Episode 386: Paying Attention to Help the Business Be Successful With Amy Cappellanti-Wolf From Cohesity

Summary:Workology Podcast interview with Amy Cappellanti-Wolf, CHRO at Cohesity, as part of the CHRO podcast series.

Episode 386: Paying Attention to Help the Business Be Successful With Amy Cappellanti-Wolf From Cohesity

Summary:Workology Podcast interview with Amy Cappellanti-Wolf, CHRO at Cohesity, as part of the CHRO podcast series.

Table of Contents

I love that you love people, but sometimes this role is, sometimes is more about making tough decisions than sprinkling fairy dust everywhere. So your role is to be both an employee advocate, but also make sure we’re making good business decisions so we support the shareholders, the customers, and the employees and how we run our business.

Episode 386: Paying Attention to Help the Business Be Successful With Amy Cappellanti-Wolf (@AmyCappellanti) From Cohesity

Welcome to the Workology Podcast, a podcast for the disruptive workplace leader. Join host Jessica Miller-Merrell, founder of Workology.com as she sits down and gets to the bottom of trends, tools, and case studies for the business leader, HR, and recruiting professional who is tired of the status quo. Now here’s Jessica with this episode of Workology.

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:00:45.05] Welcome to the Workology Podcast powered by Ace The HR Exam and Upskill HR. These are two courses that I offer for certification prep for HR leaders and recertification. This podcast is part of a series on the Workology podcast focused on the roles and responsibilities of the Chief Human Resources Officer or CHRO. The CHRO is sometimes called the VP of People or the Chief People Officer, and it is an executive or C-level role that deals with managing human resources as well as with organizational development and implementing policies of change to improve the overall efficiency of the company. The CHRO podcast series over here on Workology is sponsored by HR Benchmark Survey. I would love for you to share your insights at HRBenchmarkSurvey.com. One of the reasons we continue to do this series, I started the CHRO series in 2020, is because there is so much mystery around that CHRO-level role. And frankly, our job as heads of HR is changing every single day. I also want aspiring crows to know the types of skills and experiences they need to promote into a future CHRO role, along with hearing from senior HR leaders about how they’re partnering and collaborating with their executive peers. But before I introduce our podcast guests, which you are going to love, love, love, I want to hear from you. Text the word “PODCAST” to 512-548-3005. Ask me questions, leave comments, and make suggestions for future guests. That’s “PODCAST” to 512-548-3005. This is my community text number.

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:02:28.73] So today I’m joined by Amy Cappellanti-Wolf. She’s the CHRO at Cohesity. And in this role, Amy is responsible for spearheading workforce strategies, including global talent acquisition and development, employee experience, total rewards, and well-being in the real estate workplace environment. Before joining the company in 2021, she served as the Senior VP and CHRO of corporate real estate, and global diversity and inclusion lead at security company Symantec Corp. Prior to that, she was a CHRO at Silver Spring Networks Inc. and held leadership roles at Cisco Systems Inc., Sun Microsystems, The Walt Disney Company, and PepsiCo. Amy also serves on the board of Softchoice, a North American provider of technology solutions and managed services; as well as Betterworks, a continuous performance management platform company; and Pivotal,  a community that focuses on foster youth education and employment. She is a member of the Betterworks HR Advisory Council, the Hitch Advisory Council, and she was the 2018 recipient of the National Diversity Council’s Top 50 Most Powerful Women in Technology award. Wow, what a résumé and introduction. Amy, welcome to the Workology Podcast.

Amy Cappellanti-Wolf: [00:03:49.17] I’m exhausted just listening to all that. Thank you for having me. It’s a pleasure to join you. And also, I’m just so passionate about what I do and also really invested on the next generation of leadership in this space. So really thrilled to be with you today.

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:04:03.66] I love hearing your accolades and all the work that you’ve done and then the work that you’re continuing to do. I think it’s important to, to really understand and for others to understand the impact that you have been making in not just HR but for future generations and leaders in the workplace. So let’s start with some background. How did you get your start in HR? And tell me about maybe how your work has evolved over time into that current CHRO role.

