Ronald K. Andrews
VP, Head of Human Resources, Prudential Financial, Inc.
As corny and clichéd as it may sound, I have to say my mom is my inspiration. What always inspires me about her is that she’s done so much with so little. Her grit and her tenacity to raise her family through all kinds of challenges are very remarkable. She raised three kids. She did it alone. And she got an education while doing it. She made clear value commitments about what she and we would and would not do. She worked hard and gave us amazing opportunities that have shaped how my siblings and I see the world and operate in it.
On the flip side, I’ve also been motivated by the haters. I grew up in Newark, New Jersey, as a little black kid who attended suburban schools with people constantly telling me what I could not do. That really motivated me to succeed academically and athletically. My goal was to prove to them just how wrong they were. I took the positive examples that my mom exhibited at home and modeled them in my life outside of home.
Today, I look at my kids and what they’ve accomplished in their lives for inspiration. I’m proud and humbled by the fact that all three of my children are Ivy League graduates—Columbia, Yale and the University of Pennsylvania. And, now my son is studying at Cornell Law. They make me want to do and be better.
OUR GREATEST CHALLENGE
The criminal justice system, particularly for black men in this era of mass incarceration, is the greatest issue facing the African-American community today. I have not met a young black man who has not been touched by the criminal justice system. It’s really sad.
The criminal justice system is wiping out an entire generation of black men who are in jail, which puts them out of work and out of the voting system. Every opportunity they would have to be a part of and contribute to society is stripped away the moment they enter the system. It takes away fathers, uncles, and brothers—and so many of them can never get out of that cycle. It not only has a massive impact on our community, but also on society in general. Disenfranchising such a large segment of the population also hurts the broader community, because it leaves us without strong, contributing citizens who could otherwise make incredible contributions to society.
Giving back to the community is important to me. That’s why I am board chair and head of the HR Committee at Integrity House, a New Jersey treatment facility that takes a therapeutic approach to helping people with all forms of addiction. Integrity House works with all people—rich, poor, and members of all races—but most of the residents are people of color. My work with Integrity House is part of my commitment to helping those guys get back on their feet and turn their lives around.
I’m actually surprised by how much of an introvert I am. I love people, but there are times that I really need to be by myself. It’s important and necessary for me sometimes to get in my car and just drive, or to go to be alone and shut the door, even with a house full of people. I think I’ve always been like that, but I didn’t know the extent of it until the last six or seven years. The more I recognize it, the more I’ve become okay with it, so that I’m not in conflict with that part of me.
Spend your time learning as much as you can. Be a sponge, and think long term. Understand that where you are today is not necessarily where you’re going to be tomorrow. There is valuable stuff to learn in every situation. Take your time, gain as much as you can from each experience, and build on that throughout your career.