JAMAICAN ROOTS, AMERICAN BRANCHES
When Andrew Davis 08EMBA was 12 years old and living in Spanish Town, Jamaica, a Coca-Cola in a classic glass bottle was a special treat on a hot day. But the company that made Coke was a world away. No one could have convinced him that, one day, he’d be so closely connected to the famous company.
Today, one of Davis’ favorite childhood treats is a large part of his life.
The story begins when his parents moved the family to Washington, D.C., to pursue their American dream. They arrived in the cold of winter. Davis, a pre-teen, carried lingering thoughts of his tropical homeland. Culture shock set in as Davis and his brothers navigated their new world. Whether it was his accent or how he dressed, Davis remembers spending his teenage years trying to find ways to fit in. But he never let those feelings and experiences define him. Instead, it helped shape both his personal and professional life. “During those tough days, my mother would always say that everything happens for a reason," Davis said. "So finding that reason my mom said was out there, kept me going.”
Davis was inspired by the sacrifices his parents made to move to the United States, including the opportunity for higher education. College wasn’t always a priority, because he wanted to immediately join the workforce to financially help his family. He found a path to do both, attending a local community college by day and working at a Pizza Hut restaurant at night. Eventually, Davis completed an associate’s degree from Montgomery Junior College in business and a bachelor’s degree in organizational management from Washington Adventist University. This was the fulfillment of his first American dream — the first-generation college graduate in his family. He also worked his way from a line-level position to leadership roles with Pizza Hut and Yum Brands.
After his time at Yum, Davis’ career progressed in human resources, with stints at Black Entertainment Television, Best Buy Co. and The Home Depot. But he was never able to shake the feeling that he needed a deeper education in business. At The Home Depot, he was an HR partner for a complex merger and acquisition deal. During planning meetings, he listened to conversations between M&A leaders over the course of the deal and realized he needed an edge. “If I was going to be the best I could be in my role as a human resources strategic partner, I needed to rapidly ramp up my business acumen, and that meant business school.”
Davis knew the right MBA would help him advance in his career and that it would help overcome potential roadblocks. He wanted a top-notch program — one with unquestionable credentials. After doing his research, it was a clear choice, and he enrolled at Emory University’s Goizueta Business School. In the middle of his MBA program, Davis was recruited by The Coca-Cola Company. He walked into the lobby of Coca-Cola’s headquarters for the first time and noticed a line of flags from countries around the world where the company operates. He thought there wouldn’t be a flag for his native Jamaica. But there it was, with all its familiar colors. He accepted the job. The inclusiveness of that moment has stayed with Davis during his 10 plus years with the company. “It was a feeling of belonging that motivates me to this day,” Davis said. "I will continue to lean on my life principles of living by faith, appreciating family and pursuing purpose.”
Davis credits his experience at Goizueta with changing the game for his professional career. The MBA program enhanced his critical thinking skills and business acumen, while exponentially expanding his leadership toolkit. Davis applauds his professors for their ability to translate theory into practice, illuminating business topics and creating realistic, teachable experiences. “The language of business opened up for me,” he said. “I needed to understand it and have a point of view — using insights to process and come to the best decisions. But it wasn’t easy. Juggling a full-time leadership position at work, family and life left very little room to breathe at times, but it was worth every sacrifice.” Davis finished his MBA after joining Coca-Cola and said his choice to attend Goizueta was one of the best professional decisions he’s made. “It truly unlocked my full potential.” Davis is nearly two years into his current role as Global Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer at Coca-Cola. He has pulled from his personal and professional experiences to be a champion for a more diverse and inclusive culture. He works to create a business — a world where everyone has a feeling of belonging to operate at full potential. “I see my role simply as the ultimate air traffic controller for diversity, inclusion and equality,” he said. “We build awareness of differences, which leads to understanding, then to appreciation and ultimately to inclusion of those differences. I believe people are people wherever you go and, at our core, we need the same things. We need direction, which is leadership; we need to grow our capabilities, which is development; and we need a great place to work, which is all about an inclusive culture. Operating from these core principles is where diversity and inclusion can change the future.”
Davis has achieved much but is still thinking about what’s ahead. “I’m not sure what the next chapter will bring, but I plan to embrace it,” he said. “For now, I will draw from all the life experiences that have made me who I am today, and as I continue to evolve, I will continue to lean on my life principles of living by faith, appreciating family and pursuing purpose.”