Amy Cappellanti-Wolf: [00:04:34.65] That’s a great question. And, you know, I’m not one of those people that had life figured out at age six. I always really respect people who say I’m going to be a doctor at age six and then become a doctor. I, however, was interested in lots of things. I loved chemistry. I love literature, writing, sports. So I was sort of a jack of all trades, you know, expert at nothing but relatively OK on other things. And so I went to school majoring in pre-pharmacy thinking I would go into pharmaceuticals and about a year into the studies doing really well, I realized I was not passionate about what I had engaged to study with. So I looked around and thought, You know, what I really like is journalism. I love to read. I love to write. I’m very grounded in what’s happening in the world even then, many years back. So I thought, let’s try that for a go. And I flourished in that. I loved working in journalism. I did everything from public relations to advertising to copyediting. So of course, as a mother of two daughters who are in college and junior high school, I do a lot of review of their, of their essays, so to speak. But nonetheless, I majored in journalism. And then the summer I graduated, or the fall, the spring I graduated, the markets were just awful.

Amy Cappellanti-Wolf: [00:05:43.95] And so I thought, Well, I’m going to wait and maybe go to grad school before I embark into working in the corporate world. Having worked in bartending and servicing throughout most of my college career. So I looked around and I found this Masters of Industrial and Labor Relations, which is under the business school, which I liked, because it gave you business classes, but also gave you a specialty in organizational design, psychology, incentives and rewards, etc., etc.. So I enrolled in this sort of blindly. It was a, it was an 18 month program. I went past it pretty quickly and I loved it. I realized, Wow, this is really interesting about human resources around the full gambit of what the function does and more importantly, the effect it can have positively both on the employee experience as well for the company. So it seemed a really natural fit for me, and we had a very strong program. I went to West Virginia University. It’s a strong labor relations program because of the unions that we had at the time. So Frito-Lay and PepsiCo and other companies of that, of that ilk came on campus. And so I was recruited by Frito-Lay and spent my first seven years as an HR professional working in salty snacks and consumer products, which was a great entrance into learning about human resources.

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:07:01.20] I love that. And thank you for sharing the story. It’s interesting how we’re drawn into HR. It’s a little bit different for everyone, but so many people are like, I really was excited and interested about the people side of the business. What skills and experiences do you believe are absolutely requirements for the CHRO role, especially just thinking about maybe somebody who’s starting out?

Amy Cappellanti-Wolf: [00:07:25.65] That’s a great question because there are so many people who approached me on this both later in career who want to shift or earlier in career. I’d say that some of the most important things is really understanding the business. If you don’t understand how we make money, who your market competitors are, what the important products are, what your customers think of you and relate to you, the mission and purpose of the company. You’re not going to be successful because very often the work you’re doing in relationship to people’s strategies are there to enhance and help accelerate the business strategy. So first, take business classes. If you’re still in school or get very curious and study up on the different places you may be working in terms of profitability, learn how to read a general ledger and a PNL. Understand the implications if you don’t make a quarter in terms of revenue, what that could mean for you in the following quarters, etc., etc.. Because one, when you understand it, your strategy will be more aligned to the business and two, you’re speaking the language of the business. And so you don’t look like this wonky HR person in the corner who people perceive as hires and fires. We do so much more than that. So first we need business acumen to get very comfortable with data.

Amy Cappellanti-Wolf: [00:08:33.54] Our roles have become much more data-centric than ever in the past. Everything from how you think about predictive analytics, retention, attrition, experience, DNI, etc., etc. all require a level of understanding around metrics, but also how to have data insights against those metrics. Just bringing in a set of numbers doesn’t mean anything. Anyone can do that. It’s what does it actually mean and how do you extrapolate a strategy as a result of that. That’d be the second thing. And the third thing, I think, really is your ability to like, listen and influence based off of what you’re seeing happening around you. Our roles are super powerful and I don’t think sometimes people take a step back to say what’s happening in the room. As I walk into an important meeting or a leadership discussion, what’s being said, what’s not being said, and where can you begin to see misalignments either in the strategy, in people’s behaviors against the values? Perhaps people are disengaged, but, but nobody else sees it. So how do you pay attention to the things that many folks don’t pay attention to that could actually help you elevate the role of the HR organization, but also help the business be successful?

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:09:42.25] And I think that’s the most important part of HR, helping the business be successful. And sometimes I think we forget those pieces.

