Updated for 2020
There are few better ways to improve your recruiting than by learning from industry leaders. Whether it’s reading quick nuggets of information on Twitter or sitting down with a 300-page book, learning from people who have been there and done it is a must if you want to make the most of your career — and your organization’s current HR efforts.
Thought-provoking, actionable insights await when you set aside time to read anything the 29 Silicon Valley CHROs below write.
Leanne Bernhardt, CHRO at SaaS company Xactly, is an experienced people-management practitioner with a wealth of knowledge gleaned in the SaaS and hardware industries. Bernhardt is committed to developing women leaders, championing their personal and professional development. At Xactly, Bernhardt oversees all HR functions, community outreach initiatives, and growing diversity and inclusion practices.
In addition to her role, Bernhardt serves as an advisor to the executive team and board of directors compensation committee.
Laszlo Bock is one of the most influential, respected, and well-known HR professional Silicon Valley has ever produced. He built and led the HR division of Google for 10 years, during which time Google was named among the best companies to work for more than 30 times and was recognized as an employer of choice more than 100 times.
His book, WORK RULES!, provides actionable insight into how Google became the leading tech talent powerhouse. Anyone looking to build a world-class team or create a unique company culture should read that one cover to cover.
Today, Bock is the CEO and co-founder of Humu, a startup that uses machine learning to drive behavioral change in organizations.
Barbie Brewer has more than 20 years of HR experience in Silicon Valley. This includes stints at Tiburon (VP of human resources), Netflix (VP of talent), GitLab (chief culture officer), Marqeta (chief people officer), and, most recently, as chief people officer at LovetoKnow Media, one of the largest digital media companies in the U.S.
As VP of talent at Netflix, Brewer managed an HR team that supported more than 1,500 employees. She also oversaw the opening of the company’s first international offices and helped the company grow from 20 million subscribers in North America to 100 million subscribers across the world.
Brewer is passionate about creating inclusive working cultures and challenging biases. She recently wrote a Quartz article outlining the importance of seeking situations and experiences that challenge our biases:
“If you feel men are better at engineering, attend ‘Women in Technology’ events to see all the amazing talent. If you feel that women are better at childcare, spend some time with a stay-at-home dad to see how great they can be. I tell my kids every day that if anything can be done, they can do it. We also need to tell ourselves that about people who are different from us.”
Genentech’s head of people and organization development Andrew Chandler has spent much of his career helping large companies build their teams. He has helped deliver successful and diverse corporate cultures, and implement change management programs.
In order to fulfill Genentech’s commitment to supporting patients by discovering new medical treatments, Chandler has helped build a team that is agile, is diverse, is talented, and buys into the company’s mission.
Sameer Chowdhri is global head of HR solutions at Workplace from Facebook. He has ample experience as an HR generalist and recruiting expert in high-growth companies such as Facebook, Microsoft, Accenture, and GE.
Chowdhri shares his knowledge with executives to help them deliver cultural transformation, change management, and tech implementation such as AI and machine learning HR bots for recruiting and onboarding.
Trisha Colton is the head of global executive search, digital marketing, and sales talent acquisition at Adobe. Her experience includes leading global recruitment teams in the EMEA region, the APAC region, and Japan.
She’s responsible for more than 5,000 new hires a year, and her recruitment teams are diverse enough to entice the best talent to work for the firm. Colton has also helped to staff teams at Amazon, eBay, and Yahoo.
Jabu Dayton boasts a long list of clients whom she serves as a CPO and executive coach. Her previous experience includes leading HR teams at Airbnb, TaskRabbit, Shyp, and Abstract. She tells Emily Fields Joffrion at Forbes how she began with a team of 40 at Airbnb, working in a garage, and quickly scaled that team up to 500 in a matter of months.
XCOM Labs CHRO Tamar Elkeles is an expert in organizational development and human capital. She regularly shares her insights with publications such as CLO, Training, T&D, and HR Executive.
She’s also the author of three books: The Chief Learning Officer, Measuring the Success of Learning Through Technology, and The Chief Talent Officer.
John Foster, CPO at TrueCar, believes in staffing human-centred businesses that prioritize diversity and inclusivity to further people’s development. He speaks of an agile talent model that can adapt to companies’ needs to boost customer satisfaction. Foster says the role of a CPO is to develop tools, processes, and systems that enable and empower people to do their best work.
Diane Gherson is CHRO at IBM, responsible for the roughly 360,000 members of IBM’s workforce across 72 countries. During her 17 years at the company, Gherson has transformed IBM’s workplace culture, incorporated AI, and been an external advocate for social issues.
But Gherson isn’t resting on her laurels. “Learning is the most important part of our organization right now,” she explains in an interview with Merryck & Co. As AI plays a bigger role in HR and the work of IBM as a whole, Gherson has torn up the company’s learning system and replaced it with a “Netflix-like experience” that is focused on getting employees ready for the future.
