A lot can happen in the middle of nowhere. For me, ten days at a founders’ retreat in the Montana wilderness — three of which were spent in isolation — led to a direction in my career that I can’t exactly call new, even though it’s officially much different than what I’ve been doing these past several years.
Since I was a kid I’ve loved helping people, and throughout my career, I’ve been most engaged when working with people on my team to uncover and develop the best version of themselves. For as long as I can remember, I’ve believed in helping people unlock their true potential. That’s why I worked as a pastor and in nonprofits early in my career, and went on to earn a master’s degree in organizational communication. It’s also why seven years ago I made the decision to leave my comfortable job to start a company with this really smart, scrappy 21-year-old, and why we’ve been focused on employee engagement for the last four years.
Leading and developing a sales team
Until recently, I’ve spent my time at Emplify leading our sales team as Vice President of Sales. It made sense for me to take on the challenge of building out our sales function, and as the company was launching, that’s where I was needed most. Leading the sales team has been a highlight of my career, and watching people on my team work together to both grow the business and unlock opportunities for themselves personally has been a true joy.
While developing my team and building relationships with customers was my main focus, shaping our culture internally has always been something for which I feel personally responsible. As co-founder, I’ve always viewed myself as the “heartbeat” of the organization and unofficially done everything I could to build and grow a healthy, thriving culture.
We always knew that a role like the one I’m now assuming deserved full-time focus; we just had to be patient until the company grew to a size where it could support that role.
I’m happy to say, that time is now.
Transitioning to Chief People Officer
I’m happy to have recently taken on a re-envisioned role at Emplify — one in which I can combine the full power of our resources and fantastic team with work I’m truly passionate about.
When you’re building a startup, you’re selling your team on the dream of what can be and getting them fired up to win and grow professionally. Leading our sales team gave me the chance to develop not just the team but the individuals within it.
Sales (especially in a startup environment) can be a psychologically-taxing job, and comes with a constant cycle of highs and lows. I had to learn to be my very best at work every day (no matter what the day held) so helping others do the same was a logical progression. I take great pride in building highly-engaged, productive, and motivated teams. I feel it’s my purpose and something I will always do. Now I get to continue those efforts on a larger scale and across all functions in the organization.
Moving from Emplify’s VP of Sales to its Chief People Officer has been a big shift in priorities for me. Up to this point, I’ve spent my time showing other leaders how to use our product and methodology to drive high-performing teams. I’ll continue to be a resource for those leaders, but in my new role, I’m excited to focus on building the most engaged, highest-performing team right here at Emplify.
Building a strategic people operations “laboratory”
The human resources landscape has changed dramatically over the last 20 years. Once relegated to an administrative function, employees were viewed as, well… resources rather than unique individuals. With unemployment at an all-time low and employee expectations changing, the People Operations function of a business needs to be strategic, now more than ever.
In my new role, I hope to be a champion in this movement from administrative HR to strategic People Operations. As an employee engagement company, people look to us for best practices and guidance on creating engaged teams. That’s why I’m turning our People Operations team into an innovation lab, where we’ll reimagine our workspace as a lab environment. We’ll use this opportunity to create an extraordinary culture by experimenting right here at home — and I’ll report on those ideas as we go.
I couldn’t be more amped to have found just the right teammate to accomplish these goals: Our new Director of People Operations, Gabby VanAlstine — an innovative people leader and former professor of Human Resources at Indiana University Kokomo. Together, we’ll be on the leading edge of people operations, and be in a great position to share our learnings with other leaders trying to make the transition.
Change, learning, and filling out my new shoes
Growing into this position took time — for me and for Emplify. Moving on from a sales leadership role where I felt at home into this completely new role means a lot of new challenges. It means a lot of learning, asking questions, reading, studying, and especially… listening.
I’m both overwhelmed and exhilarated. And given how often I’ve felt like a kid in clown shoes during this transition, I’d have to also call it humbling. That being said, it’s a transition many People leaders are making and one that I will make transparently, so you can follow along as I experiment, learn — and stub my toes.
I couldn’t be more delighted to be right here right now. I owe a debt of thanks to this superb team, our customers through the years, my co-founder Santiago (who believes in me deeply and constantly challenges me to find my best self in order to unlock our business), and of course that weird, challenging, enlightening time in the woods.