Amy Cappellanti-Wolf: [00:09:50.80] You know, it’s a good point because, I mean, you can be an HR zealot where you’re all for the employee and to a point where you’re actually hurting the employee because some of the decisions that you’re advocating for may actually hurt the business, right? Like, we can’t lay anybody off because this will have a big impact to X, Y, and Z whereby sometimes you have to make tough choices. And I always laugh when people say, Well, I wouldn’t want to go into HR because I really like people. I love that you love people, but sometimes this role is, sometimes is more about making tough decisions than sprinkling fairy dust everywhere. So your role is to be both an employee advocate, but also make sure we’re making good business decisions so we support the shareholders, the customers, and the employees and how we run our business.

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:10:34.00] Agreed. Let’s talk a little bit about the size of the company and your team, as well as the organizational structure. So talk to me about that. And then also, where do you sit? Who do you report to?

Amy Cappellanti-Wolf: [00:10:46.09] Got it. Well, Cohesity is a pre-IPO data management firm. I took this role because, one, it was pre-IPO be my second hopefully successful IPO so it’s fun to kind of come in and create and build versus take what’s existing and morph it or optimize it a bit. So it’s nice chance to really kind of put your creative skills into play and also all the learnings you’ve had in the past. Secondly, I liked it because it was a market mover. It wasn’t trying to copy what others are doing, it’s creating a market. So that’s exciting to me because I think there’s a lot more opportunity for upside as well as a chance to kind of bring something that people haven’t had access to in the past. And then three, like the notion of the fast-paced of the culture, the culture being very collaborative and very purpose and mission-driven. So when I joined, we were about 1300 employees and that was in May of 2021. We’re now roughly 2300 employees. We are global, big locations in India, Pune, and Bangalore as well as in the US with San Jose and RTP. And then kind of scattered around. So thank you for the, the tragic pandemic because it did free up where people can work, which makes our job sometimes more complicated about how you get them engaged and feeling like they belong, as well as making certain, there’s not favoritism. But the role has since, it’s really grown. So I report to the CEO. We had a CEO transition while I’ve been here. I worked initially for the founder CEO who did an amazing job taking this company where he took it to in the nine years that we’ve been operating. And so he stepped in to lead the CTO role in the support role, and we brought in a new CEO who has more experience at a larger scale company who’s very market-driven.

Amy Cappellanti-Wolf: [00:12:23.59] So the nice thing is I was working with the CEO, was very technology savvy and very deep into the strategy of the tech. And now we’ve brought in a CEO that’s more market oriented. So those two together, super powerful. And in terms of my team, it’s, it’s nothing that you probably haven’t seen before. I’ve got my, my centers of excellence or centers of collaboration, what you want to call it. You’ve go total rewards. You’ve got people ops and people tech, you’ve got HR business partners, you have talent acquisition and then leadership and growth. And I also have facilities and real estate beneath me. So it’s a, it’s a well-rounded organization. We’re about 110 employees. About 60 of those are talent acquisition because we were in the games of hiring really quickly. We’ve kind of slowed a bit like most other companies, but we’re really structured for scale, for being easy to plug into and simplifying tasks that often get over complex from HR folks wanting to over-architect. We’re all about metrics and leading with data because we’re a data management company. You have to kind of eat your own or drink your own champagne, shall we say. And we’re also about how do we create an environment where people belong, they are aligned to our strategy, and their voice matters. So it’s a really fun time to be at this company because we’re a size and growth that makes this work really interesting as well as chance to kind of see it grow to something much bigger than what we started out as.

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:13:52.18] Awesome. Well, thank you in particular for sharing the centers of excellence, because I think there’s a lot of mystery around what those are and how they operate. And I feel like you pretty much laid that out for, for everyone who was thinking like, what is the CoE model? How does this work? It’s, it’s just HR professionals working in different specialties. That’s their, their really point of contact. The area that they, they focus on and support the business.

Amy Cappellanti-Wolf: [00:14:20.06] Absolutely.

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:14:21.47] I want to talk a little bit about your company’s diversity council and your current DEI programs. Can you walk us through a little bit about that?

Amy Cappellanti-Wolf: [00:14:29.00] Yeah, I’d love to. And this has been, this has been kind of a labor of love, you know. And being further in my career, I’ve seen DE&I very well and not so well. And I’ve worked in really large companies like we were talking about DE&I at Frito-Lay, and I hate to say it, it’s like 35 years ago, and it was just, I look back then and how cutting edge we are compared to, you know, where we are today. But the beauty of Cohesity is when I first joined, there was a group of passionate people who were doing DE&I off the side of their desk, and while the leadership supported it, there was really no framework or way to kind of build out something that had sustainability and could get us to where we need to get to from both representation, you know, a feeling and a way to kind of belong in the organization. So I joined in, one of the first things, the good story, it was March or May of, of 2021, June’s Gay Pride Month. So I was starting to build up some of the strategies related to DN&I, and the question was posed of should we change our logo for the day or for the month? And it was a really philosophical discussion because I, as well as others, did not believe we earned the right, because to me it would have been window dressing. So we did very little around LBGTBQ+, we did very little about other cohorts with the exception we did have a black network, but beyond that it was really not a lot.

