Jacob Gayle, vice president of Medtronic’s philanthropy division and president of the Medtronic Foundation, is a global health expert who is passionate about access to good health care for the underserved, worldwide; who has compassion for people with HIV-AIDS and a commitment to help eradicate the disease; and who is implementing responsive corporate social responsibilities in his leadership capacity at Medtronic.
Gayle’s two sons share their father’s values: The oldest son is a physician working with global health and HIV-AIDS, and the younger son is a minister and professional musician.
In keeping with Gayle’s passion, a large part of his career was devoted to negotiating key global healthcare policies at Atlanta’s Centers for Disease Control. He went on to work at the Ford Foundation as vice president for the Foundation’s HIV-AIDS program. He moved to Minnesota about six years ago, where he feels he can realize his work with global health as well as fulfill Medtronic’s commitment to be a good corporate citizen.
With all of Gayle’s travels to states and countries with more agreeable climates and populations, one might almost see irony in his misgivings about moving to Minnesota, not just because of the cold weather, but because of the state’s socio-economic disparities, particularly among African Americans.
His hesitation was not unlike other professionals who probably share the same doubts. “I happen to be a person who loves a challenge. So, [I felt that] all of my experience would be well placed [living in Minnesota].”
As an African American professional, Gayle noted one challenge was how difficult it can be encouraging fellow professionals to relocate to the Twin Cities, particularly the young professionals. Millennials tend to be attracted to the east or west coast. He wants them to know that, in spite of the sub-zero weather, there are a lot of opportunities here.
Another concern was that outsiders new to the Twin Cities would feel like there could be a division between long-time Minnesotans and newcomers recruited by Fortune 500 companies. African Americans often don’t acknowledge each other here when passing on the street, something newcomers may not be used to.
“We have a cultural divide even within our own African American community,” Gayle noted.
His final concern was the large African population, sometimes viewed as a “third Black community,” separate in some ways and not as linked [to Twin Cities’ African Americans].” He acknowledged that there are probably fears and misgivings among both populations.
“One of the great opportunities we have is to really respect the diversity we as Black peoples bring to [the Twin Cities]. Our future here is a common future destiny.”
MSR asked Gayle to share his thoughts about what professionals considering a move to the Twin Cities can do to lessen the chance of isolation. He stressed the importance of reaching out to people already living here, to find those who can serve as guides and mentors.
He echoed the same advice to recent college graduates: “Start their careers here, even start a relationship and raise a family here.” Gayle and his wife noticed that people from all walks of life tend to be faithful to the area. Even if people leave Minnesota, they always come back.
One of Medtronic’s recent efforts to bring together African Americans was sponsoring the “Community Leadership Social Hour” on Thursday, April 20 at U.S. Bank Stadium. Gayle was pleased to see so many people from corporate, public and private sectors among the guests.
“We were all really celebrating opportunities to share time together, to share our experiences, and to make commitments.” He expressed a desire to encourage other companies to offer more networking and outreach activities and for Medtronic to continue to “open up our living room.”
Medtronic, as a business and healthcare industry leader, has shown a commitment to investing in the community where it began. Through programs like “Project 6,” an annual project where many of the more than 85,000 employees worldwide volunteer their time, talent, and their money (through Medtronic’s match giving program), the company can continue its vision to work with and support the people they serve.
Moreover, the millennial generation wants to work in places where they feel they can make a social contribution. These activities play a significant part in fostering individual leadership at Medtronic. As Gayle put it, “You can’t be a real leader if you are not engaged in community. It is so important for us to have these kinds of conversations.”
Gayle said he is glad that companies like Medtronic care and want to be part of the solution. “The real power in these conversations is the community. I truly believe that our community has a very bright future.”
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