Nelda J. Connors
By Therese Van Ryne | March 07, 2023

Exclusive Interview: How Unique Experiences and Exemplary People Have Helped Ground and Propel Nelda J. Connors Throughout Her Award-Winning Career

She may be one of the most powerful women in business, but Nelda’s strength is empowering others to succeed in business and life. Learn how this hands-on CEO and consultant is giving people the power they need to grow.

Some say our futures are rooted in our past, and perhaps to a certain extent that’s true. But Nelda J. Connors has proved that when you cut loose a little – when you branch out further than what may be considered “normal” – you are more likely to grow. 

For example, if you met her today in the Zebra Technologies board room or any other business setting, you would probably be surprised to learn she was once an engineer – as well as a sound engineer. That’s right, this high-profile dealmaker, CEO and world-renowned strategic business consultant was once a roadie with a traveling band. It’s actually that experience that she credits with giving her the courage to take a risk and start her own business at the height of her corporate career. Well, that and her family, many of whom are entrepreneurs themselves.  

As we transition from Black History Month to Women’s History Month, I thought it would be interesting to learn more about where Nelda comes from and where she’s headed next. Tune in now to our recent conversation to learn:

  • How she landed in her current position as founder and CEO of an investment firm, after being a sound engineer for a local band in high school and, eventually, a college-educated engineer.

  • Why she took the risk to leave corporate America after 20+ years and start her own business at age 45, regardless of others’ opinions.

  • Why so many companies turn to her, including Zebra, and what she personally and professionally gains from – and in return, gives back to – the many different boards with which she is engaged. 

  • How she builds trust and rapport with the companies she advises and how she gets those on the other side of the table to listen to her and achieve alignment.

  • How she chooses which companies to buy and invest in as CEO of Pine Grove Holdings, LLC.

  • How she earned her reputation as a “strategic growth accelerator” and what it really takes to drive growth at struggling companies without cutting jobs. (She always recommends that companies right-size resources from a people perspective first, even if that means hiring.)

  • Why she will never turn down exploring an opportunity because you never know what the potential outcome might be. 

  • Why she will always speak up in a meeting she’s invited to, even if she isn’t necessarily addressed directly (and why you should too).

It will quickly become clear why this Forbes 50 Over 50 honoree was also named one of the most powerful women in business by Black Enterprise Magazine and one of the Top 25 Black Board Members in the U.S.



Editor’s Note:

If you’d like to hear from more inspiring women like Nelda, visit the Your Edge blog and browse our extensive library of podcast and written interviews. 

Best Practices, Inside Zebra Nation, Leadership, Podcast,
Therese Van Ryne
Therese Van Ryne

Therese Van Ryne is Senior Director of External Communications for Zebra Technologies. She joined Zebra as part of the acquisition of Motorola Solutions Enterprise business in October 2014. She and her team are laser focused on growing the company’s brand awareness globally aligned with business objectives. Her accomplishments include leading Zebra events with Harvard University and TED as well as the creation of the annual Intelligent Enterprise Index, resulting in positive media coverage, customer engagement and revenue growth.

Prior to Motorola Solutions, Van Ryne worked at SC Johnson where she led corporate communication strategies and drove PR and branding efforts for leading consumer products. One of her top achievements was leading the Windex® placement in the film, “My Big Fat Greek Wedding,” resulting in a 25% sales increase for the brand.

One of PR News’ 2019 Top Women in PR and Crain's Chicago's 2021 Most Notable Executives in Marketing, Therese also has experience as a journalist, editor and producer, reporting nightly from Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. Van Ryne holds a bachelor’s degree in Communications and Journalism from Marquette University and an Executive Leadership Master’s Certificate from Cornell University.

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