Amy Cappellanti-Wolf: [00:15:50.54] So I’m like, I don’t think it would be appropriate. I think it’d be inauthentic. But fast forward a year, we did do that for all the reasons I’m going to describe. So first in building the DE&I strategy, and it’s a strategy and it’s a way of doing business. If you call it an initiative, you’ve already lost the game because DN&I is much like how you measure your PNL, how you look at your customer retention. It’s an important metric that you have to pay attention to for you to really get the great results we all intend to. So I got a group of people together, got the leadership team involved to say, you know, here’s our strategy. I want to pull together a DN&I counsel. I want a couple of you guys to sponsor them. And then, two, I want to build out a series of three pillars. The first pillar is based off of workforce, and that’s how do we attract diverse talent? How do we take bias out of this system? How do we ensure our leaders and managers really are aware of how to attract diverse talent and perhaps adjust to get that talent into the, onto the organization? So that one’s all about taking current state diversity metrics and sitting down with each of our different functional leaders and, and then looking at where we have gaps because not one size fits all.

Amy Cappellanti-Wolf: [00:16:59.99] Like I have plenty of women in the People and Places team, is what we call my team, and I could use more, more diversity, so to speak, in terms of underrepresented minorities. So the idea is we, in that particular workstream, we brought people together, look at market conditions, our, our practices and processes as well as what are our aspirational goals to get to more representation. The second workstream is on workplace, and that’s all about do we have the right kind of systemic ways of thinking about conscious inclusion? Do we have the right kind of programs that will attract and retain diverse talent such as health care benefits? More better, since I’ve been here, we’ve enhanced parental leave, maternity leave, all the different things that would attract a diverse workforce as well as different generations of workforce. And it’s also about how do we think about building inclusive leadership. So it’s a big, meaty one that’s really centered internally around building that muscle in the organization and making certain we have the right ways to attract and retain. And the third one is Marketplace, and that’s probably the one that’s most undervalued or under, under not focused upon, shall we say, but that’s around how do you make certain your vendors, your partners, who you’re doing business with, have diverse, diverse strategies and they have a position on this that’s aligned to our position.

Amy Cappellanti-Wolf: [00:18:14.42] So that’s everything about what we put into our SOW. We do business with minority-owned businesses, women-owned businesses, and that typically takes a lot longer. But we’ve already jumped on the bandwagon to this, so I’m super excited and in general I have about 30 people on the council. We meet monthly and practically everybody shows up, report out. It’s not going to work unless you measure it and you report on it. We talk about obstacles and gaps, but we’ve really grown diversity in the company such that we’ve increased women representation by four basis points in the population. We’ve increased women in VP and above populations by 8%. We’re now 24% of women in leadership positions in the company or about 17% in the director space, which I think is a little flat. But we’re showing really good momentum. And so my goal is to continue to focus on not only gender diversity, but also the talent diversity that’s, that’s available to us, especially now as we are located in very different places. You’re not so tied to San Jose where it’s very hard to find a black female engineer. You can find this great talent in other territories or regions. And so our goal is to continue to find that talent, but then make certain we have the efforts around workforce and workplace to make certain they belong.

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:19:29.66] I love that and I love that you’re talking about the benefits of having a dispersed workforce in terms of the ability to attract diverse talent. When you are looking at improving and bringing in different populations into the organization. I wanted to ask about metrics because you throw out some metrics, which I think is fantastic, but talk us through maybe some of the metrics that you’re using to track your DEI programs.

