N.Va. leaders stress STEM, real-world training for students

Tamika Tremaglio, Deloitte’s managing principal for the Greater Washington area, talks about the need for innovation and corporate citizenship during the Northern Virginia Chamber of Commerce's 27th annual economic conference, held Jan. 31, 2019, at the Hilton McLean Tysons Corner. (Photo by Brian Trompeter)

Want to run a successful company in the modern world? Better  contribute to society, use cutting-edge technologies, develop employees’ skills and build their confidence via exposure to high-level events, an area executive advises.

“It is not enough just to eliminate discrimination through policies,” said Tamika Tremaglio, Deloitte’s managing principal for the Greater Washington area. “It requires offering a welcoming and inclusive culture . . . It ultimately comes down to people respecting and helping other people achieve their potential.”

Speaking in Tysons Jan. 31 at the Northern Virginia Chamber of Commerce’s 27th Annual Economic Conference, Tremaglio said modern companies must help improve communities. That idea contradicts late management consultant Peter Drucker’s view that businesses create a better world by focusing on profits and letting government, churches and families care of society’s needs.

“Today, there’s an expectation, even a demand, on the part of customers, workers and other stakeholders that a company must give back to their community – that they lean in and help solve societal issues, that they help protect the environment, that they help non-profits thrive, that they become the rudder in advancing diversity and inclusion,” Tremaglio said.

Younger people surveyed by Deloitte, many of whom belonged to Generations Y and Z, overwhelmingly said business success should be measured by more than just financial performance, she said.

“They believe business priorities should include job creation, innovation, development, enhancing employees’ lives and careers, and making a positive impact on society and their environment,” Tremaglio said. “These are not the naive yearnings of a starry-eyed youth. They reflect a fundamental shift in society.”

Companies that meet such expectations create a “virtuous cycle”  that generates business, attracts talented employees and fosters economic growth, she said.

Mentoring employees is crucial, said Tremaglio. She cited author Carla Harris’ concept of Performance, Image and Exposure, which puts less emphasis on performance (working hard, keeping one’s head down and getting it right) and more on exposure to certain environments.

Tremaglio recalled a pivotal moment in her career when her boss asked her to bring clients to the Masters Tournament. She initially was terrified, fearing others would discover her lack of expertise in the professional-golf world.

“It was a classic case of the ‘Imposter Syndrome,’” she said.

Tremaglio initially approached the assignment by frantically researching and over-preparing (“I understood pimiento sandwiches and what Amen Corner was”), but after attending several Masters Tournaments, she eventually found the experience enriching.

“Focusing on inclusion is more than helping people develop technical skills and increase their knowledge,” she said. “It’s also about making sure they get the right exposure.”

Tremaglio also advocated for workplace kindness, which she said reduces stress and absenteeism.

“Kindness is actually good for business,” she said. “It creates an environment that attracts companies, customers and clients [and] attract and retain talent, especially our younger talent. The more positive and fulfilling the office environment is, the more supportive and productive our workforce can be. It’s that simple.”

Technology also will play a vital role in companies’ future success, Tremaglio said. Innovation will reach a whole new level during the “Fourth Industrial Revolution,” with 3-D printing, artificial intelligence, quantum computing and data analytics becoming more common. Northern Virginia’s businesses should use technology, but use it as a disruptive force, she said.

“Businesses that thrive are actually doing the disrupting,” Tremaglio said. “They feed it versus actually sitting there and waiting to see what happens.”

Helsinki, Finland, and Columbia, S.C., are among cities investing heavily in “smart” infrastructure, she said.

“We need to avoid tinkering around the edges and think about how we might transform a community, and I certainly think we’re really well-positioned to do so,” she said.