Tony Prophet ‘82 believes in any career choice, following a passion is key. In his case, his career and experiences impressed upon him the importance of fighting for equality.
Prophet, who became Chief Equality Officer for Salesforce in 2016, found an opportunity to take his passion to the next level and focus on people.
“Throughout my career, I’ve found myself in positions where my business role exposed me to critical human rights and social justice issues. Fortunately, I was able to use my platform to influence positive change,” Prophet said. “I've always admired Salesforce for its purpose focus — centered on the idea that businesses can be a platform for social change. These values are closely aligned to my own.”
While working on Global Supply Chain projects, Prophet worked to advance a range of equality issues, including advocating for the rights of young and female workers in developing countries, improving schools for children of migrant workers and addressing the root causes of migratory worker flows.
At Salesforce, Prophet leads the company’s equality initiatives, focusing on gender, LGBTQ and racial equality to ensure that Salesforce reflects the diversity of the communities it serves.
He is a member of the company’s executive committee, reporting to Chairman and CEO Marc Benioff. Prophet currently serves on the board of Gannett where he chairs the Transformation Committee, as well as on the board of College Track.
Prophet and Salesforce are taking action on four key pillars: equal pay, equal education, equal rights and equal opportunity.
“In this role, I learn from our entire community who tirelessly dedicate themselves to working together to create a more equal world for all. Throughout this journey, there are three key learnings that have stuck with me: start with transparency; lead with empathy; and create a culture of allies who will ask, listen, show up, and speak up for one another,” Prophet said. “Equality isn't just the right thing to do, it's also the smart thing to do. Research shows that a commitment to workplace equality and giving back has financial, innovation, customer loyalty and employee engagement impacts.”
Looking back over the 35 years since he graduated with an Industrial Engineering degree from Kettering, Prophet learned that so many of life’s successes boil down to a few key factors: building teams with the best people and inspiring them to do their best work; being adaptive to a wide range of context — from the shop floor to the board room; developing a genuine sense of empathy for employees, partners and customers that you work with — striving to see the world through their eyes and driving toward win-win solutions; and distilling the mission and strategy of an organization into simple, memorable and actionable words.
Previously, Prophet served as Microsoft's corporate vice president of Windows and Search Marketing, where he was responsible for Windows, Bing, Cortana and MSN brands. His team led the Windows 10 product marketing and launch planning, which was one of the most successful operating system launches, garnering more than 200 million users within six months of launch. He was also co-executive sponsor of Blacks at Microsoft and founding executive of BlackLight, an organization empowering black marketers at Microsoft.
Prior to Microsoft, he led worldwide operations for what is now HP Inc., and before that, he lead worldwide operations for Carrier Corporation. Before that, he was a partner with Booz Allen Hamilton.
When Prophet came to Kettering, he found himself drawn to the manufacturing environment and the shop floor. Industrial Engineering was a natural fit for him. As he progressed in his career, he began to think outside the box of what was the best role for him.
“My advice for others is to follow your passion. For me, human rights and how manufacturing logistics affected them was something I became increasingly passionate about. Over time, it evolved into the broader lens of equality and making sure companies or any institution are respecting the rights and aspirations of each of their stakeholders,” Prophet said. “Take risks in your career decisions early on — put people first — focus on the customer.”
Prophet’s time at Kettering set him on a path to be prepared for whatever opportunities came his way.
From an early age, he had a love of cars and a huge stack of Motor Trend and Car & Driver magazines that he would read cover-to-cover every month. What Kettering offered was very appealing to him.
“When I was in high school, Kettering came to our campus looking for young people excited about math and science, and interested in a career in the automotive industry — it was a perfect fit for me,” he said. “Once I was there my experience was a really unique combination of work and study. And at the end of five years, I felt completely prepared for any number of roles — from engineering to production management.
“I look back with great fondness about my time at General Motors Institute, which ultimately became Kettering. Despite the small class size, I continue to run into alumni doing amazing things all over the world. It's a incredible institution that I'm super proud to be associated with.”