Alumna Stacey Tank ’02 talks about life in corporate communications and her work with Bright Pink
By Sienna LeeMarch 6, 2017
Newhouse alumna Stacey Tank ’02 is the vice president of corporate communications and external affairs for Home Depot. She graduated summa cum laude in 2002 with a dual degree in television, radio and film from the Newhouse School and marketing from the Martin J. Whitman School of Management.
Prior to joining Home Depot, Tank worked at General Electric in a variety of global communications, finance and audit roles. From there she moved to Heineken USA, where she became the vice president and chief corporate relations officer.
Tank was named to PR Week’s “40 Under 40” and “Power 50” lists, and was also named a “40 Under 40 Rising Star” by the Business Council of Westchester County, New York. She was named a Women in Business honoree by Westchester Magazine/914INC.
Tank is an education ambassador and executive board member of Bright Pink, a nonprofit organization that supports young women who are at high risk for developing breast and ovarian cancer.
Tell me about your job as VP of corporate communications and external affairs.
Every week is different, which is why I love my job! Within each day, I often shift from brainstorming our next big PR campaign to meeting with our non-profit partners in the veteran space to working with our CEO on a strategic communications plan. I spend a lot of time meeting with our associates to talk about their personal development goals to make sure we’re stretching them to reach their highest potential. We also try to spend as much time as possible “in the field”—meaning, in our stores, distribution centers, vendor manufacturing plants and beyond. It’s important to us that every associate understands the business and always thinks about how they can make life easier for our front-life associates.
Which skills did you learn at Newhouse that you now use on a daily basis in your job?
The general spirit of learning, because you are constantly learning. Taking the approach of being a lifelong learner is a huge benefit in business. The experience of working in teams, which I do all the time now. Also, being well-rounded and having an appreciation for all of the different functional areas.
Do you think it’s important for students who want to go into corporate communications to study business or management as well as communications?
I think it’s helpful, in the spirit of being well-rounded. I don’t know that it’s necessarily a requirement, but having curiosity and different types of experiences that get you outside of your domain are really helpful. [That helps you] empathize with the finance leader, or the head of IT, because it’s all a team sport. By having more empathy and appreciation for what the other functions are doing, you’ll be able to contribute to the team better.
You’ve worked with such a variety of companies; how do the cultures differ? What drew you to Home Depot?
I spent nine and a half years at GE and had an incredible experience there. It’s a very well-run company with incredibly smart people—excellent operators, very innovative.
Heineken is a 140-plus-year-old family company, and it’s European-based instead of U.S.-based. So I went from a high-performing, engineering industrial American company to a family-owned Dutch company, from a digital-industrial company to a consumer packaged goods company. So you can imagine how those feel a little bit different. But Heineken very much had that spirit of family, and the Heineken family really was the backbone and culture of the company.
When I came to Home Depot, I actually found a mix of both of those things. I found a really high-performing team, super smart people and excellent operators, but it’s only a 38-year-old business, and you have people who have been here 20, 25, 30 years. Our two founders, Bernie Marcus and Arthur Blank, are still alive. It does have a family feeling.
What made you want to get involved with the organization Bright Pink?
About seven years ago, my mom was diagnosed with advanced ovarian cancer, and we found out that she was a carrier of the BRCA1 mutation, which gives you a 54 percent lifetime risk of ovarian cancer and an 87 percent lifetime risk of breast cancer. When I was tested, my results were positive for the mutation as well. This meant that I had a lot to think about when it came to taking steps to reduce my risk.
During the process of finding out that I was a carrier, I found Bright Pink—through Google. Literally, just serendipitous Googling! And I signed up to have a mentor through the Bright Pink organization, and it really, really helped me. Especially because I was in my 20s, and never thought I would be faced with the kinds of choices that I was being faced with. In the subsequent years, I had a prophylactic bilateral mastectomy and later, a prophylactic full hysterectomy. I always want to give back and help young women who are facing the same thing, because I know how much it helped me.
What words of wisdom would you share with current students at Newhouse?
I would probably just say three things: work hard, be generous and be kind. I really believe in those things. They will serve you very well, no matter which path you take.
Sienna Lee is a sophomore public relations major at the Newhouse School.