Emily Cates: A Striking Example of Proficient Leadership


An expert in sales training and development, and a result-oriented professional, Emily Cates is that open-minded leader who always looks to maximize the business partner relationships. Any company would be lucky to have Emily as their partner as she integrates technology, business acumen, and strategic approach to achieve desired outcomes. Emily has superior soft skills including communication, diplomacy, and tact. She is a rare blend of both a problem finder and a problem solver. She is also very effective at developing strong partnerships within her organization as well as with external suppliers. She is a true professional, a great team leader, and above all a great human being.

A Result-Driven Career

Emily grew up in North Carolina and started working at age 15 after applying for a worker’s permit so that she could begin to gain experience and stretch her levels of independence. In doing so, she realized how much she loved to work and serve customers.

Emily was incredibly proud to secure her first role in Human Resources at a Software Technology start-up that quickly e volved into an HR Generalist position. At Motorola, she became the head of employee learning which took her into a specialist role with talent development and learning. While at Motorola, she also led operations for the Global Women’s Business Council.

When Zebra announced the acquisition of the Motorola Solutions Enterprise business, she was approached by the “soon-to-be” head of services which her function would report into, and she was also asked to become the Services Chief of Staff to help integrate, build and transform a new services organization and customer experience. As she considered this opportunity to transition from HR to Services, she realized this was a career journey pivot and that she quickly needed to educate herself on the role and services industry at large. She is thankful for her esteemed network for their guidance and support. Emily now looks forward to transitioning into a new role as VP, Sales Transformation and Operations at Zebra Technologies, which brings together Sales & Channel Operations, Sales Enablement, and Sales Transformation to accelerate the company’s go-to-market approach.

Emily has worked in Human Resources and Services for over 20 years. In this capacity, she has successfully proven the ability to transition careers from HR to Services and has helped lead business transformation at multiple companies, turning ideas into action and creating dynamic inclusive cultures. In addition to being passionate about culture, she is also an active inclusion and diversity ally and sponsor. She co-leads Women’s Inclusion Network at Zebra.

Walking Through Adversities

Emily often found that she was the only female in the room for a good majority of her career as well as the youngest. Wanting desperately to add value and hold onto her seat, she realized that until her experience caught up, she needed something to validate her ideas and back up her recommendations. This led her to take an outside-in approach. She found research associations that could provide data and analytics from a wide variety of member companies and benchmark the organization against industry practices. Taking a data driven approach allowed her to bring wisdom and learnings be yond her years with credible recommendations. This also helped her build her network, and she learned how to spot trends and prioritize initiatives that would yield the best results. She continues to leverage data and external research as it puts facts on the table that can be pragmatically evaluated, lending to faster more informed decision making.

Prioritizing Employee Safety

Emily mentions that at Zebra, employee safety is first and foremost and has been at the forefront of its sustainability plans. When the pandemic first started, her team held ideation sessions across the organization to identify new ways of working to provide customer continuity and keep on delivering a great experience for the customers and partners. The company joined with a partner to resell a device sanitization solution using UV light, and worked on most of its training and sales enablement to support virtual selling. They also launched a Remote Expert solution using the Zebra HD4000 head-mounted display to provide experts with complete visibility into the current onsite situation in remote locations.

A Take on Impactful Leadership

According to Emily, impactful leaders leave a mark on who you are. The leadership style she prefers and has implemented at Zebra is a roundtable approach. “Everyone is welcome, equal and included, come as you are, expect to work as a team, share across the table, put the tough questions right in the middle, find a rallying point that moves the group, and then all hands in to deliver results and exceed beyond what any of us could do on their own,” she asserts.

In the opinion of Emily, ever businesswomen should possess the following traits:

  • Exceed expectations and deliver results: This is the best way to get noticed and build a positive reputation.
  • Be inclusive: Invite more to your table, the ideas and cross-functional input are invaluable plus it’s an opportunity to pay your success forward.
  • Lead outside your role: Get involved, participate in company initiatives, and help influence broader decisions.
  • Be thoughtful and put your people first: Creating a culture that fosters employees first is one that we all want to be a part of, so be that leader for your team. It will also carry into customer satisfaction as customer-first organizations have a people-first approach.

Focused on Providing the Best for Community

Zebra Technologies offers data insights that solve business and social problems – inside and outside the company. And while it is the company’s ability to bring a performance edge to the front line of business that has driven Zebr a’s growth, it is also doing well by doing good!

Zebra offers innovative technology that improves productivity, safety, security, and emissions. The company invests about 10% of its re venue in Research & Development and shaping the future of work on the front line across all the industries it serves.

Zebra is also focused on contributing time, talent, and treasure to advance the economic and social prosperity of the communities where its employees, customers, and partners live and work. It encourages community service through two programs: Donations for Doers and Volunteer paid time off.

Each of the company’s employees globally has four days of volunteer paid to time off that they can take to give back locally. For example, this past spring, Zebra had 50 employees who used about 700 volunteer PTO hours to support the vaccine distribution for one of its local health departments.

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