly qualified in the areas of D&I and HR. But, I knew very little about the industry. Through a combination of peer mentors and a supportive boss who subscribes to leader-led development, I learned our business and where I fit in and how to contribute to our growth, “Mason Hall explained. “Sodexo (formerly Sodexho Alliance) is a food services and facilities management company headquartered in Paris, France. The company has more than 130,000 employees in North America. As a global organization, a continual pressing issue is the ability to find talent.

According to Gerri, the issue is the unavailable pool of “willing,” well-prepared individuals to come on board and successfully fill the needs of our organization. While there may be an abundance of labor available in most of Sodexo’s locations, especially major urban areas, that does not equate to available talent . “Sodexo has robust systems and processes for developing talent and part of my role is to continuously assess and improve those efforts. It is my responsibility to know our talent and to advocate for those who may not be on the leadership’s immediate radar.”

Over the last decade, Sodexo has been consistently recognized for its commitment to inclusion. Mason Hall is proud to say that this is not just a function of their global CDO, Dr. Rohini Anand, but it is integrated throughout their human resources programs and business processes. Inclusion been a long-time area of focus for Mason Hall and it continues to be the lens through which she makes assessments and decisions. “I am very proud of the impact I’ve had in creating opportunities for some whom, but for my influence/intervention, might have been invisible to the broader organization. I am especially pleased with the diversification of some parts of our business that were totally homogeneous six years ago.”

Mason Hall is also a champion for various causes. She is also driven by issues pertaining to women of color and affiliated with organizations that address them. Since joining Sodexo she has become more engaged in addressing hunger. “Nine years ago I had little idea of the food insecurity that is so prevalent in the US. Since then, I’ve become very engaged in combating hunger.”

When it is all said and done and Mason Hall is looking back on her experience at Sodexo, she would like to be remembered for challenging the status quo and effecting change, “Not for the sake of change, but in support of continuous learning and improvement.” She hopes she made those around her uncomfortable, “but in a good way.”

As for any young executive seeking to get ahead, her best advice to them is, “Be flexible and open to possibilities and opportunities. Don’t create artificial limitations or ceilings by having rigid plans.”

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