Amy Cappellanti-Wolf: [00:19:59.99] Yeah, and some are really straightforward and some are going to require a lot more data mining. So let’s talk about the ones that are more complex. So we’re trying to do right now is really understand the funnel of who we’re recruiting and where they fall out in the funnel. And it’s been a challenge because sometimes people don’t fill out maybe the online paperwork to identify how they represent themselves or the recruiter will go and source them, but not create that. So we don’t really know who’s applying for roles at times. Sometimes we do. It’s just a matter. It’s very inconsistent is the point. So how do we get great data and glean data that helps us understand where we’re falling out in the in the pipeline of talent? We’re also as a result of that as we move through that process, also mandating that you have diverse talent interviewers that are sitting to interview the team as well as two final, two in the near-final category that are diverse. If you just have one, the likelihood of them being hired is very low, whereby if you have two or more, the chance of hiring, that diverse talent goes up significantly. So we’re trying to put in governance practices as well as how do we measure this and then close loop the measure about where do we have gaps. So that’s one part of it, and that’s probably the hardest part. The other difficult part, of course, is we all know is you can only you can measure gender globally, but you can only measure diversity in terms of unrepresented minorities in the US. So I don’t know how we’re going to crack that nut because I think everyone is challenged with that and also say this is a little editorial on my part, so forgive me, but the EEOC is super behind because like the way that you identify yourself, the EEOC is so antiquated compared to what how people are representing today.

Amy Cappellanti-Wolf: [00:21:41.06] So that’s another whole issue that I’m not going to tackle in this podcast, but we should be thinking about. The other metrics is really around where, where do we have attrition, retention, both in high performers as well as in diversity. Are we hiring faster than we’re losing people? That’s always a challenge. We also look at the pipeline of where you go from an entry-level engineer or an entry-level customer support person. And as you go up those that that ladder, so to speak, where are people getting choked? Like we have a group of senior managers, they’re women, for instance, and they’re not getting to the director level. Why is that? So you start looking at places where there’s a great flow through and how do we repeat that? And there’s other areas where there’s a point where by which they hit the glass ceiling and how can we help them with that? So those are the things that we measure on a regular basis. And then as we get more sophisticated, we’ve done some work more to go here on just general workforce availability. Like we all know, if you go to maybe to Detroit or Atlanta, you’re going to get more diverse talent. But we know that about other aspects of the country and outside of the US. So there’s work to be done there in terms of how you think about true workforce planning through the lens of diversity.

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:22:51.74] I love, I love that you’re talking metrics because that is one area that I feel like we aren’t leveraging in DEI. We’re going out there. We want to be more diverse. We’re doing some training. Maybe we’ve set up some ERGs in our organization, but we’re not actually measuring our people staying, our people promoting. And I, this is key to making the business case for diversity and demonstrate the real business value that that it brings. So I appreciate you sharing all those things. Like everybody needs to pull the list of metrics that Amy mentioned and start tracking those. But just start. You don’t know where you are.

Amy Cappellanti-Wolf: [00:23:33.92] Yeah.

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:23:34.34] You don’t know where you are. If you don’t measure, it’s like not looking in your bank account and just blindly spending.

Amy Cappellanti-Wolf: [00:23:39.95] Which I’ve never done.

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:23:42.65] Well, you know. Well. But, but now.

Amy Cappellanti-Wolf: [00:23:44.75] Maybe the younger days.

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:23:45.77] Yeah. Now you do. And you’re like, OK, I know exactly or at the end of the month reconciliation, I know where I am, and then we can measure and communicate challenges, wins to leaders and, and the employee population.

Amy Cappellanti-Wolf: [00:23:59.84] And then it becomes less of like this sort of ethereal diversity, equity, and inclusion. And there’s real teeth to it. I mean, there’s, there’s a lot of business cases, which I think we’re almost past the notion of got to prove why diversity is good. I mean, there is a time where, like, why do I have to, why do I have to prove that a diverse group of leaders is as good as three white guys sitting across the table from them? I don’t see that as much of a challenge anymore. I think people see the value of it, but what they don’t understand is there’s value in having diversity. But is there value in terms of business outcomes? Like can you really see a difference which there are studies that show there is a difference. And then how do you quantify that? Because otherwise people go back to, well, it’s warm and fuzzy and amorphous and we can’t really measure it. You can absolutely measure it. And if you don’t lead in that fashion, you’ll never know if you’re being successful or not.

Break: [00:24:45.62] Let’s take a reset here. This is Jessica Miller-Merrell, and you are listening to the Workology Podcast, powered by Ace The HR Exam and Upskill HR. We’re talking about the role of the CHRO with Amy Cappellanti-Wolf, the CHRO of Cohesity. The CHRO podcast series here on Workology is sponsored by HR Benchmark Survey. Before we get back to our interview, send me a text. Text the word “PODCAST” to 512-548-3005 to ask me questions, leave comments, and make suggestions for future guests. This is my community text number and I want to hear from you.