Edie Goldberg is an expert in the future of work, a published author and a speaker. She is also the founder of E.L. Goldberg & Associates, where she consults on talent management and organization effectiveness.
Before starting her own firm, Goldberg was Towers Perrin’s global leader in career management, succession planning, and L&D. She has also been a member of the Consortium for Change, and the chairperson of the Board of Directors for HRPS (HR People and Strategy).
Workday CPO Ashley Goldsmith oversees global HR, leading internal comms, culture development, and diversity and inclusivity policies.
Goldsmith goes to work to motivate people to do their best, which helps the company grow and deliver. For this reason, she helps ensure Workday puts its people first, creating a work environment that favors integrity and honesty.
Before Workday, Goldsmith was the CHRO at Polycom, SVP of HR at the Tissue Diagnostics division at F. Hoffmann-La Roche, and CHRO at Ventana Medical Systems.
Matt Hoffman, partner and head of talent at venture engine M13, has a keen interest in creating cultures that are innovative, authentic, and empowering for employees. Hoffman says engagement of employees works best when they feel they are part of a shared and successful mission. The role of the head of talent, then, is to provide opportunities for employees to develop professionally and personally.
Katelin Holloway is the former VP of people and culture at Reddit, where she grew the team from 70 to 650 employees during her four-year tenure. These days, she serves the company as an advisor.
While her experience is rooted in HR, Holloway is applying her knowledge to venture capitalism, coaching company founders on how to create a vibrant corporate culture from the outset. Her investment focus is also on parental inclusion, family tech, people tech, and women’s health.
Kristina Johnson is CPO at identity and access management company Okta. She oversees the company’s human capital management strategy, talent acquisition, and development, and engagement programs.
Johnson tells Katie Clarey at HR Dive that a CPO should always have her eyes on the future, understanding how the competition for talent will evolve. Key skill areas she focuses on include cloud computing and AI.
Robby Kwok is the SVP of people at Slack, a role that puts him in charge of global recruitment, people operations, rewards, and program management. Unlike other senior HR executives at big tech firms, Kwok does not have your typical HR background. He came to Slack from Twitter, where he was on the business operations team. Prior to Twitter, Kwok was head of corporate development for Linkedin.
Kwok’s multidisciplinary background makes him well-placed to draw unique insights from the industry, and offer tried and tested advice. Nowhere is this shown better than in his Slack blog post on staying productive as an executive. Based on his own experiences, Kwok recommends combining big strategies and small hacks to stay productive despite a busy schedule. This includes simple things like learning keyboard shortcuts to big-picture ideas such as scheduling time for thinking and organizing tasks around your own productivity levels.
Ellen Petry Leanse
Ellen Petry Leanse is chief people officer at Lucidworks and has spent more than three decades working in the tech industry. She’s worked with some of the world’s biggest and most influential companies, including Apple and Google.
Leanse is the author of The Happiness Hack, a guide to hacking the brain to reduce stress, increase happiness, and reclaim focus. She is also an instructor at Stanford, where she runs one of the school’s consistently top-ranked classes on skill elevation and mindset building.
Felicia Mayo is the VP of HR at Nike and Tesla’s former VP of HR and diversity. Mayo has been one of the few black women to climb the ladder in Silicon Valley, says CNBC’s Lora Kolodny, where less than 0.5 percent of senior tech positions are filled by black women. During her time at Tesla, Mayo focused on creating a balance between cognitive and visible diversities — believing that both fuel innovation.
Patty McCord was the chief talent officer at Netflix between 1998 and 2012. During her time, she was instrumental in building the unique, high-performance culture that helped to fuel Netflix’s staggering growth. She also wrote Netflix’s culture doc, which has been described by Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg as “the most important document ever to come out of the Valley.”
McCord’s book, Powerful: Building a Culture of Freedom and Responsibility, shares what she has learned during her time at Netflix and elsewhere in the valley. Arianna Huffington calls the book “required reading for anyone who wants their business to thrive in the 21st century.”
McCord now runs Patty McCord Consulting, where she acts as an executive coach for CEOs and their teams.
Colleen McCreary is the chief people officer at Credit Karma, where she leads a team of more than 50 people and is responsible for global people operations. She established a new compensation philosophy, improved feedback tools, and added more than 400 new people in her first year in the role.
Prior to Credit Karma, McCreary was CPO at Vevo, The Climate Corporation, and Zynga — at the latter, she grew the company from 130 people to 4,000. McCreary was named one of the Bay Area’s Most Influential Women by the San Francisco Business Times in 2011 and 2012 while at Zynga. During that time, the company was named among the Top 10 Best Places to Work in the Bay Area in 2010, 2011, 2012, and 2013.
