Intro to The Diary of a CPO
An Honest Blog
How it all started on LinkedIn
When I first started posting on LinkedIn back in 2015, I did so because I had made a career switch going from working in publicly traded corporations to fast-growing startups, particularly in the tech industry. I didn’t have many connections to peers in tech and I wanted to build a network of people who were facing similar challenges as I was. I had no idea where to start so I just started making random connection requests with people who worked at similar companies like I did. This included connecting with Founders and CEOs who were building really interesting companies and solving complex problems. The world of tech fascinated me so much and after working my entire life at companies that enforced rigid rules on how to do things, how to manage things, and how to think…I felt free and incredibly excited to finally be able to roll up my sleeves and build things without the bureaucracy.
I started posting on LinkedIn, slowly at first, sharing interesting articles and adding my thoughts. Then I became more bold and started posting my beliefs here and there about HR, leadership and startups. Eventually I started sharing longer posts about my experiences, my failures and my learnings. The more honest and authentic my posts became, the more followers I gained. I started getting connection requests from senior leaders, executives and Founders/CEOs. Even if these leaders never “liked” my posts or rarely commented, they always DM’d me after one of my posts went viral and shared that they aligned with my thoughts and beliefs. These DM’s often led to coffee meetings where I was asked to elaborate further on my thoughts and most often than not, we had similarities on how we wanted to build a company and engage with the people within it.
“You’re really different”
A comment I heard over and over again was, “I never met an HR leader like you before. You’re really different.”
I used to think about that a lot but now when I hear it, it doesn’t surprise me anymore. I think it’s because I always felt like I “fell into HR” but I never truly operated in the traditional HR model. HR work is hard, but it’s even harder when you can’t influence people, and when you can’t influence people, you can’t make changes because the work you do in HR requires many hands to help you get things over the line. You can’t force managers to lead a certain way, but you can influence them to understand why a new way of leading might be better than their current way of leading. You can’t force employees to be happy, but you can influence how to make the right changes occur in the business to develop their growth and contribute to their success. Influence takes a lot of work because you have to do many things at once that might not always be scaleable. You have to communicate across many different channels and sometimes with many individuals. You need to stay consistent with your beliefs and ensure that you walk the talk. You also need to set the example because nobody wants to see HR delegating rules and then breaking them behind the scenes. It’s a tough job with a tough crowd. HR has often been called the “thankless job” and I think about that often throughout my career. Unlike generating revenue or building successful products, HR sounds dull and less impactful, but I always felt that I had a far more important job as an HR leader because it involved developing people - the people that would be doing all these amazing things to build a great company. Without people, you don’t have a business.
My love and hate relationship with HR
So I operated the HR function with gusto and dove into all the things that could make a company and its people truly great. At the same time, there are so many aspects of HR that I truly don’t love. I don’t love managing the backend operations of HR like payroll, benefits and administration. But I do love working with the great people that manage these functions and do them so well. I don’t love being the “complaints department” or managing the “people problems” but I can manage those issues with fairness and without bias because that’s how I would want someone to manage them for me (being objective is more difficult than people think - if you can’t do it well, don’t go into HR and don’t be a judge either). Let’s not forget that HR also manages RIFs and restructurings that occur at any company, whatever the company size, maturity or industry. Nobody enjoys letting people go, period. So if I have to manage that, I ensure that decisions are made critically and in the person’s best interest. Releasing someone from their job is one of the hardest things a manager will ever go through, but if I can help to ensure that we can transition that person with as much empathy and dignity as possible, then I’ve done the best transition possible. Empathy includes the financial support you provide to get them back on their feet and the introductions you can make to find their new home so they can thrive. You should always be grateful for the time and effort they put into your company, especially when they depart.
So what exactly do I love about HR? I think it’s all the things that become part of the job in HR but it may not be the core function of HR. I love contributing to making big strategic decisions that affect the trajectory of the company. I love working alongside world-class leaders and supporting them through their vertical challenges. I love working closely with the CEO, the Board, the investors, the advisors. I love bringing external insights internally so we can make decisions in a 360 holistic way versus in a vacuum. It’s all about building a company to become GREAT at what they do, and coming full circle, I realized that in order for a company to be great, they have to have great people. Someone once told me, the greatest problems at a company always relate to people, and the greatest successes at a company always relate to people. So no matter how much I dislike the HR function on some days, the reality is that we all work in HR if we work with people. The more leaders realize that the HR function is a people leadership function, the better (and there’s no greater HR leader than the CEO herself).
An honest blog
As I come back to my intro and I think about how it all started on LinkedIn, I am grateful for the connections I made that helped me through my biggest challenges in HR (and some of my darkest days). I’m grateful for some of the most fascinating people I’ve ever met (I’ll share some of those stories in my upcoming posts) and some of the epic stories they shared with me (yes, fascinating people are amazing story tellers). I’m also grateful that I met some people who were also disingenuous said a lot of things about me behind my back (but I would have respected them more if they had the courage to tell me these things to my face). In the end, I’ve met so many incredible people who became some of my greatest supporters and friends. Over the years, many of you have told me to write a book, start a blog, build a podcast or publish a newsletter. The Diary of a CPO is my version of an honest blog where I share personal stories on my journey as an HR leader and my experiences meeting and working with amazing people. I hope my stories can provide you with great ideas, some motivation, a few laughs and hopefully, a spark of inspiration. We all know HR can be known for policies, procedures and bad cop personas but I hope that you can all read a small snippet of my journey and hopefully enjoy my stories. Thanks for taking the time. I would love to hear from you if you read this first chapter. Don’t forget to subscribe or share what you’d like to hear more about!