Susie Long never expected her career path to lead her to human resources. “I needed to pay for college, and the easiest job for me to get was in retail,” recalls Long, who really wanted to pursue a career in the fashion industry. “I was working for the Limited Corp. when they owned Express, Structure, Victoria Secret, etc., and worked my way up in management and retail operations.”
She stayed in retail operations until her mid-30s, and continued to grow her career, working in everything from luxury goods to the optical industry.
“It got to the point in my career where the next step would be a divisional vice president and I realized I really loved the people side of the business more than the operations,” Long says. “I was approached with an opportunity to explore this new role that was forming—and we know it today as an HR business partner.”
This hybrid role required someone with a lot of experience in operations who could also lead the talent agenda. That was with Luxottica, where Long worked on innovative and high-impact talent management programs and processes to improve the depth and diversity of leadership talent.
“That was my first foray into HR, and I absolutely fell in love with it,” she says. “From there, I started to grow my career in HR and all the different disciplines.”
In 2014, she was offered a position at Bridgestone Americas and today serves as the company’s vice president of talent, diversity, and culture. “Bridgestone was at a pivotal point when I joined the organization and they had a history of being very insular for a very long time and had not made a practice of hiring talent from the outside,” Long explains. “In 2014, they were about two years into professionalizing some of the functional areas.”
“I stepped into talent acquisition and was really in charge of professionalizing a lot of the processes, like internal candidate experience, internal hiring process, and our expat process. Those weren’t formalized at the time,” Long says. “From there, I was promoted into talent management and leadership development.”
She believes her operations background helped her understand the pain points of the business. “We made sure that everything we did in talent management was seen through the lens of the business and we simplified processes and practices to make them more effective.
”As a result of that, we were able to get greater adoption of our talent processes,” Long says. “We’ve gone from being a more tactical HR function to more of a strategic HR function,” she adds.
Over the past three years, Long has taken over the diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) at Bridgestone, as well as teammate engagement and talent acquisition. The DEI journey for Bridgestone started in 2016 when the business was going through a transformation, shifting from a traditional manufacturing company to a consumer goods organization.
“Our CEO at the time recognized that we did not have a lot of diversity—racial, gender, etc., and that was a catalyst for focusing on it organizationally,” Long says. “We focused primarily on female representation then, as being a tire manufacturer, it’s a pretty male-dominated industry.
Bridgestone Americas’ current CEO, Paolo Ferrari, has a passion for DEI and values diverse experiences and perspectives. In 2020, under Ferrari’s leadership, education around DEI accelerated, and Bridgestone Americas expanded its employee resources groups for women, Latino/Hispanic teammates, Black and African American teammates, LGBTQ teammates, veterans, and the next generation of leaders.
“Our actions supporting DEI are closely linked to our sustainability strategy and our business strategy,” Long explains. “We want to shift from being a traditional manufacturer to a mobility solutions organization. That is going to require different expertise, different backgrounds and skill sets, as well as gender, race, ethnicity, experiences, etc.”
In 2021, the company launched a new DEI campaign, which Long is extremely excited about. It’s called Free to Be, and it touts Bridgestone as a company where everyone is free to come in and be yourself, whoever that is and whatever that looks like.
“I think that really started to show our teammates that we are serious about DEI,” Long notes. “We know there’s still a lot of work to be done with DEI. We’re not saying we have arrived, but we have definitely improved our female representation and racial diversity, and we’ve started to build momentum in the LGBTQ community.”
With the pandemic beginning to lift, Long is contemplating how the company can work in a hybrid environment and create the feeling of inclusion when people are so dispersed.
“Diversity has sort of shape-shifted, and now we’re talking about diversity of work experience and work preferences,” Long says in her May 2021 interview. “We are having this cultural shift because the world has forced us to think about how to manage virtually and become an effective leader and help your team be productive in this new normal. It’s diversity in a different way and inclusion in a different way, but still very relevant in the environment we are trying to create.”
Culture Shift Team applauds Bridgestone Americas’ leadership commitment to advance equity and inclusion. We proudly serve as the diversity, equity, and inclusion training partner to BSA. CST provides dynamic education sessions to visionary organizations via live webinar and e-learning to build managers’ confidence and competence to lead inclusively.
As companies are working to integrate DEI into the organizational culture, Career Thrivers partners with inclusive leaders to prioritize three D.E.I. critical success factors: dedication, education, and infrastructure. Our focus on inclusive leadership for equity is helping organizations cultivate a culture where everyone can thrive! Learn more at careerthrivers.com.