By Rebecca S. Jones
HOUSTON – “My advice for the African-American community can go to anyone, but I do have a particular bond with single mothers… When it comes to earning an education, it depends much more on your persistence than anything else. I went to school with people that were very, very smart and they would drop out. So, getting your education is more about making a decision about what you want to do and being persistent and staying with it, than it is anything else. You don’t have to see everything. Sometimes, you just have to decide where you want to go and move toward the next step. You don’t have to have every step mapped out – just the next step. It starts with the decision about where you’re going and then things will work out, to bring that to you as long as you focus on where you’re going and that next step. And, to always remember, no one is born knowing anything. So whatever others do, if you put your mind to it, you can do it too.” – Krista Satterthwaithe
Krista Satterthwaite has ascended from scrapping up pennies to catch the train in college while struggling as a young Black single mother, to managing $2 billion in revenue for Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE). She is the Vice President and General Manager of HPE. In this role she is responsible for leading product planning, go-to-market leadership, product operations and solution development for Synergy and BladeSystem server product lines.
Prior to, she was the Vice President of Marketing for the HPE’s Hybrid IT Group, where she oversaw outbound marketing for the company’s largest business group. With over two decades of experience in product management, marketing, marketing research and sales in the technology and consumer goods industries; she has proven to be one of the most influential women in Corporate America – who just happens to be Black.
However, her destination did not come without cost – she started from the bottom and worked her way up the corporate ladder to success. Krista’s story is an inspiring one for any individual determined to succeed despite the obstacles.
Krista Satterthwaite hails from Peoria, Illinois. She is the daughter of Mary Ann and Charles Cooper and youngest of three children. Her mother worked as a nurse and her father an entrepreneur. During our interview, Krista said, “My father was always very entrepreneurial and taught me a lot about business from a very early age. Whatever he saw he would comment on the strategy of it from a business standpoint. So, I understood profit margin and the fundamentals of business before I could ever even read because of him.”
Growing up, Krista would often sit and ponder on varying business ventures and pitch them to her playmates, with a goal of ensuring she had enough money for the ice cream truck. As she matured, she could not deny the burning entrepreneurial spirit within.
After graduating high school, she matriculated at the University of Illinois in Chicago on a full scholarship. Having done research on the career of her choice, she realized the path would require a Master of Business Administration degree. Therefore, she was determined to accomplish it. However, during her freshmen year she had her son, Alec.
Life became difficult, struggling to raise a newborn son, while ambitiously pursuing her career path. She explained, “I didn’t have a car and most of the time, I would have to take two trains and a bus to get to school in negative temperatures. It was a lot, but my family was very supportive. Even though they couldn’t help me out financially, they helped me with my son, and they were not local. For the first couple of years before my son was potty-trained, I went back and forth. My mother and older sister, Kendra would take care of him and once he was potty trained, he came to live with me full time in Chicago.”
Nevertheless, Krista continued to advance in her studies. Oftentimes she would ride the train to college on pennies and borrow money from her classmates to get home. Yet, as challenging as life was, she remained motivated. “I didn’t give up because I saw light at the end of the tunnel; I always tried to stay focused and positive,” she added.
Krista went on to earn a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration from the University of Illinois in Chicago. After completing her undergraduate studies, she received a full fellowship to the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign. It was there that she obtained her Master of Business Administration degree. Shortly thereafter, she applied to work for Compaq (Hewlett Packard) and was hired on as a Product Manager.
Moreover, her career led her to Houston, which had been untrodden ground for her. Although she didn’t know anyone in the area, she viewed the change of pace as “exciting”, and like “an adventure”. As Krista settled into the city and her position, she fully dedicated herself to caring for her son and advancing in her career. Within a year and a half, she had risen to Vice President.
Looking back, Krista now realizes she is living her dream and doing what she loves. Reflectively she shared, “When I look back, even in high school when they’d ask, ‘What would you like to be doing ten years from now?’ I recently found something I wrote as a junior in high school, which said I wanted to climb the corporate ladder and travel around, and I have done everything listed on there. So, it’s always been there, I guess I was living it out but never really thought about it, as I was going along with it.”
Today, Krista is proud of her 29-year-old son, Alec (Jade) Hughes, who resides in Florida and owns an electronics repair shop. She also has two granddaughters, whom she loves dearly, Jace (4) and Ania (5) Hughes. She is ever grateful for her sister, Kendra and her brother, Kevin Tomlinson. Krista acknowledges her family as being, “cheerleaders throughout life and they have always given me great advice and been behind me 100 percent”.
Krista described her 16-year marriage to Kristoffer Satterthwaite, as “hitting the relationship lottery”. She says, “I married a wonderful man I met a few months after I moved here. He works for Amazon in Sales and I met him through work. He’s been my rock in terms of ‘you can do it!’ We are also real estate investors together – we have some single-family homes we rent out. But he saw a lot of things in me, I didn’t see in myself and encouraged me.”
Today, Krista participates in community outreach events and has fulfills her passion of educating students on financial literacy and career planning. She currently serves as the executive sponsor of the Hewlett Packard Enterprise Houston Black Employee Network (BEN).
Her most recent accomplishment occurred earlier this year when she was featured as one of the “Most Influential Women in Corporate America” by Savoy Magazine.