Break: [00:25:25.10] The Workology Council is a mastermind community for HR leaders. We are a group of HR professionals with a common goal: to succeed by leveraging the influence, resources, and expertise of others on an annual basis. This will be the HR business tribe that you’ve wanted to be a part of for your entire career. Learn more and apply at WorkologyCouncil.com.

What It’s Like to Be a Board Member


Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:25:51.62] I want to switch gears and talk about being a board member. So as a board member yourself, I wanted to ask you if you could speak to what the board expects from an organization, particularly around demographics and people reporting, because I think this is a huge part that HR misses.

Amy Cappellanti-Wolf: [00:26:10.94] Yes. Yes. You know, I’ve been in front of the board on several occasions, both as an operating leader as well as a board member, and it’s been great to do both. You have a very different lens where you’re the operator, you’re in the details. You have to have all your, everything in your ducks in a row. When you’re in, a board member, your nose is not in the business. Your nose is helping them look around the corner and asking good questions and not getting so deep into their operations unless they ask you what sometimes they may. So you’re there to help guide and coach versus in governance, of course, versus do it for them. And so what I’ve always done when I’ve worked as an operator in front of the board is make certain they see the culture in terms of the engagement sentiments, why people are staying, why they’re leaving, what is the retention amongst diversity as well as high performers, low performers? Where do we see that we’re doing promotions and what’s the velocity of that? Who we brought in lately that are key leaders who are opportunities for succession, understanding key talent? And do you have the right succession plan around that key talent or those key roles? And I got to tell you, as a board member, I want to see the same things.

Amy Cappellanti-Wolf: [00:27:20.87] And so I actually just joined a new board in August called D-Wave. It’s quantum computing, which I know, wow. That’s like, actually, it’s kind of like going to space, so to speak. And they just went public themselves. And so a lot of what we’re doing is kind of introducing those new metrics that will help guide the leadership team, but also to the board to say, Gee, you’re losing a lot of people on your, on your, on your sales side of it. What’s going on with your account executives? Because it looks like your productivity numbers are down, which may correlate to the fact that you’re not hiring fast enough or getting people to productivity fast enough. So there are metrics that you bring to the board that they actually really just don’t say, thanks, that’s nice. They actually have decisioning powers with those things. And so as a practitioner in HR, if you have the opportunity to present in front of a board, bring your data, bring your insights around the data, and then more, most importantly, bring your actions of what you’re going to go do as a result of what that data tells you.

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:28:17.20] I love that. And I feel like your expertise or your experience as a board member yourself can also be shared in this area too, because one of the, I think, it’s still, I mean, I feel like we’ve been in HR forever and it’s still getting the seat at the table, right? So why do you think HR leaders are still struggling to get that seat at the table? And what strategy or suggestion do you have as an HR executive yourself, but also as somebody who is on the board at several organizations?

Amy Cappellanti-Wolf: [00:28:50.92] That’s a good question. And I will say one thing. I was really blessed because the first job I took out of grad school was, as I mentioned, Frito-Lay, which had an academy-level HR or organization. I mean, I went into an associate’s program. So the first two years while I was doing work, I was rotating. I had a mentor. So it was relatively controlled in terms of what I learned. But I work with some amazing heads of HR there that I kind of felt like I was standing on their shoulders, much like they had stood on others behind them. So I felt like, Wow, I’m learning from the very best. And what you’ll find, like the old GE ways, you’ll see a lot of leaders from the Pepsi, Frito-Lay, GE days that are successful in other firms. So they, they are portable, which is what, which is what I loved because I was able to go from consumer products to entertainment to technology, right? So, HR, maybe slightly different, but it’s relatively, you know, dealing with similar issues with different technologies or different industries. But back to your point, I think, first of all, like, stop asking for the seat at the table and claim it. Like, I feel like we look like we’re victims when we’re like, I don’t have this seat at the table.

Amy Cappellanti-Wolf: [00:29:54.07] Like, having a seat at the table just doesn’t happen because you asked for it. You have to come in with a plan. You have to understand the business and speak the language of the business. You have to be action-oriented. You have to be courageous, because sometimes there are things that the business wants to do that don’t make a lot of sense in your realm, and you want to be able to communicate that in a way where it is not an emotional plea but a fact and data-driven plea. So you have to have some courage related to that. You have to be highly collaborative because we don’t we don’t make profit for the company directly. Really, that’s your engineering and sales teams typically are the ones that get all the headcount and most of the attention. So you want to make certain that you’re always trying to find value in demonstrate value and how you’re helping those teams be successful and also making certain you’re properly resourced.

Amy Cappellanti-Wolf: [00:30:41.35] And I’ve always been a big believer, and I’ve learned this over the years, that sometimes our budgets get cut in general, administrative, which is usually finance, IT, HR, legal because we’re not revenue generating. And so in the past, I’m like, well, we just have to work a lot harder, you know, early on in my career. And now I’m like, Nope, we’re going to create a list of priorities and then we’ll create a line. And beneath that line is what we can no longer afford to do because our budget’s been compromised and there’s no motion in that. It’s just, I got to make tradeoffs. So part of being a really great HR person is being able to make strategic tradeoffs of what you can do and can deliver. Or maybe that’s not a good decision and we’re not going to go doing that in making your business case. So understanding the ROI of your decision making, coming in with a plan prepared, articulate, the worst thing you can be is tone deaf. Like, for instance, we’re going to have to lay off these all these people, but yet we’re going to spend $200,000 on giving them a Christmas gift over the year, like, those things have actually happened. I know it’s intentionally good, but it’s not the right thing. So always remain ear to the ground. Don’t do things that are opposed to what the business is trying to do.

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:31:46.90] Spoken like a business leader, right? Prioritization, don’t overwork, but then you can communicate the value that you’re bringing. And if they want more or something different, you have your list of priorities in next order that you think that you could bring to help elevate the organization in whatever way that they that the executive team would like to see that you go in that direction.

Amy Cappellanti-Wolf: [00:31:46.90] Yeah. It’s being able to say, okay, if you want me to go do this, I can’t do this now. And it’s not being a jerk about it. Like sometimes people over-inflate or conflate things. That’s not the intention, is just being really direct and being detached. Maybe that’s the most important thing. When I say detached, it doesn’t mean that you don’t care. You do care, but you don’t care to the point where you’re so focused on the outcome and you, and you fight it as opposed to, okay, let’s take a step back. What what are we solving for and let’s go solve it. And it may create some collateral damage or it may be difficult to go do, but hoping it’s going to go away is not a strategy. And getting emotional about it is not a strategy. So I do my best work when I’m detached and kind of take a step back and objectively observe what’s happening right now and not internalize it and take it personally.

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:32:59.56] Yeah, no, I think that’s good advice for everyone working in human resources.

Amy Cappellanti-Wolf: [00:33:04.54] In any job.

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:33:05.44] Yes. Yes. Last question is about best career advice. So talk to me maybe about the best career advice you’ve ever received and why.

Amy Cappellanti-Wolf: [00:33:14.32] Gosh, I’ve had so much over the years. Probably, probably more than I deserve because I’m always asking. I’m not asking for validation. I’m just curious about like, how would you have done this and how do you think about that? I always was told, and I’ve kind of followed this as sometimes the, the hard project and nobody wants is the best project because that’s where you’re going to learn a whole lot. If things are running really, really well and you take on something that may be interesting for a bit because you see how something will run can be well run, but looking at the things that are, are obtuse or not direct but have like real impact but aren’t operating well, I migrate to those because that’s where I have my best learnings. And typically if it’s not working well, there’s no place to go but up. So if you have a little bit of failure or learning, that’s okay because that’s going to help you accelerate the, the outcomes of the project. So that be one thing. Two is, I kind of think about like when you apply for credit cards, right? If, if anyone ever does it anymore because it feels like everything’s in cash these days. But you know, you apply for a credit card when your credit’s really good, right? You don’t apply for a credit when you have bad credit ratings because it’s hard to get them.

Amy Cappellanti-Wolf: [00:34:21.23] I think the same thing goes for relationships in business. You continually network, build your relationships such that when you’re in need or maybe you stumbled, you have a network of people that you can reach out to to help you. And that’s obviously quid pro quo. If I help you, you should help me kind of thing. But I think sometimes people don’t have that sense of the long-term relationships that are really important. I can call lots of people and say, I got this problem, how are you thinking about it? And they’re like quickly responding back to me because I do the same thing for them. And that super helps me because sometimes we’re caught in our own little bubble and we don’t think, what are other companies doing around this? And you can read benchmarking reports which are super helpful, but sometimes that, that helpline is super positive. So build your network. And that network could be your board of directors, your personal board of directors. If you go to, to help build data, how to help build our ROI presentations, how to have a courageous discussion. So make sure you build those.