Those awards shouldn’t come as a surprise. As McCreary discussed in an interview with Wavelength, she has spent a lot of time working out how Zynga could differentiate itself from Google, Facebook, and Microsoft in order to attract the best talent. It’s not common perks like free meals that are the differentiator. Rather, it’s the sheer number of products the company works on, the fact that the company has guidelines rather than rules, and the internal marketplace Zynga runs that allows employees to change departments or projects quickly and easily.
Donna Morris is EVP and chief people officer at Walmart. She was previously CHRO and EVP of employee experience at Adobe. In this role, she abolished performance reviews, expanded the company’s family leave policy, and achieved global gender pay parity across 32 countries.
Morris has been interviewed a number of times for her opinions on HR. She is an avid Tweeter and a regular commentator on HR, women in tech, and the industry in general. Risk missing out on her insights at your peril.
Tawni L. Nazario-Cranz
Tawni L. Nazario-Cranz serves as a venture operating partner to the talent lead VC firm SignalFire, which helps entrepreneurs scale their people teams. She also serves as a strategic advisor to various VC firms in Silicon Valley. Her previous role was chief people officer at Waymo. She previously held positions at Cruise Automation and Netflix, where she was CHRO for five years. At Netflix, Nazario-Cranz built on the work of Patty McCord, creating and leading the company’s organizational design as it grew into a global content creator.
The CPO at luxury goods online retailer The RealReal, Zaina Orbai is a problem-solver, having successfully overcome HR challenges in fast-changing organizations, during mergers and acquisitions, and through expansions and restructurings. Orbai’s expertise includes recruiting, talent management, employee relations, HR technology, operations, and total rewards.
She is responsible for overseeing a diverse group of employees working in technical, non-technical, and remote roles. Before her role at The RealReal, Orbai was an advisor at PeopleTech Partners.
Cindy Robbins is a corporate equality champion and, until recently, the president and chief people officer at Salesforce, which has been named one of Fortune’s 100 Best Companies to Work For 10 years in a row. She is a pioneer of equal pay and has overseen Salesforce spend $8.7 million to address pay disparities so far.
Robbins explained the steps she and Salesforce have taken to close the pay gap at Business Insider’s IGNITION conference. This included why the company runs an equal pay audit every year. “Unless you have flawless systems and flawless processes, you’re going to have to run the audit every single year.” She also highlighted the impact it has had on the business. Since implementing the audit, the percentage of employees who think they are paid fairly has increased from 80 percent to 92 percent.
Courtney Seiter is the director of people at Buffer. Before that, Seiter was Buffer’s inclusivity catalyst, which saw her foster and maintain a culture that supported all ages, races, classes, ethnicities, gender identities or expressions, sexual identities, abilities, sizes, nationalities, cultures, faiths, neurotypes, and backgrounds.
Seiter’s role as director of people has her building upon this culture in which everyone can bring their whole selves to work. She creates and curates inclusivity education resources to ensure all team members understand what it means to support one another.
Beth Steinberg is VP of people and talent at Chime, and the founder of Mensch Ventures, a people and talent advisory firm. She’s also the former chief people officer at Zenefits and has held senior HR positions at Facebook, Brightroll, Nike, and Electronic Arts.
At all of those companies, Steinberg has had to carry out a layoff at least once. It’s a process she’s learned a lot from. Sharing her advice with First Round Review, Steinberg highlights the four phases of a layoff, what leaders need to know about the process, and what they need to do at each stage. “Layoffs are hard, even for a serial founder. If you don’t feel awful after one, you shouldn’t be leading a company.”
Brian Tippens is a VP and chief diversity officer at Hewlett Packard, overseeing a number of programs aimed at increasing HP’s diversity efforts, improving strategy, and building better customer relationships. Tippens is a prolific blogger on his personal website and has published dozens of thoughtful articles in both English and Spanish. He also tweets regularly about diversity, recruitment, and tech.
Janet Van Huysse
Janet Van Huysse is head of people at Cloudflare and was the first VP of HR at Twitter. She grew the social media giant from 90 employees to more than 3,000 in 20 countries during her time there and led people efforts through the company’s IPO.
In an interview with Glassdoor, Van Huysse lifts the curtain on Twitter’s HR strategy. This includes her thoughts on the importance of workplace transparency, creating a culture of fearless communication, what the company looks for in candidates, and how Twitter attracts top talent.
Van Huysse is also the cofounder of Tendlab, a consulting company that helps parents and organizations unlock the power of parents at work.
Pat Wadors has almost three decades of experience in the HR space. She is currently CHRO at ServiceNow, was formerly CHRO at Linkedin for two years, and is regarded as one of the leading HR figures in the world.
Wadors regularly shares her advice in leading publications. In 2016, she penned a Harvard Business Review article on how and why diversity efforts are falling short in tech. Wadors believes what’s missing from the diversity discussion is the “notion of belonging.” This led her to coin the term DIBs (diversity, inclusion, and belonging), where she offers six ways for companies to instill a culture of belonging.
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