Shaunna Black Engineer Engineering EntrepreneurQ: Let’s start at the beginning. Where were you born?

Bismarck, North Dakota

Q: What was your childhood like?

I was the oldest of five children born over a span of 7 years. Because my father worked for an oil company I moved with my family during my school years every 18 months to 4 years all over central and western USA and spent my teenage years in Australia. We were a close family because we depended on each other. I learned leadership early because my mother had no family support nearby and so I became her “right hand.” I learned to handle change, make new friends quickly and adapt to new experiences. We thought travel to new places was normal and an exciting adventure.

Q: Do you have any siblings?

I had four siblings – two brothers and two sisters.

Shaunna Black Engineer Engineering Entrepreneur FamilyQ: What did your parents do for a living?

My mother had a degree in nursing and my father was a geophysicist, who worked for oil exploration companies. After graduation my mother worked as a nurse on the Sante Fe Railroad and traveled with them all over the western USA. They married in 1950 and began a lifetime moving all over the USA and Australia. In 20 years of marriage they lived in 25 places.

Q: How did your parents influence you as a child?

My parents were my first teachers. They believed in marrying for life, putting family first, living their faith, and sharing their riches with those who had less. They modeled personal responsibility and accountability, integrity, fairness, work ethic, the importance of relationships, inclusiveness, generosity and making the world a better place. Though they accepted their lifestyle as normal, I considered them pioneers and risk-takers because they were willing to accept each new assignment, relocate our family, create a home in a new town while making it fun and exciting for us.

Q: Was there a watershed moment that occurred during your childhood that shaped the person you are today?

When I was 7 years old my mother got sick one day and had to stay in bed. My youngest sister was a newborn baby. It was the first time I remember my mother being so sick she couldn’t get out of bed. My father was at work and we were all at home. I remember being scared but realizing my mother needed my help. I fixed breakfast and lunch for all of us, looked after my siblings, played games with them, encouraged them to be quiet so mom could sleep and “stepped in for mom”. That’s what I remember. Now as an adult I’m quite sure mom was checking in on us and helping as much as she could. However, that day I thought she was depending on me and I learned I was capable of accepting responsibility even if I thought I didn’t have all the necessary competencies and even when I was afraid.

Origin Bank

Q: Where did you go to college?

BS in Education from the University of Texas at Austin
BS in Mechanical Engineering from New Mexico State University

Shaunna Black Engineer Engineering EntrepreneurQ: Why did you go into engineering?

When you travel and move, things break in the process. Usually when we moved into a new home, dad went to work and mom unpacked the house. Mom wasn’t very mechanically gifted so I was usually the person that assembled things and fixed broken things. Mechanical engineering seemed a natural fit.   At 18 years old I started in engineering and I got good grades but after a year of feeling like I was the only girl in the college I changed to education. Most of the girls I knew were in nursing, education or business administration. Education seemed logical because I had been teaching all my life. In my twenties the idea of engineering returned and I decided at 28 to go back to school full-time to get an ME degree. At 30 I graduated with a BS in ME and two babies.

Q: You worked in a male dominated industry as an engineer and executive with TI, including running a factory operation in South Korea. Tell us about that experience.

I started in TI in 1985 as a design engineer. Within three years I was working as a project manager in wafer fab construction. I was the first woman in that job and in every job I had after that. TI under the leadership of Jerry Junkins and Tom Engibous was a rapidly, changing company and culture. It was exciting to be part of that era because I enjoy being a change agent. In 1995 I was named Vice President and had the opportunity to lead my first global division. By 2001 under Tom Engibous our BOD was 30% women, our officers were 26% women and 30% of our wafer fabs were managed by women. Those numbers were much better than most Fortune 500 companies and unheard of in technology companies. It was amazing to contribute to those changes. I was in the right place at the right time.

Shaunna Black Engineer Engineering EntrepreneurMy experience working in Korea happened after I started my own company in 2009. My second contract was an interim management assignment with Dongbu Hitek Semiconductor in Korea. I accepted a three-year assignment as Sr. Vice President of Manufacturing. I also hired Cindy Allen, a former TI VP as my VP of Operations. We were the only two women officers in the entire Dongbu Group out of 392 officers. Dongbu Group had no Korean women officers. It was a turnaround challenge because the manufacturing division was under performing but the leadership team was very welcoming of our experience and guidance, wanted to be successful and worked hard to deliver outstanding results. Cindy and I have great memories of our time in Korea and we learned a lot from the experience.

