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Heather

Heather

VP and CHRO for North America and Asia Pacific, Capgemini Engineering

USA

Heather

VP and CHRO for North America and Asia Pacific, Capgemini Engineering

USA

Heather

Can you tell us more about your role and responsibilities with Capgemini Engineering?

My role is to oversee Human Resources for Capgemini Engineering for North America and Asia-Pacific (APAC). Specifically, within HR, we have several different divisions and I oversee all the HR business partners in these zones. I am responsible for developing and executing the people strategy in line with our business objectives each year. This encompasses things like improving employee engagement, people management development, upscaling or rescaling our talent, how to build a cohesive culture, and how to communicate or engage more effectively. In essence, I would say I and my team bear primary responsibility for the employee experience, and of course influencing it in the right direction.

Tell us more about your career journey.

I started out my career thinking that I wanted to go into law. I worked as a litigation paralegal at a global law firm when I graduated college. I assumed more of this consultative, employee relations-type role – so both paralegals and attorneys would approach me when they were facing conflict, they needed guidance, or they needed advice. I started having second thoughts about going back to law school because I was just in this realm of playing this HR-type role. I had a mentor there at the time and she suggested, “Hey, what do you think about HR?” I would say from there my HR career was born. I didn’t want to get pigeonholed into one single industry, so I purposely made thoughtful decisions to go from one industry into another within HR as my career progressed. Later in my career, I switched into software and technology, and I spent a good deal of time at two software tech startups. One of my former mentors who I had worked with previously was at Capgemini, and she reached out to me about the opportunity to come work for Capgemini. I was ready to go back to a global scale and use what I have learned and being scrappy and doing all the different aspects of HR and really work at a large, global company that is impacting the world around us.

Talk to us about a mentor or role model who inspired you during your personal and professional development.

So, there are two. One I will start with is Tecla Palli-Sandler, who oversees the Americas region here at Capgemini. I met Tecla about 10 years ago, she hired me as an HR director at Dentsu Aegis network and, while I reported to her there, I noticed she had this natural ability to create such an inclusive environment. I could share with her any insecurities, vulnerabilities, and with no judgement she would advise and coach very matter-of-factly. It was incredibly helpful and confidence boosting for me, and she truly acted as a mentor for me at the time. When we went our separate ways, we always kept in touch. I knew that any point in time I could pick up the phone and give her a call and she would still be such a cheerleader and champion of mine. She is someone that throughout different points in my career has always been a sounding board and made me a priority. Another mentor I want to mention on a personal side is my eldest brother, Michael. I don’t know if I knew it at the time, but I spent most of my childhood trying to keep up with them, trying to fit in. My eldest brother, in the bigger picture, instilled this message of hard work, to always keep pushing no matter what the obstacle is or how seemingly challenging something might be. He’s always been a great supporter of mine.

What do you think are some character traits of a successful leader?

So many. First, I would say what comes to mind is being optimistically resilient. I think, as a baseline, it is to always act with integrity and do the right thing. Other traits that come to mind for me: a high level of emotional intelligence, meaning self-awareness, empathy, self-regulation, and motivation. Always being mindful, and reward or recognize those around you for their contributions. I think successful leaders are also really focused on their team’s progress and not perfection. I think that is an important one, because it helps create this environment where you will see both innovation and intelligent risk taking happen at the greatest degree, because people then aren’t fearful of making mistakes, which is key. Other traits are always being curious and being a student of your business discipline, regardless of your years of experience. Successful leaders are always learning, always asking questions of those around them, and possess strong communication skills – particularly in setting clear direction and expectations, and ultimately just being accountable.

How do you support women at Capgemini in their career development?

By virtue of my role in HR, I of course play a key role in supporting other women in their career development. We’ve hired at Capgemini Engineering several female leaders in this past year. It is a big part of our ambition; it is something that we are taking very seriously. I place a heavy focus on ensuring the onboarding success of these new female leaders, reaching out to them, going above and beyond to make them feel welcomed and included. Proactively providing them information that can help them get acclimated faster. I am also working with my HR business partners to ensure that, when it comes to promotions, we are doing the work necessary to ensure the readiness of our female talent for those promotions, so that means access to Employee Resource Groups, participation in premium programs, and learning and development offerings. Really, being targeted and strategic when it comes to our female audience.