How often do you get to meet the CEO of your company, let alone get to work side-by-side with them on a project, product or support issue?
Tammi Kroll became CEO of Gravity Payments in 2022, but it’s not where she started. Growing up in an inland state, hard work is key to success, and she was no stranger to long days, dirty jobs and miniscule pay.
As a teenager, she worked more jobs than most have in their entire career. She developed her strong work ethic by walking the local Iowa fields, detasseling corn for farmers, gained real-life experience in customer service by selling shoes, working the third shift at a gas station, waitressing and helping her parents manage a restaurant. While still in highschool, Tammi accepted full-time employment at a meat packing plant as a line worker, boxing meat for lockers and grocery stores, an opportunity she was thankful for and never thought she’d get.
By her mid-20s, Tammi decided to leave the manual labor of lifting animal carcasas off a conveyor belt to run her own daycare. As her own kids went off to school, she decided to enroll in night school at Iowa Western Community College. After completing her first associate’s degree in general studies, she grabbed a local newspaper to research which job opportunities would pay her most and went back to school for it. Who knew her desire to be paid more in the mid 1990s would lead her to graduate at the top of her class with another associate degree in computer programming?
After community college, Tammi was invited to an internship program with the world’s largest 3rd party bank, now called Fiserv. With a $10/hour starting wage, she continued to spend the next 15 years working her way up the corporate ladder. From programmer to engineering manager to director of operations to eventually, the VP of North America Operations managing over 350 employees.
Having dedicated the majority of her career to the payment processing industry, Tammi decided to take a new challenge and learn a new industry.. Her next career move would be an executive role at Yahoo, Inc., as the VP of Global Operations working directly with the C-level staff, board members and over 300 employees globally. Her role consisted of leading tier 1 and tier 2 engineering operations, a tools engineering team, building SRE (site reliability engineering) teams from the ground up, along with being responsible for incident, problem and change management and business continuity planning and disaster recovery.
When asking Tammi what she loved most about working for a Fortune 500 company, she stated “Having resources to help others. The employee resource groups like YEF (yahoo employee foundation) was a perk I wasn’t expecting.” One way she integrated her passion for helping others into her role at Yahoo was during her trips to Bangalore to meet her teams. In India, she was able to give her personal time lending a hand at Parikrma Humanity Foundation, several NGO schools and a self-sustainable center for older people, orphans and vocational training, Vishranthi. On more than one occasion she was able to share these experiences with her mother and daughter.
As is the case for many lifelong workaholics, the job isn’t always as fulfilling as the perks are great in large corporate companies. After 4 years at Yahoo, Tammi started looking for more fulfillment in her work and every day challenge. Somewhere where she could make a bigger impact and learn the business from end-to-end.
As a once small business owner, raised by small business owners, Tammi understood the difficulties many face to be able to compete, grow, and sustain their businesses. When hearing about Dan Price’s 70K minimum wage announcement, she knew it was something she wanted to be a part of, but wasn’t sure if it was for real. After meeting with Dan and the employees at Gravity, Tammi decided to take the leap and move from sunny Silicon Valley to rainy Seattle, take a significant pay cut, and start her then role as CIO/CTO/COO of Gravity Payments.
The transition to working at Gravity wasn’t easy, she struggled with imposter syndrome and feared she may not be able to adapt quickly enough to the work culture. For the last 20 years, she worked with peers and managers of relatively the same age, but now was walking into a professional pool made up of young millennials who 100% knew the business inside and out. Stating this was scary but a privilege to get to work with such a large group of highly motivated and talented people, like Shawn Wright, Rosita Barlow, Alex Price, Cary Chin, and Edwin Dutton to name a few.
Coming in with fresh eyes, and decades of experience in payments, Tammi was able to make positive impacts for both employees and merchants. Leading projects to improve efficiencies and work with other Gravity leaders to ensure putting the employee and merchant first was priority and a sustainable business decision.
In late 2022 and after 7 years of running the day-to-day operations at Gravity, Tammi transitioned to the role of CEO. As she continues to lead at Gravity, Tammi is dedicated to uphold the company’s values of creative leadership, complete transparency and advocating for our merchants.
Tammi’s unconventional path to CEO-hood was forged in hard work, the fortune of a supportive family and a little luck. As a woman in her 50s could she have gotten here faster? Probably. Like many women, getting a seat at the table wasn’t always easy. Women during the time of her corporate climb didn’t apply for higher leadership roles because they often had to prove their worth and past successes versus earning a position based on future potential.
“Women take themselves out of the running too often,” Tammi said. “They don’t think they can do 100% of what’s being asked – for them they have to check all of the boxes before they put themselves out there. Generally speaking, executive men look at a job description and don’t let the laundry list of qualifications they don’t have stop them from pursuing the role. “