Q: Who were your mentors or sponsors at TI?

I had many male mentors and sponsors, who opened doors for me, took risks promoting me as a “first” woman, coached me and supported me. In addition, I had many peer mentors especially among the women of TI, who coached, supported and encouraged me through the years. One of the most amazing qualities of the TI culture is how the women supported, collaborated, opened doors for each other and worked together for change. These relationships turned into life-long friendships.

Shaunna Black Engineer Engineering EntrepreneurQ: You left TI and started several of your own companies including your current one, New Worq, LLC.   What services do you provide to your clients?

New Worq, LLC is a management and turnaround advisory firm that helps businesses improve performance, accelerate growth, and maximize enterprise value. We help solve complicated problems in performance improvement, marketing strategy and culture, values and people.   We think there is particular opportunity in unleashing the potential of multi-generational teams.

Q: How has technology impacted business since you first started?

Since I joined a technology company, it was the driving force in everything we designed and created. Technology has transformed how we work, live, play, learn, communicate. It’s embedded in every part of our lives. Though it has positively impacted so many aspects of our lives, it’s also accelerating disruption in the status quo.

Q: How important is a company’s culture to ensure its growth and success?

Culture is the most important element in unleashing the potential of people. People potential is an infinite resource. Culture is more important than strategy, execution or technology in reaching a vision or breakthrough.

Q: Can you give us an example of a company whose culture you admire?

I admire any leader who believes in making a positive difference for their people and the world. Google, Container Store, Whole Foods, Southwest Airlines, TDIndustries, USAA, REI

Shaunna Black Engineer Engineering EntrepreneurQ: For the past 21 years, you have traveled to 25 countries. Is there a thread you have identified between all the companies, countries and cultures you have experienced?

We are all more alike than we are different. We love our families and children, work hard to provide homes, education, opportunity for them, care about safety, hope for a better future and share the human experience.

Q: Many women suffer from what is called the “imposter syndrome”. You have mentored many women throughout your career. Why do you think this is still the case today?

In 1993 Pauline Chance said she wished she had called it the “imposter experience” because all humans including men and women experience it at times in their lives. We all have those moments when we think we’re not adequate though we’re trying hard to live up to others’ expectations. I think there is more pressure today to live up to unrealistic standards and expectation due to social media and instant connected-ness. There is so much pressure to fit into the “perfect” box. I think the best antidote to the imposter experience is to live a life that’s authentic and transparent. Be yourself no matter the circumstance you find yourself. It’s not always easy but I think it’s the more wise way to live.

**More on “Imposter Syndrome” from Forbes, Inc., and Ted Talks.

Q: If you had to pick one quality you believe is essential to succeed in business, what would that be?

Emotional intelligence, resilience, risk-taking and the ability to “fall forward” through failure.

Q: What is your greatest strength as a leader?

My ability to see gifts and talents in others even when they can’t see it themselves.

Q: What is your philosophy on building an effective team?

We are better together than alone. We are uniquely and beautifully made. When we support the unique gifts, talents, experience and competencies of each other we create a team culture that unleashes our highest potential.

Q: What was the most difficult decision you have had to make in business?

Firing people

Shaunna Black Engineer Engineering EntrepreneurQ: You are very passionate about encouraging young girls to getting into STEM.   Tell us about that.

Women and people of color are unrepresented in STEM. Therefore, solutions are being created and implemented that are missing a vital perspective and approach we could provide. In addition, technology is one of the fastest, most financially rewarding industries in the world. Technology jobs pay higher salaries than all other industries combined. Therefore, if women are under-represented in this industry it becomes an economic and social issue. The wage gap for women at 75 cents for every dollar a man earns will widen if this trend continues. Finally, the problems of our globe are too complex to be solved with women not fully represented in the solutions.

Q: Who is your personal hero?

My mother

Q: Who is your professional hero?

Anyone who believes leadership is service and works to make a positive difference in the world for all people. Examples are Brene Brown, Cheryl Sandberg, Jayne Gardner, Tom Engibous, Ann McGee Cooper, Herb Kelleher, Dr. Carolyn Seepersad, Davidji Sweet, Jia Jiang

Shaunna Black Engineer Engineering EntrepreneurQ: Define Success.

Being authentic and making the world a better place as a result of your life and legacy.

Q: Please leave us with your favorite quote.

“Have the courage to live into your Genius (unique gifts) and through it give back to the world.”
– Ann McGee Cooper

Listen to an audio interview with Shaunna here.