WillowTree names Kelli Palmer as new Chief Diversity Officer

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Virginia—June 14, 2022—WillowTree, a market-leading digital product consultancy serving the world’s most admired brands, today announces the appointment of Kelli Palmer as its new Chief Diversity Officer. Palmer will report to CEO Tobias Dengel and join the company’s executive leadership team.

Kelli Palmer joins WillowTree to support and expand its existing Diversity Equity and Inclusion (DEI) and social impact commitments. Palmer will play a key role in these programs, as well as supporting WillowTree’s environmental, social, corporate governance, and ongoing efforts to drive diversity and equity in its workforce demographics. 

“I look at everything through the lens of ESG—environmental, social, governance,” said Palmer. “Environment writ large is not simply about sustainability, it’s about people and culture and how we leave each other better than we found each other. I’m fascinated by how WillowTree can reframe its technology expertise and engage client-partners in the art of problem solving for the communal good. I truly believe we can increase the value proposition for our prospective employees, utilizing and leveraging the commitments we've already made and then making our intention endemic within our entire organization.”

Since 2017, WillowTree has been part of the Pledge 1% network, providing world class digital services to leading charities and non-profits at substantially reduced costs. This includes the company’s Community Outreach efforts to bridge the digital divide—connecting local nonprofits to WillowTree’s offices in Charlottesville, Durham, Columbus, New York, and Vancouver. Through organizations like Charlottesville’s Computers For Kids (C4K), WillowTree exposes underrepresented youth to new technologies and career paths through school visits, office tours, and mentorship.

For more than a decade Palmer served as Head of Global Inclusion & Diversity and Corporate Citizenship at CFA Institute, a global association of investment professionals. In this role, Palmer led the strategic direction of their internal Inclusion & Diversity program and drove the execution of related initiatives, projects, events, and programming. This included strategies to improve the organization’s ability to recruit, retain, and promote an inclusive, diverse, and culturally competent employee base. Palmer is passionate about data and its implications, be it quantitative or qualitative, and her talent for developing strategy and translating it into action will be a substantial asset to WillowTree.

“I want WillowTree to be the North Star on topics of diversity, equity and inclusion in the tech landscape,” said Tobias Dengel, CEO of WillowTree. “That inherently requires something bold and visionary, and that’s where Kelli comes in. DEI is often confined to hiring demographics and ERGs, which are hugely important, but Kelli’s vision goes far beyond these internal initiatives and metrics, pushing us to think of our role as industry and community leaders. How can WillowTree rethink our power to convene—our ability to work with client-partners and community partners—and build digital tools that serve the greater good?” 

“The combination of ingredients at WillowTree is hard to find,” said Kelli Palmer. “The leadership, the maturity of the company, the people and culture, the community partnerships, and the audacious DEI commitments made to date all blend into a symbiotic ecosystem that represents an extraordinary opportunity for growth. In terms of how WillowTree treats its people and collaborates with Charlottesville and other regional communities, they’ve done so much already in the DEI space. They got the soil fertile and now my job is to further cultivate all they’ve established.”

Prior to joining CFA in 2011, Palmer amassed over a decade of experience in educational institutions, including Sweet Briar College, the Institute for Shipboard Education, and University of Virginia–taking a short leave of absence from UVa during the 2008 election cycle to lead an unprecedented registration and mobilization effort focused on Black rural voters. 

Kelli Palmer earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Elementary Education from Elon University, where she is now a member of the Board of Trustees. She received her Master’s Degree in Counselor Education from Wake Forest University, and a Ph.D. in Higher Education Administration from the University of Virginia. A lifelong learner, she studied at Oxford University and has earned graduate certificates from Boston College and Harvard University. Palmer is an active contributor on numerous local and state nonprofit Boards, including the University of Virginia Physicians Group, Community Climate Collaborative (C3), Peabody School, and the Piedmont Virginia Community College Foundation. In addition to her educational and professional accomplishments, she is a classically trained vocalist and former member of the Washington Opera Company.

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