Mentoring began early in this successful business woman's life, but she was later mentored in the workplace where she subsequently developed a professional mentoring program. Mentoring produces endless ripples. Beverly
My Mentor: Home Depot CFO Talks About People Who Inspired Her
By: Caroline Wilbert
Carol Tome grew up in a small Wyoming town and is regularly recognized as one of the country’s top female executives. Tome, chief financial offer and executive vice president of corporate services at Home Depot, says that each leg of her journey has been marked by great mentors, starting in childhood with her mother and grandmothers. Tome chatted with DivineCaroline recently about some of the mentors who helped her get to where she is today.
Q: Can you talk about a mentor who had a big influence on you?
A: I am lucky to have had a lot of great mentors, all the way back to my mother and my grandmothers. I grew up in a town of 3,000, in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, and now I am the CFO of the fourteenth largest company in the country. I give a lot of credit to them for instilling self-worth and confidence in me. I never worried about the way I looked. They told me, “You are wonderful. You can do anything.” And I believed them.
Q: Were they working women?
A: My mother was a schoolteacher until she had children and then she was a stay-at-home mom. My maternal grandmother lost her husband when she was in her thirties, so she worked. My paternal grandmother didn’t work, but she graduated from the University of Michigan in the early 1900s. They were strong women, very involved in their community, very financially savvy.
Q: What about professional mentors?
A: After grad school, I went into the training program at the largest commercial bank in Colorado. This was 1981. One of my mentors was an executive there, a woman, which was very unusual, particularly at a commercial bank. Her name was Mary Louise, but she went by M.L. Nobody outside the bank knew from her name that she was a woman. She was tough. She was really influential on me, partly because she had done so well in an environment not really geared to women. She had spunk and tenacity. We would go out—I don’t do this anymore—but we would go out drinking scotch on the rocks. I was just keeping up with her. Even then, I knew I was going to have ups and downs and it was important to have the kind of tenacity that she had.
Q: Is there any advice that one of your mentors gave you that has stuck with you?
A: It is important to have bosses that will tell you, “This is where you excel, and this is where you de-rail.” Jim Colgate told me I had great passion, but he also told me, “You get too angry. Your anger will de-rail you.”
Q: Do you think about that advice now?
A: All the time.
Q: Any other specific advice?
A: I observe people all the time. I have learned a lot by watching people, about what to do and what not to do. Leadership is not about position; it is all about action. I had a boss who got mad at someone and threw a piece of paper down the table. That was really destructive and I learned that I didn’t want to act like that.
Q: What about at Home Depot?
A: I joined The Home Depot in 1995. (Former) board member Faye Wilson took me under her wing right away. She was tremendously supportive. She was always talking me up.
Q: Is it important for women to mentor each other or do you see mentoring as gender neutral?
A: I used to say it didn’t matter, that gender-neutral was fine. Now I think it does matter. That is why I started a mentoring program for women at The Home Depot, for executives at the director level and above, called the Velvet Hammers.
First published May 2007
More recent article more focused on her business leadership: http://www.businessweek.com/magazine/content/11_04/b4212064704660.htm ret. 7-6-12
Note: Tome is also the 2012 Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce Chairman!