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Q&A with Barbara Donaldson, Synopsys Sr. VP of Workplace Resources: Building an Exceptional Work Environment

environmental sustainability at synopsys

By Editorial Team

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic and associated shelter-in-place directives, Synopsys’ roughly 15,000 employees worked in offices located in 30 countries around the world. Some have returned to those offices in regions where it is safe to do so. Barbara Donaldson, the company’s senior vice president of workplace resources, leads a worldwide team that is responsible for managing each of the company’s sites. Earlier this year, she was honored as an Outstanding Corporate Executive for her efforts in driving sustainability—a passion for the company and for her. We recently chatted with Donaldson about the highlights so far of her 25-year career with Synopsys. Read on.

Q: Tell us a little about your career path and what drove your interest in the field of workplace resources.

A: Career paths often chose us. When I started my career, there weren’t roles mapped out for specific areas, like corporate facilities or real estate manager. I’ve always been interested in working with people, seeing the tangible results of my work, and having diverse responsibilities. I started in office management and pursued opportunities to expand my responsibilities, developed skills and knowledge, and was fortunate to be at companies and working with leaders that encouraged my growth.

While working at Synopsys, I took advantage of the educational program support and started on my college journey, earning my bachelor’s degree in organizational development from the University of San Francisco and an MBA through a joint program with UC Berkeley and Columbia University.

Q: What are the elements of an exceptional work environment?

A: The work environment encompasses many factors. Of course, there is the physical space, where people need to feel they can be productive and engage with peers. Providing diverse options in the workplace enable people to adapt their work style to the work being done…whether it is heads-down, focused work or brainstorming with a team. Beyond the physical space, it is about creating an environment that fosters creativity and innovation and community.

Q: What is a typical day like for you?

A: There are a lot of meetings, which I try to manage effectively. Much of my work is collaborative, engaging with the team and peers throughout the day. I spend time on many longer term, strategic planning projects, as well as managing global and diverse responsibilities. My day might start with India in the morning and end with China. I enjoy the opportunity to engage with my peers across the organization and the globe.

Q: What are some of your proudest achievements so far from your 25-year career at Synopsys?

A: My team! I have such a strong team. Many have been with Synopsys for many years, providing a robust bench of knowledge. Equally valuable are our newer members that bring new ideas and challenge us. We’ve grown together, we’ve learned together, we’ve gone through many challenges together. As the team has grown, we’ve created and led many initiatives,  adding value to the company and how we work. We’re known as a team that you can count on to get things done.

I’d like to highlight a few other achievements from our different regions:

  • Bangalore was one of our first international projects, bringing together teams disbursed in multiple sites, creating a new development that we embarked upon from the ground up.
  • In Armenia, after several acquisitions, we saw the value in bringing these distinct groups together under one roof. This was a challenging effort as there wasn’t much infrastructure in place in terms of real estate brokers and construction companies.
  • Our Wuhan site in China, just a few years ago, was accomplished through a joint venture with a developer, engaging local government and great partnering with our China team members.
  • Moving our headquarters was a major initiative. It was very exciting to move to a new site, but also required extensive change management as we transformed our offices from more dated designs to a more open floorplan designed for collaboration and support. Engaging employees in the process was a rewarding experience and ensured everyone was part of the process.
Q: What advice would you offer to other women who are interested in achieving leadership positions in their organizations?

A: Don’t wait to be a leader, or to be asked to be a leader. You can be a leader without being in an official leadership role. A leader is a leader of people—someone others look to as being accountable, someone who listens to and respects others’ opinions, and someone people want to work with. Take courses for self-development—it’s really about owning your own path.

Q: Tell us about your commitment to sustainability. Why is this important to you, and what role do you think the business world has in this?

A: Synopsys and I have been very interested in pursuing sustainable activities for more than a decade, from our recycling programs to our LEED-certified buildings (covering more than 30% of our worldwide footprint). What can we as a business do further? We can influence upstream and downstream throughout our supply chain. We can pursue carbon offset projects. And we can participate in programs like the Virtual Power Purchase Agreement (VPPA) that we recently signed, in which we’re joining with three other companies to finance the development and construction of a wind farm in Texas to mitigate approximately 70% of our projected North American emissions. This supports our greenhouse gas emissions reduction target of 25% by 2024.

Q: What does the Outstanding Corporate Executive recognition from the Sustainability Roundtable mean to you?

A: I was very honored to receive this. The folks at the Sustainability Roundtable noted that they’re more accustomed to having people on their association where sustainability is their full-time job. I was a little bit of an anomaly in that sustainability was initially not my area of expertise, but is knowledge I’ve developed over time. I’m passionate about this initiative and I’m representing a company that is passionate about it as well. I’ve been educated on the subject and have been able to drive initiatives in our company.

Q: Outside of your work, what are you passionate about?

A: I’m an outdoors person, so I love hiking and walking and nature. And I enjoy traveling. When I visit our regional offices, I always take a moment to better understand the cultures in these locations.

In Case You Missed It

Catch up on these recent blog posts about Synopsys sustainability efforts: