As part of the new series on RollerCoasterHR, I hope to explore some reflection questions over time and share these questions and my own answers. The question is posting today with my response coming tomorrow.
The first of these questions:
Who is someone who greatly influenced you in your early career?
4 people quickly come to mind and they are all HR leaders…
One of the first important influences in my current career….Angela Jones, she was a VP of HR at ConAgra Foods. I had just started my own thing (after being invited to leave my last employer) and really had no idea what I was doing. I had a meeting with Angela and she told me that I was a “D&I Rock Star.” While I kind of roll my eyes at that phrase today…I reeeaaaaallllllyyyyy needed to hear it at the time. And it was coming from someone that I had a tremendous amount of respect for, which made it even more magical. She hired me on as a consultant to help her launch their D&I efforts, and ConAgra was my largest single client for the first 2-3 years of my business. It was nice to be able to say (in less than 6 mos. in business) that I did in fact have a Fortune 500 client. I did not fully grasp it at the time, but I think that relationship was a really valuable thing for me at the time. I think that my confidence was a fairly fragile thing in that first year or two in business and Angelas faith in my ability helped me hold it together.
Once upon a time, I didn’t work in anything even approaching HR – I worked for a VOIP start up. I loved it. And the reason I loved it is because the president of the company, Jimmy Howson, was all about letting people figure it out. Jimmy was from London and had been a millionaire and a bust several times over. (Fun fact: He was a roadie for The Animals in the 60s). Jimmy recognized talent and let them find their way if the company needed it. And he challenged me to think beyond what I could do. The company needed a website? He told me to go learn how to do it. Needed an ad for USA Today? Surely I could figure that out. Investor relations? Press releases? How hard could THAT be. Jimmy created an environment I would love to create – freedom to learn, a chance to contribute. The company went the way of the dot-com bubble burst, but I’ll never forget what I learned there.
Thanks Mary. That sounds fabulous!