March 1, 2022

How Women in Leadership at Eightfold Are Realizing Their Potential

At Eightfold, we are inspired by the women who lead our organization. They have had fascinating, varied careers, starting their own businesses, leading companies through transformations, and now, leading this fast-growing, mission-driven organization.

Their journeys differ, but what they have in common is their dedication to hiring and promoting based on capabilities and potential.

As we celebrate Women’s History Month, the following is a brief introduction to some of the women in leadership roles at Eightfold who embody potential and continue to champion Eightfold’s mission of the “right career for everyone in the world.”

If you also are inspired by that mission, visit our careers site. We’re growing, and committed to building a diverse and inclusive community.

Frances Brooks Taplett, VP of Customer Success, was inspired by her mother, who was one of the first female professors in comparative literature at Brown University and became chair of the department and dean of the graduate school.

Taplett says that she has gotten every job she has had by believing in what she is capable of doing.

When she was at Boston Consulting Group (BCG), she took a chance on herself by asking to lead the consulting people team. Just by raising her hand and believing in her own capabilities, a partner at the firm noticed her enthusiasm and potential and helped to coach her into the role.

“I feel the same way about Eightfold,” she says. “I don’t have experience as a leader of customer success, but I have experience as a chief people officer and in consulting. I’m building these new skills based on both experience and potential. Though sometimes I do have a bit of imposter syndrome when I think about what I’m trying to do!”

As she grows into her own role, Taplett is passionate about helping organizations overcome diversity challenges and championing the success of other women in the workplace. “I’ve done this work before joining Eightfold and am excited to now be at an organization that does it as part of its core mission. In particular I am focused on how we bring more under-represented populations into the workforce and support them to thrive within their organizations. It has to be more than just getting people in the door. We also need to create spaces and advancement opportunities that are equitable for all.”

Jen Huntrakoon, VP of Professional Services, is the embodiment of the “hiring for skills, not for degrees” ethos.

“I started my career straight out of high school with no idea of what I wanted to do in life,” she says. “All I knew is that I wanted to work in London, in an office, and to make enough money to be independent!”

For financial reasons, college wasn’t an option for her. So, she went into recruitment stores in London at the age of 16, perusing jobs posted on pieces of paper on the wall. According to Jen, she was given (and failed) a typing test, and no other skills were assessed. Finally, she landed a job as a filing clerk for the government’s legal aid office. “They just saw a 16-year-old girl who couldn’t type and had no experience, so I got to file pieces of paper in a basement,” she says. “If only we had Eightfold back then!”

After a few months and many paper cuts, she took her skills to a role at Prudential, followed by a series of roles at other firms with increasing responsibility. “What I love most about Eightfold, and one of the reasons I joined, is that its technology actually enables hiring for potential and puts your career in your own hands.”

Ligia Zamora, Chief Marketing Officer, says her career journey was not a straightforward one. “I didn’t go to college thinking one day I want to be a CMO,” she says. “As a matter of fact, I never even considered marketing as a career. I have pivoted various times in my career, from civil engineering to business development to product management, to marketing. I mostly just followed my curiosity and desire to learn new things.”

As was the case for her, she believes careers are non-linear. “If you have the smarts, curiosity, and desire to learn new things, you can figure it out. I call these people athletes. You are limiting yourself if you only look at past skills. Plus nobody wants to be hired to do the job they once performed five years ago. So I have always hired for potential and never regretted it.”

When it comes to work-life balance, Zamora admits she’s struggled a bit in the past with turning off work. But at Eightfold she has at least one three-day weekend monthly. Beyond that she is committing to sleeping well, riding her Peloton “religiously,” and lately, logging off at 5:30 p.m. to take a walk. “I also ensure I take the weekends to hike or explore the outdoors. I no longer have access to my emails or calendar on my phone.”

Celia Poon, Chief Financial Officer, says that she has worked mainly in roles where traditionally Asian women are a minority. “I have kept the mindset of not thinking too much about it, not being overly aware of it,” she says. “I figure that if I don’t succeed, I will work harder and not blame it on who I am.”

Says Poon: “One thing in hindsight that I should have done better is to be more aware of areas women are typically weaker in and try to overcompensate consciously. For example, raising my hand for opportunities, and being more assertive earlier in my career.”

Now, her personal mission is to help other people’s careers. She’s particularly interested in mentoring people who have the desire to become finance leaders.

In her free time, Poon loves to travel internationally, but with the pandemic, she has learned to be more of a homebody. She decompresses by taking daily walks, doing Ikebana (Japanese flower arrangement, pictured), and cooking. “A good night’s sleep is the best form of decompression,” she says.

Shubhi Jain, Senior HR Manager, says she has had “moments of joy and despair, success and defeat,” but none of it has stopped her from achieving her ambitions and living her dream.

That dream began in a small town, Dehradun, India, where, without a premium university degree, she had fewer opportunities. Soon after her Master’s, she found herself working as an HR associate with a U.S.-based IT company.

She recalls everything feeling so new and different, from the people to the place to the work, and is grateful for her older sister who supported her through the change.

She’s a big believer in luck … and hard work. “You have to continue putting in the hard work to achieve your goals, whether personal or professional, and the results will follow,” Shubhi says. “Just continue to believe in yourself.”

“At every organization that I have worked with, management has put trust in my potential, and that has helped me in my journey,” she says. “Not having a tier-one college degree often leaves you with fewer choices, but having been hired for my potential, it has enabled me to achieve my goals and work for amazing organizations like Eightfold. Looking back, I wonder if it was not for others (and myself) believing in my potential, how I would have gotten my first job offer.”

Andrea Shiah, Head of Talent Strategy & Transformation, says she has had a “Forrest Gump-like career experience of being in interesting places during interesting times.” She marketed the historic re-opening of Ellis Island. She helped AT&T learn to compete following deregulation of telecom. She started her own successful business at age 27. She managed a partnership with Disney post-9/11 as it weathered a slowdown in travel. And helped restart credit card growth after the 2008 credit crisis.

Today, she’s helping Eightfold’s customers as they navigate skills shortages and business transformations. “I could only have had this diverse career experience because leaders believed in my potential to learn about a new area and drive improvements,” Shiah says. “That is why when I interview, I look for individuals who have a natural curiosity to understand, are energized by challenges, and also have pride in driving results. These behaviors show potential to learn and succeed, and count for more than pedigree of school or prior companies.”

 

By Lila Schoenfield and Todd Raphael