Just a Kid From Southwest Atlanta

Carl Hill Becomes Coca Cola United's First Corporate Director – Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

You just don’t get more Atlanta than Carl Hill. He’s got the receipts. Even Omeretta the Great would be impressed. He’s so humble for someone who has just been promoted to the Corporate Director – Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion for Coca Cola United. He begins citing a deep love for education and an HBCU legacy that runs deep in his family. Hill is a third generation Atlantan. His grandmother went to Washington High. His dad is a “Grady Baby” and grew up near the AUC and in Collier Heights. Hill is an APS grad, a proud graduate of Mays High. His mom is a Spelmanite from Charleston, met his dad when she was the counselor at Harper. His dad attended Fort Valley was the football coach.  Hill's older brother attended Douglass and Morehouse. His maternal grandmother was an elementary teacher. Both grandparents on that side attended South Carolina State with Dr. Benjamin E. Mays himself. Hill thought that he wanted to pursue a career as a teacher or better yet an administrator so he could make a little bit more money.

Continuing the tradition, he decided to attend an HBCU. He grew up on the AUC campuses and wanted something different. Hill enrolled at Xavier University on a business scholarship. He worked for Honeybaked Ham and Walgreens and was in New Orleans when Hurricane Katrina hit. When he lost almost all of his material possessions minus what he could pack in a duffel bag, he realized that things could be taken away at any time. He decided to do something he loved. He came back to Atlanta to finish his last few credits at Clark Atlanta and through a partnership with CAU, he got his Xavier degree.

Hill calls it resourceful. I call it a hustler spirit that compelled him to find employment that was off the beaten path. Previously, he went to a Career Fair and stumbled upon a job in the TALL program at GA Labor. He had worked as a camp counselor at the YMCA that’s now named after Ambassador Andrew Young. He was 17 working for the US Census.He met the T Mobile folks at that Career Fair and worked in Sales and moved to LA.

In 2010, Hill married his college sweetheart that he met at Xavier University in New Orleans, Dr. Cherie Hill who is now an OB/GYN at Emory Midtown. Hill grew up in the Atlanta chapter of Jack and Jill of America and he’s honored to continue that tradition. The Hills legacy now includes Carter, age 9, Callie, 6 and Ciara, age 1.

Take the Shot

The path to this role wasn’t exactly a straight one. There were several mentors (and more than a few basketball metaphors) that helped him along the way. Hill didn’t expect it to be easy. He took a chance on doing something he wanted to do. Hill references the great Michael Jordan. He’d rather fail than not take the shot. “You weigh the pros and cons and you take the shot. What can you learn from passing? You can learn more if you take the shot and don’t make it.”

Don’t Be Afraid to Take a Risk

Hill was a super commuter for a year and a half until his first son came along in 2013. He came back to Atlanta to pursue his MBA in Organizational Management at GA State and to be closer to family while the kids were little. He attended the 2014 National Black MBA Association Conference and it ended up changing his life. Magic Johnson spoke about taking risks: movie theaters, restaurants. He was fortunate enough to meet Dawn Kirk – Vice President of Sales and Operations at Coca-Cola Company over the Southeast and was recruited to Coca-Cola Company from T-Mobile USA.

“There’s nothing more Atlanta than Coke.”

Early 2015, he started with the Coca-Cola Company and was on the side of the business that was distribution more hands on, getting the product to stores. The company was intentionally trying to bring in some fresh ideas. He faced discrimination due to being so very young. In telecom, the companies barely lasted a decade. Coca Cola had some employees who came up through the ranks and had worked there for 40 years. He was Area Sales Manager and handled most of the conflicts and specialized in pushing the people forward.

The Influence of Great Mentors

Coca Cola Bottling Company United Inc. took over sales in 2013 when Coca Cola Company was transitioning out of that part of the business. Coca Cola Bottling United Inc. controls the supplying to grocery stores and vending machines. They get the product, the secret recipe syrup owned by the Coca-Cola Company, out to the people.

Hill met some really great people along the way. Craig Williams, a grad of Benedict College, was one of the people in the company that encouraged him. Victor Ragland, Director of Sales at Coca-Cola Company in Atlanta, was his direct supervisor and became a great friend and mentor. Now Ragland is the Division Director for the ‘Atlanta Division’ for the Coca-Cola Bottling Company UNITED. 

The population of Atlanta is extremely diverse and robust. Coke United has an approach that is very local, reflecting its community. Something about that resonated with Hill. Walter Boddie who was the Multicultural Communications Director in Alabama, talked to Hill without any ageism and found many similarities. Mike Suco, Chief Operating Officer and CEO elect with Cuban heritage and Alabama roots promoted Hill to Director over GA leading all Community Affairs and Multi-Cultural Marketing. "He believed in me and trusted me enough to promote me to this Director role, established for the first time in GA’s Coke History." Hill took the opportunity to make connections with the community including organizations like 100 Black Men throughout the state. 

It was at this time that Hill had the ear of the whole company and he became one of the chairs of the D&I department.

Hill wants to see the 5-year plan come to fruition. He was recently named the Corporate Director – Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. The goal is to get the work force to reflect the people that they serve.

Hill talked a little about work life balance and approaching family from a Project Management perspective. He holds a PMP certificate and he applies that knowledge with him as a husband and a dad. “It’s most important to do everything together in love.”

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