In the fast-paced world of business, there are individuals who stand out for their unwavering passion and relentless pursuit of results. Kelli Hodges, a true visionary and career-driven professional, is one such individual. With her belief in driving results through creativity, Kelli has embarked on a remarkable journey that has taken her to the pinnacle of success.
Kelli’s journey began in an inner-city high school, where she served as a teacher for students with multiple disabilities. Little did she know that this experience would shape her career and ignite a fire within her. It was here that Kelli discovered the power of passion, joy, and gratitude, as her students brought these qualities to everything they did. Their unwavering spirit left an indelible mark on Kelli, reminding her to carry gratitude with her wherever she went.
Seeking to expand her impact beyond the classroom, Kelli transitioned to Pearson Education, where she leveraged her passion for learning to assist teachers in incorporating technology into their classrooms. This marked the beginning of a career trajectory that would see her rise through the ranks and lead the entire digital marketing organization. Kelli’s determination and refusal to accept “no” as an answer propelled her forward, landing her the role of Senior Director of Marketing at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
But it was a fateful phone call from Dell Technologies that truly changed the game for Kelli. Embracing the unknown, she took a leap of faith and embarked on a new chapter of her career. In a groundbreaking move, Kelli spearheaded Dell’s first-ever Assistive Technology Service, ensuring individuals with disabilities could enjoy the same seamless experience as everyone else. This revolutionary initiative earned her the esteemed title of Disabilities Champion by Springboard Consulting in 2011.
Over the course of 12.5 years at Dell, Kelli immersed herself in the world of product marketing and became an integral part of the Global Product Marketing team. Leading a team of twenty-eight exceptional individuals, Kelli unleashed her creativity to develop innovative and results-driven programs. Her accomplishments were not confined to the boardroom, as she also undertook remarkable adventures like operating her own “ice cream” truck and traveling an astounding 350,000 miles around the globe in 2019.
In a bold career move, Kelli recently left Dell to assume the role as the Director of Launch Excellence for Bose. Taking her passion for creativity, learning, and growth to new heights, she continues to inspire those around her. Regardless of the organization she is a part of, Kelli remains dedicated to being an Inspirational Leader for all who work alongside her.
Dedication to Supporting Others
Kelli has always been passionate about supporting individuals with disabilities. Her older cousin, who had a disability, served as a constant source of inspiration for her. During her time as a teacher, she admired her students’ enthusiasm and sense of pride in their abilities. They had no burdens like the thought of going to work. This experience greatly influences her leadership approach, as she tackles everything with fervor and a deep appreciation for the opportunity to lead a team. Her primary focus is on advocating for her team’s needs, both in their careers and daily lives, much like she did for her students.
From Teaching to Technology
Kelli’s transition from teaching to the technology industry began when she came across a newspaper article that caught her attention. It read, “Attention teachers: Are you interested in teaching other teachers?” Intrigued, she decided to explore this new opportunity. During her interview, the hiring manager questioned why she would leave a job she loved. Kelli explained that her genuine love for learning and her desire to share her knowledge and continue growing were driving forces behind her decision. While hard work and effort are vital, Kelli firmly believes that passion and drive are equally important, a sentiment her father used to emphasize.
Taking a leap from the education industry to technology was not without its challenges, especially considering her educational background in Special Education rather than business or engineering. However, Kelli’s success was rooted in her authenticity and determination to make things happen. She earned a reputation for being dedicated to the collective success of her team and for bringing her true self to every endeavor.
Moreover, Kelli discovered that her background in Special Education proved beneficial in fostering collaboration among individuals with diverse skill sets. When faced with the challenge of getting multiple people to work together and value each other’s contributions, her degree played a role in establishing a sense of equality and respect among team members.
Her journey led her to thrive at Dell and eventually take on a leadership role at Bose. Kelli attributes her accomplishments not only to her own drive but also to the individuals who took a chance on her. She never let anyone down and remains committed to learning, listening, taking risks, and approaching everything with passion.
Strategies for Driving Results
As the Director of Launch Excellence at Bose Corporation, Kelli recognizes the importance of fostering creativity and innovation within her team. Leading by example, she demonstrates her passion for driving results through creative approaches. Here are a few strategies she employs:
- Setting up Collaboration Spaces
- Focusing on Individual Superpowers
- Listening, Learning, and Taking Risks
- Promoting Virtual and Global Collaboration
Kelli shares examples of creative endeavors that have yielded exceptional results. One notable instance was the Music Festival in 2022, which evolved into 2023. For a Global Sales Meeting, the team transformed the corporate headquarters into a vibrant music festival, with every room offering a unique experience or music stage. Even the CEO enthusiastically participated by wearing a band T-shirt. This creative approach engaged everyone, making a significant impact. The Music Festival concept was further extended to a roadshow for resellers, demonstrating Bose’s commitment to an immersive and engaging experience.
Kelli also addresses the challenges posed by the pandemic. During her time at Dell, her team was responsible for delivering advisory councils, customer product launches, and sales training. When global travel became restricted, they turned to innovative solutions. “It’s Live” was introduced as a bi-weekly live broadcast that allowed customers to attend product showcases remotely. Internally, they implemented a “follow the sun” program to generate excitement within the organization. Kelli even became a “Human Claw” to add an element of fun. Additionally, the team learned to engage with customer advisory councils through dynamic virtual sessions, incorporating care packages and entertainment. They also introduced the Tech Rally Mobile, a vintage-looking truck that could visit IT departments and demonstrate products directly in their driveways.