Amy Cappellanti-Wolf: [00:35:17.45] And the last thing I would say is you have to advocate for yourself. And that doesn’t mean like, you know, saying how great you are and doing things that are unnatural for you, but no one’s going to advocate for you but yourself. And that may be at times saying, you know, I need this or I’m going to set boundaries because I’m burnt out, I need some time off, or maybe I need this budget if you want me to accomplish this task. And here’s the whole reason why. But you’ve got to find a way to make certain you not only advocate for yourself, but for your team if you’re a leader and your team. It’s funny, I’ve talked to a couple of people who work for me over the years. It’s like I feel weird to kind of do that. I’m like, Listen, your job as a leader is to advocate for your team, hold them accountable. If they’re not performing, hold them accountable. But if they are and they’re not getting what they need to be successful or the support they need, that’s not just a, Oh, I’m going to go advertise for my team. That’s an actual responsibility of a leader. So for yourself, you should do that as well. Self-care, advocate. Those would be the three things I would suggest.

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:36:14.87] Well, thank you for those. And I, I feel like it’s always good to network build those relationships and throughout your career because as an entrepreneur myself, like having a community of people that I can bounce ideas off of and your personal board of directors is key because you don’t have all the answers and you need to go out and connect with somebody to help you figure those things out, whether it’s your personal, professional or wherever, so.

Amy Cappellanti-Wolf: [00:36:44.73] It’s sometimes you think you’re on your own and you realize I’m not. Someone else is having the same issue.

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:36:48.54] Yeah, absolutely. Well, and that’s a lot of why we do this podcast here. And I really appreciate you taking the time to chat with us. So many great insights shared your, with your experience. I really appreciate it. I’m going to link to the Cohesity career site in the event somebody on the HR team is like or somebody says, Hey, I want to be on the team. We’ll link to your LinkedIn profile as well, but I really appreciate you taking the time to chat with us today.

Amy Cappellanti-Wolf: [00:37:15.36] My pleasure. Thank you for having me. It was, it was a joy and I’m happy to help any way I can. And I learned from these things too. So I look forward to looking at more of your podcasts in the future.

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:37:23.70] Amazing. This was such a good interview, so many good insights here as Amy is a senior HR leader, someone who is on the board of directors. She has so many years of experience and I appreciate all her time sharing with us. It’s really interesting in this podcast series to just dive more into the role of the Arrow and see how our experience connects us to strategy and operations of the overall business. The C Toro now doesn’t just lead HR within the company. They truly work collaboratively with the organization. The organization depends on us in this leadership role to set standards and benchmarks for everything from company benefits to learning and development. And I appreciate Amy taking the time to chat with us today. For those of you who want to know more, I would love for you to check out our CHRO podcast series sponsor here on Workology. It is HR Benchmark Survey. Visit HRBenchmarkSurvey.com and participate in the HR Benchmark Survey. You can also send me suggestions, ideas, comments about this podcast and others by texting the word “PODCAT” to 512-548-3005. This is my community text number and I want to hear from you. Lastly, thank you for joining the Workology Podcast. It is powered by Upskill HR and Ace The HR Exam. These are HR certification and recertification courses that we offer. This podcast really is for the disruptive workplace leader who’s tired of the status quo. Let’s elevate HR together. My name is Jessica Miller-Merrell and until next time you can visit Workology.com to listen to all our previous podcast episodes of the Workology Podcast. Make it a great day.

Connect with Amy Cappellanti-Wolf.



– Amy Cappellanti-Wolf on LinkedIn

– Amy Cappellanti-Wolf on Twitter 

– Careers at Cohesity

– CHRO Job Description

– Episode 382: Human Resources as a Business Partner With Lisa Novak From data.world

– Episode 383: Finding the Hidden Gems Within the Organization With Dr. Edie Goldberg, Founder of E. L. Goldberg & Associates

– Episode 384: ‘Is HR Your Friend?’ With Franky Rhodes, People Operations Partner at TravelPerk

– Episode 385: Managing Employee Trauma at Work With Matthew Brown From Schoox

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