Katie Donnelly and diversity in IT

In Good Company: Future-Proofing With Innovation and Diversity

Paige Siegall, Unzipped Staff
Levi Strauss & Co.
November 10, 2020

We are nothing without our people. The people who are driven each day to build upon the long legacy of Levi Strauss & Co. Since 1873, our jeans and those who contribute to their design and production have been an inspiration — and a symbol — for unwavering originality. We’re ‘In Good Company.’

There are no slow days on the job for Katie Donnelly. A senior director of IT and product manager for Project Solar who has been with Levi Strauss & Co. for 18 years, Katie spends her time supporting the IT department’s mission to future-proof our business by developing and testing various proofs of concept and managing innovation projects.

“My job as a product manager is to help bridge the gap when our core technology doesn’t have some of the capabilities we need to meet our business requirements. I also work to build the organization’s muscle around innovation by developing proofs of concept for things that we can digitize for the future,” she said. “I have a lot of different projects going on at one time and they’re usually in various stages there’s never a dull moment, and my work keeps me interested and learning.”

While IT might not always be associated with apparel companies, Katie and the IT organization’s work is at the heart of how we’re transforming the ways we work and innovate.

“There are a lot of interesting projects that go on in the IT world to support apparel,” she said. “From making sure that we have planning systems that optimize our inventory, to employing artificial intelligence and machine learning to ensure that we’re on the front end of efficiencies for our ways of working, we refine our processes so we can get the best possible results for our products and our company.”

This is only part of Katie’s work, however. Lately she has also been busy running the IT organization’s Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging (DI&B) task force. In this work, she focuses on ensuring that we are building a workforce at LS&Co. that has strong representation.

“Like many companies, we have some room for improvement from a diversity standpoint. It wasn’t something always on my mind, but through the years, I’ve realized I have a responsibility to myself and others to do more to support and call for improvement in this area,” Katie explained. “Sometimes this means just checking in with individuals to let them know they are seen and supported; other times it means speaking up when something doesn’t quite align with our company values.”

The DI&B task force for the IT organization leverages work that’s already going on in the company. For example, they’re partnering with our Project Onyx employee resource group and our recruiting team to help ensure that IT is building a diverse pipeline of talent to bring into the company. In the past quarter, the task force has participated in information and recruiting sessions at HBCU colleges and panels for diversity groups at colleges interested in learning more about LS&Co. They’re also sending 20 IT team members to a Women in Tech conference to build out professional skills, networks and gain insight from others around the globe.

“We want IT candidates to see all that we have to offer and that we actively want to build diversity into our department,” Katie said.

She explained that diverse representation within IT helps her and her team think outside of their comfort zones and challenges them to consider those beyond the typical IT profile.

“We want to make sure that everybody has a seat at the table and is being heard. It’s really important for us to have a diverse workforce to ensure that we have different aspects and experiences and ideas represented,” Katie said. “Having representation and different points of view matters. It gives us an opportunity to look beyond what each individual might normally see and work together to see a larger picture.”

She added, “We have amazing leadership from the top down that is vocal and committed to diversifying our work force and colleagues who are fantastic allies and advocates for change.”