Through these creative initiatives, Kelli’s team at Bose Corporation consistently seeks to push boundaries, adapt to challenges, and deliver exceptional experiences.
Fostering Inclusivity and Collaboration
Kelli prioritizes strategies to ensure that all team members, regardless of their cultural or linguistic backgrounds, feel valued and heard. Her approach includes:
- Leading with Passion, Integrity, and Drive: Kelli sets an example by leading with enthusiasm and dedication. Her passion for her work inspires and motivates her team members.
- Being Empathetic and Inspirational: Kelli understands the importance of empathy in building strong relationships. She strives to understand her team members’ perspectives and experiences, creating an environment where they feel supported and inspired.
- Being Authentic: Kelli believes in being her true self and encourages her team members to do the same. By fostering authenticity, she creates a safe space where individuals can express themselves openly.
- Being Present in Their Regions: Kelli recognizes the significance of understanding her team members’ work environments. She makes it a priority to visit them in their countries, gaining firsthand knowledge of their challenges and opportunities.
An example of Kelli’s commitment to fostering a sense of value and inclusivity can be seen when she took over the Global Experience Team. As a first step, she dedicated 30 minutes with each team member to learn more about them personally. By sharing about herself first and then spending time individually with each person, she created a foundation of trust and connection. During a subsequent team meeting, she initiated a unique activity where she displayed two distinct characteristics of each team member on the walls and had others guess to whom they belonged. This exercise fostered personal moments, allowing the team to embrace their authentic selves and strengthen their bond.
Through these strategies, Kelli ensures that every team member feels seen, respected, and valued, enabling them to contribute their best work and thrive within the team. It is also very important to always give time for collaboration and voice across the team.
Leading with Inspiration and Integrity
Kelli believes that inspirational leadership empowers and motivates others to reach their full potential. To achieve this, she emphasizes the importance of modeling inspiration and leadership through her actions. Positivity and passion are key elements in her approach, as she consistently shows up and remains fully present. Kelli understands that actions carry more weight than mere words. By taking risks herself, she sets an example for her team, encouraging them to step out of their comfort zones.
Additionally, she sets high expectations and provides a clear path for success, leading by example as she drives towards those goals. Integrity is a crucial aspect of her leadership style, as she values honesty, transparency, and ethical behavior. Kelli also emphasizes the importance of not hesitating to perform the tasks she asks of her team. She is not afraid to roll up her sleeves and work alongside them, further establishing trust and credibility.
Creating Dell’s First-ever Assistive Technology Service
Kelli reflects on her experience in creating Dell’s first-ever Assistive Technology Service, emphasizing the journey from idea to reality. She describes the process as an incredible opportunity for learning, collaboration, and gaining support for what would become an amazing solution. As a newcomer in the company, she faced the challenge of convincing others to believe in her vision. Despite being a small market with significant financial implications, Kelli’s background and knowledge gave her the confidence to pursue this endeavor.
The path to success was not without its barriers. One significant hurdle involved onboarding multiple suppliers to make the project feasible. These suppliers did not meet the conventional financial thresholds required to remain active, necessitating the creation of new parameters to accommodate them.
Building trust was crucial throughout the process. Many individuals were initially skeptical about the viability of the solution. However, Kelli’s determination and expertise gradually won people over. Unfortunately, upon Kelli’s departure from the role, the solution did not continue due to the lack of someone else carrying the torch.
This experience highlights the challenges and rewards of championing a new idea within a large organization. It also underscores the importance of trust, collaboration, and continuity in sustaining innovative initiatives.
Balancing Commitments and Prioritizing Well-being
Kelli acknowledges that achieving work-life balance has been challenging for her, especially as a single mother to her wonderful 15-year-old daughter, Elli Grace. She recognizes that balance is rarely evenly split, and it varies depending on the circumstances. Sometimes it may be 80% focused on work and 20% on personal life, while other times it could be a 60/40 split. The elusive 50/50 balance is a rarity. However, Kelli’s priority is to ensure that she takes time to recharge and be fully present for her daughter.
To support her well-being, Kelli has found solace in her Peloton, which serves as a valuable outlet for her. Additionally, she recently began working with an Energy Healer to help manage stress and find a better sense of balance. While this is a new endeavor, she remains optimistic about its potential impact.
Kelli’s ultimate goal is to give her all, striving to be 200% committed and present in everything she does and with everyone she interacts with. She aims to bring her best self to every aspect of her life, maintaining a strong sense of dedication and enthusiasm.
Embracing Setbacks and Authenticity
Kelli perceives setbacks not as failures but as opportunities for personal and professional growth. She believes in the power of reflection to pause and assess areas for improvement. By recognizing what didn’t work, she embraces the chance to learn and move forward with valuable insights. Kelli offers an important piece of advice: it is crucial to be cautious about placing too much importance on others’ opinions of oneself. Instead, she emphasizes the significance of being authentic. In the pursuit of inspiring and personal growth, encountering setbacks is inevitable, as they are an integral part of achieving success.
For Kelli, finding happiness in both her work and personal life is a priority. She believes that if a job starts feeling like a burden and she no longer feels the desire to do it, it may be time to explore new opportunities. While she values personal growth and continuous learning, her ultimate focus is on maintaining happiness and passion in whatever she chooses to pursue. While a promotion in the future would be welcome, Kelli remains committed to staying true to herself and embracing her authentic identity.